by Sarah Galluzzo
Photography by Dylan Miller
If you’re looking for the best Italian fine dining outside of Southern Italy, you may be surprised to know that you can find it in Ridgefield. Over the past few months, I’ve had a chance to discover several excellent restaurants in this foodie town, and Gallo is a standout favorite. The name Gallo means “rooster,” and indeed, this is the place to crow about.
Raffaele Gallo met Executive Chef Giuseppe Castellano many years ago through a mutual acquaintance from the Isle of Capri. A native of Naples, Castellano had worked as a chef throughout Europe and was excited to help Gallo fulfill his vision here in the states. Over time they’ve collaborated on several successful restaurants, including Toscana which was in Ridgefield for nine years and Grand Gusto Trattoria, a thriving restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Gallo Ristorante is a large venue offering indoor and outdoor, casual bar side and elegant dining room seating options, an extensive wine list, and an on-staff sommelier. However, what truly shines here is the food. Ah, the food! What’s the secret to creating such meals?
“For me, it’s all about the product, technique, and recipe,” Castellano explains. The excitement he feels about his food exudes from his very being. Though busy in the kitchen he takes the time to talk about the menu here at Gallo, Lantern Bar, and Gastropub, located at 59 Ethan Allen Highway, in the former location of Little Pub. “The recipes you see on the menu here and at Lantern are original recipes I developed,” Castellano says with pride. Lantern serves American Pub and bar food with a gourmet spin.
His business partner and General Manager Raffaele Gallo is a warm and jovial man who describes Castellano as quite simply “an outstanding person, and outstanding chef.” When I ask Gallo about the secret to his success, he replies “the secret is to always make people feel great. This can be a hard business at times. If you don’t like people, you won’t make it. My staff are like members of my family; we’ve been through a lot together. Also, this community is a place where people support one another. I’ve met so many wonderful people here in Ridgefield that I would never have met anywhere else in the world.”
Though the establishment is large, my guest and I feel tucked away in our own little corner grotto. Our waiter knows the menu well and offers the perfect wine pairings served at just the right temperature throughout the meal. Our first appetizer is the Polipo. This dish features: roasted octopus with orange segments, slivers of asparagus diagonally cut, black olives, thin slices of fennel, and just a touch of citrus sauce. The smokiness of the perfectly tender octopus paired with the thin slices of fennel creates bursts of textures and a unity of well-balanced yet unexpected flavor. We also order the chickpea fritters, a light and crisp, cracker-like creation. The fritters are elegantly stacked with prosciutto, Stracciatella cheese, and bits of figs in a balsamic reduction.
For lunch, we share an order of Spaghetti Ala “Scuie´ Scuie´,” pronounced “sha-way sha-way.” This is a specialty dish from Capri, where the server comes tableside to toss hot pasta with sliced cherry tomatoes and fresh basil in a wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Yes, you read that correctly – hot pasta tossed tableside in a wheel of cheese.
Did I save room for dessert? Not really. But I made room for Gallo’s Crème Brûlée and tiramisu. One hard crack of the spoon against the burnt caramel topping gave way to a velvety vanilla custard. Their take on a classic tiramisu is light and fluffy and a tad off the path of traditional. It tasted more like Sambuca – or a similar liqueur – was used to soak the ladyfingers instead of rum. Yum!
Our final round includes a Chocolate Martini. I realize this must-have medley is reminiscent of my favorite childhood treat: the fudgsicle, but in grown-up form. I float away from the table towards our Uber, sated, subdued, and perhaps a little seduced by Gallo Ristorante. It will both comfort and surprise you with its elegant cuisine and upscale ambiance. Try it and you’ll crow about it too! •