Bar Sugo is Pasquale Pascarella’s new place in Norwalk’s Eastside. I fell in love with Pasquale’s food at Pizzeria Rosso in Norwalk (which became Cortina Pizzeria), until it abruptly and disappointingly vanished from the scene. Not sure Norwalk realized how good they had it for fantastic pies for a while there…
Alas, Bar Sugo is a very different sort of place. Rather than a takeout pizza place shoehorned between a gun range and a furniture store, Bar Sugo is a trendy looking establishment nestled into … well, a part of Norwalk that still needs some work. The setting is trendy and the staff and clientele try to match it. It seems a bit out of place, but it’s easy to forget the incongruity once you’re inside.
We were immediately seated a bit before 8 on a Friday night; the bar and high top tables were full, but the tables in the back of the house were empty; hopefully business picks up a bit, would be nice to see this as a new anchor.
I started with a glass of wine and M had a Chamomile cocktail that was quite nice (Chamomile has a really nasty habit of developing intense bitterness when infused too long in spirits, the balance was just right).
We kicked things off with five “cicchetti” small plates. The burrata was rather nice, topped with white anchovies lending a wonderful earthy saltiness to the dish. The cherry tomatoes confit were relatively flavorless by comparison; the cured olives paired nicely.
The pork belly wasn’t bad; it had decent texture but was a bit bland. The balance was nice, on the whole, with the onions and lentils making a nice dish, but it lacked anything special to make it memorable.
Calamari came with fantastic texture, but, well, needed salt. The cherry peppers were nice but being deprived of their seeds were largely devoid of flavor and heat. The aioli should have rescued both of these issues, but it too was bland. So much potential here, just a little short of achieving something special.
It’s hard to go wrong with foie gras, and this was no exception. Texture and flavor of the liver was fantastic, and the jelly/berry/granola pairing worked quite well. Definitely the standout of the cicchetti.
The truffle fries wrapped in prosciutto were a disappointment. The fries themselves were mashed together but were nothing memorable; the truffle flavor was absent (noticed this, confusingly, in all instances where truffle oil was purportedly present), and the synergy I was hoping for with the cured ham and the fries just didn’t quite happen. Neat concept but a total flop in my book.
All five dishes were quite reasonable (read: quite small and appropriate) portions, collectively making a decent appetizer portion for two people.
For our main course, we conquered the meatball tasting menu. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the world needs more things like “meatball tasting menus.”
Each meatball was quite different; there was beef with tomato and grana padano, pork with red wine tomato sauce and whipped ricotta, veal sweetbread with pearl onion agrodolce and baby basil, beef meatballs with gouda, red onion jam, and truffle oil (again, skeptical that there actually was truffle oil), crispy veal meatballs with calabrian chili aioli and frisee, and finally the meatballs with beef, veal, pork and sage. The final meatball (“Sugo’s” Meatball) was far and away the best of the six, though all were interesting for different reasons. I doubt I’d order the meatball tasting again, but I think this is a unique and novel opportunity that should not be passed up.
Despite how awful the above photo looks, the Spaghetti pasta was fantastic and the sauce was simple yet perfect. If I had to pick a single standout dish, this wins over the foie gras. Pasquale clearly knows the art of perfecting simple pasta and sauce.
Chocolate cake for dessert wasn’t particularly impressive, but to each their own. Need to go back and find out how their espresso is.
Definitely worth a visit. I know the pizza from past experiences, and it’s good – pairing that with some cicchetti and a bottle of wine could easily make a nice night out for two.