A pivotal contributor to the brassware industry in the United States, Waterbury has been granted the nickname of The Brass City. Mostly praised for its success in manufacturing brass, the city also boasts a mixture of noteworthy cultural pursuits and beautiful restaurants that are often overlooked by visitors. We check out 10 of the best restaurants and cafés in this underrated Connecticut gem.
Restaurant, Italian, $$$
A long-standing institution in Waterbury’s history, Bacco’s Ristorante is a traditional, authentic Italian restaurant that has served the Waterbury community for 83 years. Run by the Bacco family, the restaurant offers the chance to sample secret family recipes and sauces along with pizzas that are much-loved by many regular customers. To create a twist of diversity to their menu, Bacco’s provides different daily features along with their famous pizza and a superb wine list. As a result, combining the extravagant assortment of Italian flavours ranging from veal, chicken, beef, seafood and pizzas with warm and loving service, allows locals as well as visitors to experience a fine-dining experience in the heart of Connecticut.
A casual dining restaurant and lounge, Brass City Bistro is a popular lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch spot for those craving Italian cuisine. Many come hungry and leave with unexpected leftovers due to the extremely generous portions that are considered large enough for two. Although the restaurant is somewhat hidden in its position within a parking lot, people flock to the entrance in order to experience the welcoming service, relaxed atmosphere and delicious food that has the gained the restaurant its sterling reputation. In addition to its excellent dishes, Brass City Bistro is renowned for its unique bar and cocktails, a feature highlighted by CTNow’s interview with the bartender Victoria Mancini.
One of the oldest restaurants in Waterbury, Diorio is the perfect place to sample traditional Northern Italian Nouvelle cuisine, a specific genre of food that is not easily accessible in many parts of Connecticut. The founder, Rocco Diorio, opened the restaurant in the early 1920s. Diorio was closed for renovation in the 1980s, only to reopen 11 years later with beautiful interior adjustments such as the installation of a marble bar, a private dining room, tin ceiling, mahogany banker booths and highly detailed mirrors exhibiting historic scenes of Waterbury. Since its restoration, the restaurant has been praised for its unique and flawless style, regaining its former popularity and gathering new faithful patrons.
Located within the Western Hills Golf Course, The Hills Restaurant is the perfect high class establishment in which to dine, especially while on vacation. The Ricciardi family welcomes all – both golfers as well as non-golfers – for refreshments, lunch and dinner. As guests, customers are treated as if they are dining at a friend’s house and are served succulent American and Italian cuisine that is selected from a large variety of options, all to be enjoyed while appreciating the panoramic visats. To add to the verdant scene, the interior design of the restaurant glistens with rich wood panels and a hunter green décor that creates a sense of elegance and beauty throughout the space.
A place where families and friends gather to taste authentic Italian cuisine, La Tavola Ristorante boasts the best chef in Waterbury, according to the reader’s poll conducted by the Waterbury Observer. The restaurant’s ambiance, popularity and perfectly prepared dishes are the result of Chef Nicola Mancini’s collaboration with Pasquale Salvatore. Applying 20 years of culinary experience and using the freshest local ingredients, Chef Mancini prepares dishes of high quality and superb flavour. Meanwhile, Salvatore utilises his 15 years of experience in restaurant design to construct an environment with an upmarket yet comfortable vibe. In acknowledgment of the restaurant’s developing reputation as one of the best in the region, La Tavola has featured on NBC TV.
Lisboa Restaurant is one of the few restaurants in Connecticut that serves authentic Portuguese cuisine, as featured in the New York Times. Located near rusty railroad tracks and surrounded by multiple tall industrial plants, the single-story building does not look much different from its neighbouring edifices. Though its exterior seems to suggest a manufacturing factory, the interior is in fact decked out in a simple, sleek design befitting the convivial atmosphere and European feel. In addition to the calm, friendly and professional ambiance, the owner Antonio Carvalho promises dishes that are simple, hearty and full of flavour.
Paisano’s Restaurant & Bar | Image Courtesy of Sultan's Turkish Restaurant
A traditional restaurant influenced by Italian cooking, Paisano’s Restaurant & Bar offers an immense variety of options for appetizers, entrée, and desserts, all of which are created using old family recipes that have been passed down through the generations. Among the most popular choices are the eggplant rollatini, walnut encrusted chicken and Fettucine Ala Enza, the latter consisting of shrimps, sun dried tomatoes, spinach, artichokes, and a garlic Alfredo sauced served over fettuccini. In homage to their ancestors, the founders of Paisano’s – Anthony D’Amelio, Pat Cainfagna and Giulo Petta – have hung black and white family photographs along the interior walls.
The only Turkish restaurant in Waterbury, Sultan’s Turkish Restaurant provides traditional food and entertains guests with professional acts and performance artists. At least once a month, belly dancers perform for the customers as they enjoy local favourites such as kebabs, homemade breads, piles of fresh salad and homemade baba ganoush. There have even been times when the customers join in and dance, creating a fun-loving, improvisatory and carefree vibe. With deep geometric patterns on the carpet and a warm colour scheme with burnt siena walls and deep red table cloths, this is a true slice of Turkey in the heart of Waterbury.
Bar, Restaurant, Mediterranean, Italian, American, $$$
Vasi’s Restaurant is known to be one of the most stylish, well-designed Italian restaurants in Waterbury. As the only establishment located along the outskirts of the city with an outdoor veranda, customers flock to enjoy a full course meal as they gaze out across the picturesque scenery in a quiet, peaceful environment. Not only does the restaurant present an unrivalled view of the landscape, but it also provides ample party space in the recently remodelled banquet room. Along with the sizeable party space, Vasi’s fresh homemade food (particularly the fried calamari, succulent steaks and craft cocktails) adds to the energetic, lively atmosphere, creating an ambiance perfect for friendly, animated social gatherings.
Founded by the prodigy Marianne Barsi, Zia’s Cucina is a small restaurant that serves traditional Northern Italian cuisine. Since the age of 14, Chef Barsi has been learning culinary techniques, first garnering knowledge from her mother and grandmother and then training under Chef Lou Costa. After years of experience, she has gained the love of local customers and the respect of her fellow chefs, with Zia’s Cucina locally considered to be the best Italian restaurant in the area. Barsi prepares high-quality meals with extraordinary flavour and a unique approach to fusion, using only the freshest vegetables, meats and seafood for relaxed breakfasts, lazy lunches or formal suppers.