Greenwich, Connecticut, has long needed both a high quality steakhouse and a fine Italian restaurant. Macelleria, which debuted in Pelham, New York, two years ago, with a second in Armonk, has managed to provide both to this suburban city on the Gold Coast within one splendid-looking space.
Owner Anthony Lala is one of those Albanian immigrants who will be the first to tell you that the American dream is alive and still very possible for anyone who wants to work hard and work his way up. Along the way he has learned every aspect of the business and the ideals of hospitality, so that no guest is ever less than pampered and every one will be very much impressed by the finesse of the whole operation. It’s one of those take-your-time kind of places to linger over dessert and coffee and maybe an after-dinner drink.
Macelleria is a big place with 200 seats but so divided to seem more intimate, with widely spaced tables, wooden floors and a stone fireplace now being put into operation as the colder weather takes hold. The smaller details are the finer ones: The tables are large, the linens of good quality, the stemware thin, the knives by Laguiole. If a little spot of food drops from your fork, within seconds it will be covered by a fresh napkin. All portions are large and sharing or taking food home is a high probability. The wine list has real substance, and, by the glass, you get a very generous pour.
Chef Joe Fusco’s menu doesn’t push the standard envelope, so the focus is on impeccable ingredients and well-honed technique. Fried calamari, so often either fishy or tasteless, are flavorful and perfectly cooked to a light golden crispiness ($12). The seafood salad ($16) is a bargain for such a bountiful catch of shrimp, scallops, crab meat, octopus and calamari with arugula and lemon vinaigrette. The Maryland crab cake ($14) is a good, meaty one, but the menu’s promise of “colossal jumbo lump crab” was a big stretch.
I was told that the meatballs were extraordinary and they lived up to the hype. At $12 it’s a massive portion of braised mini meatballs with bright tomato sauce, the aroma of basil and an ice cream scoop of mascarpone cheese. The Iceberg lettuce wedge ($12) with an abundance of blue cheese, crispy bacon, red onions and heirloom tomatoes makes for a splendid lunch all on its own.
All the pastas are made on premises, and I highly recommend the cavatelli with broccoli di rabe and sausage and a good dose of garlic and oil ($16). The spaghetti alla carbonara$16) with bacon, onions, egg yolk and parmesan cheese achieves the requisite creaminess without the addition of cream at all.
You may want go easy on the antipasti and pastas, because the size of the main courses is astonishing. You get six succulent lamb chops ($30) that are tender beautifully cooked and eaten right off the bone. Braised short ribs with mushrooms auto in a very rich brazing sauce ($29) is as hearty a dish as you’ll find in October, and the veal chop was equally satisfying and a buy at $30.
The branzino was one of the largest whole fish I have seen on an individual plate ($26) and although a bit overcooked that night, it was a dish that really needs to be shared, along with its seasonal vegetables, rosemary flecks and virgin olive oil glaze.
The prices on side dishes at most steakhouses has gone through the roof elsewhere— Smith and Wollensky charges $14—but not at Macelleria where they all cost five dollars. Sautéed spinach, broccoli di rabe, buttered corn, fat crisp french fries, perfectly textured whipped potatoes and very sweet shoe fried onions rings are not to be missed.
Nor are the housemaid desserts that include the inevitable tiramisù and an extremely well-made crème brûlée.
Add a time when so many people are complaining about the rise in prices at restaurants on top of the high prices steakhouses usually charge, Macelleria proves itself both a first class steakhouse and a solid Italian restaurant, so to have both in one place for very gentle prices and food well worth sharing is a rare thing indeed, especially in tony Greenwich, Connecticut.
2 South Water Street
Open for lunch and dinner daily.