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Seafood-Centric Eatery Splashes Into Saugatuck

WESTPORT, Conn. – There's a new restaurant in the Saugatuck neighborhood of Westport. But unlike many of its neighbors, The Whelk doesn't focus on traditional Italian-American cuisine. Instead, the waterfront eatery serves up locally harvested seafood — and lots of it.

The brainchild of Chef Bill Taibe, chef-owner of Westport's farm-to-table restaurant LeFarm, and Massimo Tullio, co-owner of Fat Cat Pie Co. in Norwalk, The Whelk officially opened its doors for dinner to the public Tuesday.

"We like to compare it to south of France meets Maine," said Tullio, describing what diners can expect. "You'll find we do a lobster roll, but with a little twist like the French do."

Going with the "light and airy" feel of the restaurant, Tullio said diners will find many smaller plates and light fare. Visitors can also expect an extensive drink and wine list.

"Think oysters and rosé," Tullio said. "We're trying to keep a more casual bar atmosphere — a place where you can meet your wife or a friend after work for a drink and a quick bite to eat."

Although The Whelk's seafood-heavy menu contrasts the meatier menu at Le Farm, it's similar to Le Farm in that the food is locally and regionally sourced, Tullio said. For example, the restaurant gets many of its oysters from Norm Bloom in Norwalk.

Saugatuck Craft Butchery, The Whelk's neighbor in Saugatuck Center, will provide the meat for the few items on the menu, such as lamb burgers and fried chicken sandwiches, Tullio said. And the restaurant's produce is farm fresh every day.

"We're all about local," said Tullio. "[Taibe] goes to the farms every morning to pick up produce and every morning sees the seafood coming off the boats. We're very well connected to the farmers and try to do as much as we can here."

Even though the wine comes from all over, Tullio said they, too, are sustainable in that they are all farmer grown and produced. "They're not produced by machines and don't have any chemicals. We're working with what Mother Nature gave us."

The Whelk is located at 575 Riverside Ave. and is open Tuesdays through Saturdays for dinner only. Tullio said that in two weeks, the restaurant will likely open for lunch. He also said they plan to have outdoor dining in the warmer months.

Hours are 5 to 9:30 p.m. Reservations can be made only for the bench seating along the wall. Seating at the center tables and the bar is first come, first serve.

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