Let’s Get Some Local Action Going–Check Out Épernay, Plus: Mayor Announces New Biz

I’ve been thinking (yes, usually that gets me in big big trouble) but with a new president, a new outlook and a record Congressional stimulus package on the horizon, it’s time for us to step up and promote our local treasures.

Translation: buy local, baby! Yes, Bridgeport restaurants, shops, stores, art galleries, tourist attractions, flower shops, taverns, service stations, massage parlors (well, maybe not those places) but you get my appeal. Lots of great stuff in the city. Let’s support them.

Wednesday night I checked out Épernay Bistro, 272 Fairfield Avenue downtown and this place is the absolute berries. Chef and owner Peter Wroe and manager Barb Saracena have bottled elegance, charm and romance into a 50-seat dining area fronted by a quaint bar and cuddly lounge fit for dress up or cool down, depending on your mood.

You know my love for oysters that most indigenous of Bridgeport delights (it’s the OIB logo, of course) so I started off with a half-dozen Malpeques caressed by Chef Wroe’s special sauce with a pop. Love that hot stuff. As the order came Phil Kuchma, genial developer of the adjacent Bijou Square project, stopped in for a glass of vino. I also caught up with an old friend Michael Donegan who discovered Épernay shortly after it opened last summer.

The wines at Épernay are uncommon, meaning they’re true values alien to the high-profile commercial Napa stuff you’ve heard of so often. Good gravy, a delicious Malbec for $6 a glass!

I’m not going to get all gooey on you regarding the lamb stew, all I know is if it’s on the menu order it! And then the dessert chocolate pots de crème, mercy, it’s an orgasm in a cup. Emily, the observant barkeeper, had to snap me out of my chocolate daze.

I was so excited Wednesday night I forgot to order juniper. I’m telling you Yahooy, you’ve got to meet Anna at this place, but then again we all know Anna prefers the Liberty Rock. No philistines at Épernay.

So, come one, come all to Épernay  (I hear Mayor Finch loves the place) and let’s hear from our OIB friends about the other culinary jewels in the state’s largest city. Bob from Bepo–you out there?–he’s always good for some mighty tastebud suggestions. I want to hear from the Ripper and the Reaper and Mojo and Wondering and recommendations from all OIB regulars. Even you Speedy Joel, although that could be asking for trouble.

It’s the last week of January, four weeks from the Yankees in Florida. Time to think spring. We need recommendations for the next OIB party. Support local, baby. Meanwhile, to learn more about Épernay check out the link under Perfect Pearls. And ask Barbara Saracena about her famous Obamatini.

Speaking of local, Joan Nutmeg, our friend at the discussion group Bridgeport In The Know, has launched a new site www.bridgeportintheknow.com. Check it out with all the cool local links. And the indomitable Mr. Barnum too.

News release from Mayor Finch

Mayor Applauds $2 Million in State Funding for Columbia Elevator Site

BRIDGEPORT, CT (Jan. 22, 2009) – Mayor Bill Finch today hailed the announcement of $2 million dollars in state funding which will enable Columbia Elevator Products Co., Inc., to relocate their corporate headquarters to Bridgeport from Port Chester, N.Y. The money will be used to clean up a “brownfield” at the site of the former Conco Medical Co. site at 380 Horace St.

Columbia Elevator Products Co. Inc., plans to locate an elevator cab manufacturing site there to serve all of its customers in the Northeast, from Boston to Washington , according to Louis James Blaiotta Jr., company president. Blaiotta said the company plans to add approximately 100 jobs at the site over the next three years. Columbia currently employs about 60 people, many of whom commute to Port Chester from the Fairfield County area.

“For several months, our Office of Planning and Economic Development staff has worked hand-in-hand with Columbia Elevator in identifying a desirable site and providing the information necessary to allow them to move forward with the purchase,” said Mayor Bill Finch. “I lobbied very hard to get this placed on the bond commission agenda, and I want to personally credit the Governor for taking a personal interest and making this investment in our city a priority. This is the perfect example of a public/private partnership at work – using bond funds to remediate a brownfield site and turning a vacant factory building into a vibrant and viable source of jobs and tax revenue for the City.”

Columbia Elevator, one of only 14 or 15 independent companies that provide the architectural elements of elevators – the cabs and fittings, has been in its Port Chester facility since 1965. “We were attracted to Bridgeport because of its location central to our core business, 60 percent of which is within 500 miles of Manhattan,” said Blaiotta.

“This factory site was a find for us; we like the city and the location and we’re looking forward to joining the business community here,” he added.

Conco Medical Co., a maker of bandages, splints and other medical products occupied the site from 1949 until moving to South Carolina in 1994. Casco Products, formerly located in the City’s West End, was relocated there until its business moved out of state in 2003.



  1. Lennie’s appeal to BUY LOCAL is a worthy refrain that demands further elaboration. Let’s discover the ways that buying local benefits all those who read this blog:


    WHEN YOU SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESSES, you support your neighbors.

    SMALL BUSINESSES offer unique choices–see Lennie’s post above.

    LOCAL BUSINESSES provide jobs, pay taxes and contribute to the local community (local biz owners make great coaches–ask any youngster).

    STAND UP FOR YOUR AREA–after all, isn’t that what this blog is all about?

  2. Lennie I have tried all of the restaurants downtown with the above restaurant you named as the sole exception. I just have not had the time to get there yet. My favorite at this point is the Metric. Great food, friendly service and reasonably priced. Been there for lunch & dinner.

    1. I heard that Yahooy buys his local orgasms at the Kimchee joints on Fairfield Avenue.

      Glad to see Lennie is out there “shelling” for local businesses under “Perfect Pearls”. After all everybody knows that Bridgeport is the “Cultured Pearl” of Connecticut.

  3. Yahooy–eeewwwww, gross. Too early in the am for my gag reflexes.

    I love new places to eat, gotta watch my wallet though. I watched the swearing-in with my friends at work. We had a TV, everyone stopped and watched, even the customers. Some people cried, I never experienced a feeling that was so sad and happy at the same time. Obama was the first President I ever voted for and I think I made a great choice. Lennie are you going to have any more parties?

  4. Black Rock boasts a number of culinary treasures, Café Tavolini, Viale’s, The Field, Dish and Taco Loco to name but a few. For cheaper eats check out Marty’s Pizza & More (the only place in Black Rock that sells pizza by the slice), China Sky, Matty’s Corner (check out the hot roast beef sandwich, a Saturday tradition in Bridgeport), the Black Rock Tavern, Beverly Pizza, Mi Rancho (awesome chicken tacos, and a fabulous deal at $2.00 apiece) … I could go on and on. So get some!!!

  5. I almost forgot: there is a Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers opening soon, at the intersection of Orland Street and Fairfield Avenue. Sure it’s a fast-food joint, but Wendy’s burgers beat the hell out of Mickey Dee’s.

  6. Gotta give Roberts a little slack. He was put on the bench by a Republican president and had to administer the oath to a Democrat, after all. Y’know, conservative ideology and all that stuff. (The Democratic Party doesn’t really have any ideologies, just common goals.)

  7. There are a lot of great people on this planet and The Bridgeport Kid is one of them.
    Here’s the deal: Obama takes the oath twice, that means he’s gonna be TWICE the President–details to emerge in the days to come …

  8. So far so good. We are going to get a treasury secretary that forgot to pay his taxes and we are going to close Gitmo. Do you think Rell will volunteer to house these terrorists in North Ave?

  9. *** Next OIB gathering should be on a weekend, 1:pm Bluefish game in late April or early May! Everyone likes baseball & it supports our local team here in Bpt. Even raffle off some Bluefish apparel, etc. to help pay towards the bill. However, please no bats should be included in the raffle due to the forgive but not forget “act of 1922”. Also it’s early in the day to be able to enjoy more of springtime in CT. ***

  10. I think Épernay is very good … a step above most other restaurants in the area. The first night was packed and there was a great vibe and good food. I’ve dined there twice since then and we were the only party in the place … on a Saturday. I know the economy is rough, but I’d love to see this place do well.

    State Bistro is another place that’s a classy establishment. Of course, it was started by the family that runs Joseph’s, so they know what they are doing. It was nice to see the writeup in the New York Times. I hope they do well, too.

    On the other end of the spectrum, Helados Vazquez is an example of a small business where they put a lot of time, money and elbow grease to rehab a real pit of a place. That’s a gem in Black Rock that should succeed.

    I’d love to hear more thoughts on the dining scene in Bridgeport. Anyone try Taverna on Madison Ave.?

  11. Columbia Elevator Products Co. Inc.
    380 Horace Street
    Bridgeport, Connecticut

    Now doesn’t that sound great?
    A plus to Finch and Rell.

    Manufacturing in Bridgeport is alive and well.

    1. Mickey’s has great roast beef sandwiches. Not sure when they offer them other than Saturday. That’s the only day I can make my way down, so they may very well offer ’em every day.

      Also try La Abuelita. New Mexican joint a few doors down from Matty’s Corner in Black Rock. Been there a few times and the chicken burrito I got there was pretty amazing.


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