Tapas is definitely the way to go at Lugano Wine Bar & Salumeria, which opened last year in Greenwich. Yes, there are main dishes (“secondi”) and a selection of pastas (“primi”), but it’s the top of the menu with its litany of formaggi, salumi and tapas (really small plates) that warrants perusing and where there are more intriguing options. And if you’re 30- or 40-something, bee-line for the bar scene that absolutely buzzes with laughter, a cacophony of deafening chatter and the clink of glasses.
The bar, that once was confined to the central greeting room between a private dining room and a general, larger room, has been extended into the main dining room. This is great for the after-work, let-it-all-hang-out crowd that bustles in around six, not so much for patrons who come to enjoy the food and converse with friends or family. Noise is the name of the game here.
Even in the dining room. We sat way in the back, near the floor-to-ceiling windows framing a rock outcropping, like a panorama in a museum. Our table nestled cozily in a C-shaped banquette. The bar and restaurant decor is Lugano’s interpretation of a gastropub in which the mixologist is as clever with cocktails as the cook is with food.
Speaking of the cocktail, absolutely spring for the well-crafted Fig & Rosemary made with vodka, fig spread, rosemary, bitters and lemon. Unless you’re into sangria, skip the Lambrusco cocktail with its overly sweet pineapple-infused vodka. It’s a tall drink, perhaps best to accompany nipping at the salumi rather than the sautéed calamari.
The salumi, an Italian version of French charcuterie, is a classic culinary art and a must order: salumi from prosciutto to soppressata and to finocchiona, which was perfect — thin, thin slices flavored with fennel seeds, a teeny bit sweet. Order a varied plate, and add cheese from typical Parmesan and provolone to creamy mozzarella and ricotta. Fried artichokes were quite nice on their own or dipped in the accompanying marinara. This last dish was more than a small bite, as was the calamari and a serving of fall-off-the-bone pork ribs.
Then there is a “meatballs” section. We tried a tasting of three ($9.50), and depending on which you chose determined your reaction: the turkey was bland, the spicy beef not exuberant enough, the basil/Parmesan best of all.
In our full-court press on the menu, we sprang for the mains (a dozen or so hovering around $24.50 each). There is usually one special a night and ours was two branzino fillets wrapped in prosciutto, perfectly cooked, tasty and delicious with beautiful spinach. Seared pork chop, while tender at the bone, served with not-so-hot cherry peppers, got lost in a dousing with balsamic vinegar, as did the lamb chops, that were skirted with small roasted potatoes and a medley of chopped vegetables. Melt-in-your-mouth veal scallopini was presented under a veil of a brown marsala sauce that also topped some sliced mushrooms and a clutch of linguini.
Lugano Wine Bar & Salumeria, 1392 E. Putnam Ave., Greenwich. 203-990-0955.
Rosemarie T. Anner has been reviewing restaurants for more than three decades.