Thursday, July 21, 2011
By James Lomuscio
Up until a few months ago, it was said that Westport had “Fairfield envy” and “South Norwalk envy” when it came to restaurants, nightlife and downtown vitality.
The new Westport restaurant is from the owners of the Gray Goose Café in Southport which opened a year ago. Contributed photo
Now, says local developer David Waldman, things are about to flip.
“With everything that’s happening, I think all of Fairfield County will soon have Westport envy,” said Waldman.
This week Westport saw the opening of restaurants Tarry Lodge and Shake Shack. To top it off, announcement came of a lease signing that will bring a new restaurant to Westport from the owners—both Staples High School graduates—of a popular eatery in Fairfield’s Southport section.
Tommy Febbraio and Kevin McHugh, co-owners of the Gray Goose Café, signed a 20-year lease with Waldman to open a restaurant in the 1802 federal-style Sherwood House under renovation on Church Lane in Westport’s center.
Febbraio, McHugh and their working partner Peter Mennona, who will work as general manager, plan to be open for business by Nov. 15.
“What I’m envisioning is for this to be the place to meet and to meet new friends,” McHugh, a 1981 Staples High School graduate, said about the planned new spot.
“I really see it as a lot of small plates on the healthier side, wine by the glass and entertainment on the weekends.
“It’s not just about food,” he added. “What will separate us will be the atmosphere and the fun factor,” he added. “
It will be a place for the 35 and up crowd to eat and have fun in Westport, something which hasn’t been around for 30 years.”
McHugh said the new Gray Goose restaurant will be his ninth restaurant. He has owned restaurants on New York City’s Upper East and West Sides, SoHo and the West Village.
In Connecticut, McHugh owned The Loft and Match in South Norwalk and The Little Pub in Ridgefield, as well as co-owning Gray Goose.
Febbraio, a third generation Westporter and a 1970 Staples alumnus, is also no stranger to the restaurant world.
In 1978, he opened Tommy’s Restaurant in downtown Fairfield, which he ran for 25 years. He later opened up Side Tracks and Arizona Flats in Fairfield before joining with McHugh to open Gray Goose on July 15, 2010 at 246 Old Post Road opposite Southport’s new Delmar Hotel.
Febbraio described Westport as restaurant friendly and “the place to be” ever since it relaxed zoning regulations for establishments selling alcohol.
All restaurants selling alcohol in Westport had to be at least 1,500 feet apart in order to obtain a liquor license prior to a July 2010 Planning and Zoning Commission text amendment that removed the restriction.
“I think there were a number of things that incentivized us to move to Westport,” said Febbraio.
“One is that the Planning and Zoning Commission relaxed the liquor regulations. The other thing is the location.
“We’ll be right next to Urban Outfitters and Patagonia (both Waldman properties), and more importantly up the street from Manolo, where the chef-owner Pedro Garzon is someone I have an extremely high regard for as a restaurateur,” he added.
“He’ll draft more people and we’ll draft more people. The bottom line is that it will be good for both of us.”
Another incentive, Febbraio said, was the 1802 building, “the perfect design for our concept and what we wanted to represent.”
Waldman, who was persuaded by town officials to save the building instead of tearing it down, has said he envisions the building as a historic setting for a restaurant replete with gaslights, an outdoor dining area in front and lower level for a kitchen.
He said 1,750 square feet on the second floor would be for office space.
“It will be English tavern-style, but Old World meets New World,” Febbraio said. “We don’t want it to be dark and cavernous, but energized, a place you can go to two to three times a week and it doesn’t break your wallet.”
With plans to serve up organic foods from a farm in Cheshire, as well as grass-fed beef, “we’ll try to keep the price at $19.95 to compete with the current economic conditions,” Febbraio said.
According to McHugh, the lease is 10 years with two five-year options to renew, “essentially a 20-year lease.”
“I’m very pleased,” said Waldman. “I think they’re great operators, and they have a history of operating really great restaurants.
“Town officials are really making it easier to do business in downtown Westport now,” he added. “They (Febbraio and McHugh) want to be part of that now, of the revitalization, and I’m sure more businesses will, too.”
Posted 07/21/11 at 08:38 PM
Sounds fabulous Tommy, an Organic Restaurant is just what Westport needs!! Good luck to you and Mr. McHugh with this new venture. Looking forward to seeing you at the Gray Goose in November:)
Have eaten at least 2 times at Match, Tarry Lodge, and Gray goose. Nice decor, terrible food, lousy service. Match had a pin stuck in my friends mouth from the food when we ate there…never returned. Tarry lodge, waited 20 + minutes between courses while the buss boy spilled water on my wifes telephone. Took 20 min. to get a check. Grey Goose, looks popular terrible food, needs a chef to start. There is however a very good restaurant opened recently, Pane e Bene suggest you try it, dont know why it was not mentioned in the article.