Chris Preovolos/The Advocate
Beef brisket sandwich with horseradish sauce and French fries, a favorite of chef Robert Troilo at Nicholas Roberts Fine Foods in Norwalk.
NICHOLAS ROBERTS FINE FOODS: 75 MAIN ST., NORWALK
When established caterer and chef Robert Troilo opened Nicholas Roberts Fine Foods in Norwalk a couple of years ago, it could almost have be considered an afterthought.
It is not.
Eighty-percent of Troilo’s business still comes from catering but his restaurant with its Ikea-chic decor and inviting menu is more than a showcase for his wedding and holiday party offerings.
A friend and former Advocate photojournalist proclaimed Troilo’s steak and cheese sandwich to be the best in the area. While I’m inclined to agree, I’m partial to the duck club with spicy quince paste. It’s really a great take on an indomitable American lunchtime classic.
Likewise, the beef brisket sandwich with horseradish sauce is a modern variation of a standard. The menu generally takes this tack, with pleasing results. Troilo described it as a mix of classics, California-nouveau, and Southern, Cajun style cooking.
The sandwiches, like the aforementioned brisket, pulled pork and the crawfish beignet (which is actually a wrap) are prepared with simple attention to detail and flavor.
On a recent visit, I was particularly impressed with touches like the awesome butter buns from Fairfield’s Billy’s Bakery and the abundance of artichoke hearts in my seared tuna salad, served with braised fennel and black olive vinaigrette. (Of secondary importance to the food, but not to be overlooked was the excellent late-sixties Stax and Motown R&B soundtrack. I dig Sam & Dave.)
Because of the restaurant’s size and open kitchen, chef Troilo is a constant presence. Though he has a small staff, he may alternately be your greeter, server, cashier, or just there to offer menu advice (which he dispenses passionately).
The casual bistro is also open for dinner Thursday through Saturday with brunch served Sunday. All dinner entrees are under $20 with the exception of the two lobster dishes. Almost all of the lunch sandwiches and plates come in at under $10.
Nicholas Roberts Fine Foods is not in trendy SoNo (an area the LBC tends not to frequent), but tucked away in an odd strip mall on lower Main St.
But trust me, it’s worth investigating. And, hey, parking is easier than on Washington St.
NOTE: BYOB and cash only.