The phrase “real” receives thrown round quite a chunk inside the culinary world. When Danilo Mongillo, the proprietor of Strega in Branford, lived in Italy, he becomes a police officer for the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies. It was his activity to shield the integrity of any product that had “Made in Italy” at the label.
Not most effective did Mongillo increase a sizable knowledge and appreciation for wine, olive oil, tomatoes, and cheese, however, he constructed connections that ensure while the aircraft from Italy touches down in New York City each Wednesday, best fresh, proper ingredients could be making their manner up I-ninety five to Branford. “Italy is lovely. Italian food is healthful. It’s gotta be healthy, it’s gotta be clean, it’s gotta be seasonal,” Mongillo says. “The Mediterranean is so loopy. … Every month, nature gives you something.”
Mongillo grew up on the family farm and his dad and mom have been jogging a butcher shop due to the fact 1979 out in their home in a small town inside the province of Benevento. His love of meals and feeding people is almost palpable. He tugs at his shirt sleeve, pronouncing this material can be reasonably-priced and pretend, but what you put inside your frame simply topics.
Our first journey to Strega is the Monday after Father’s Day, and it is expectedly gradual with only a few tables occupied within the 65-seat area. This proves to be extraordinarily beneficial, as our server spends pretty a chunk of time at our desk going over the menu. If you didn’t take a pair of years of Italian in high school, you may need a pocket translator to get through it.
A collection of small bread, taralli and olive oil — no butter — is served on a wood cutting board. Mongillo appears to have a particular disdain for butter. We start off with the Fiori di Zucca, tempura squash vegetation full of ricotta, mozzarella, basil, and tomato Alla Puttanesca. It’s light, sensitive and easy, and in no way similar to your usual cheese-filled fried Italian meals.

The carciofi e finocchio is an artichoke and fennel salad with avocado mousse and coffee-infused mustard dressing. I’m used to a little crunch, or at least a variance in textures, in my salads, but other than the similarity of each chunk, I have no court cases about the freshness or taste.
With the first dishes, I locate myself becoming conscious of what I’m ingesting and feeling suitable about it. Knowing the starting place of the meals and the commitment to high-quality established through Mongillo adds to the leisure of the revel in. It’s easy to equate Italian cuisine to red sauce and oily cheese, and that’s been one of the boundaries Mongillo has confronted seeing that beginning in 2016. He desires clients to trust him and chef Marco Giugliano, and step out in their consolation sector.
“People will ask for fowl parm. ‘You don’t have any chicken on the menu?’ Not actually. I mean, 50 cents a pound, what I gotta promote? C’mon,” Mongillo says. “I don’t sense at ease charging 20 dollars for something I gotta pay 50 cents. And it’s just the breast. It’s dry, no taste. What I gotta cook dinner? We can prepare dinner tuna, we are able to cook dinner salmon, we are able to prepare dinner ribeye. I’m a butcher’s son. Give me the Angus. Give me the blood.”
The next path is whilst the abilities of Mongillo and Giugliano virtually shine, and you recognize the accolades from Gambero Rosso are well deserved. (Strega is the primary Connecticut eating place identified via the Rome-based authority on Italian food and wine.) After one chew the rigatoni alla Genovese joins the list of exceptional dishes I’ve ever had. Freshly made al dente rigatoni is followed by an onion-primarily based sauce — the flavor is similar to a wonderful French onion soup — with gradual-cooked Angus New York strip loin. I would advocate towards sharing this with dining companions. Forks will be flying on your path till the plate is smooth.
In addition to being the proprietor and manager, Mongillo is likewise the pizzaiolo. We opt for the Paesana with fior di latte cheese, Sicilian caponata, and cured pork belly. Mongillo receives to work on the Neapolitan-fashion pie in front of the timber-fired oven in undeniable sight of the dining room. Sixty seconds at 900 stages later we’re supplied with a mild, airy, perfect private pizza this is skinny yet robust sufficient to guide its toppings. There’s a slight char but it’s no longer burnt or crispy, and the areas darkened through the fire nonetheless taste like crust, no longer an ember.
Giugliano is also in fee of the desserts, and the tiramisu and deconstructed cannoli both meet the bar formerly raised via the whole thing we’d already enjoyed. The cocktails are sparkling and attractive, but no longer overly sturdy. That’s a grievance or praise, relying on your outlook.
Fully impressed after our incognito visit, I reach out to speak with Mongillo and him invitations us again for a complimentary tasting. Imagine journeying to a lovely area you’ve by no means been to before. It’s exceptional, you love it. Then you pass back a 2d time, but now you’ve got a neighborhood tour guide who suggests you all the fine spots. Even higher.

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