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Mario Batali Tarries in Westport

Westport, have you heard? There’s a new iron chef on the block. Mario Batali is moving in. Or rather, his latest restaurant, Tarry Lodge Enoteca and Pizzeria , is setting up shop in Saugatuck. News broke yesterday that the multi-talented Mario had purchased the old Abbondanza digs at 30 Charles Street. Specialty gourmet by day, and intimate restaurant, Bonda, by night, the building’s doors were shuttered nearly a year ago, when owner Jamie Cooper relocated Bonda to Fairfield. It has remained empty ever since.

Until yesterday, that is, when Westporters learned that Mario and his business partner, Joe Bastianich, had sealed a molto deal and would bring their benissimo brand of Italian dining to Westport.

Westport is no stranger to bold face names moving in and setting up shop. The late, great Paul Newman, perhaps Westport’s most beloved citizen, resided here with his wife, Joanne Woodward, for 50 years. And in addition to his gregarious nature, he served Westporters in many ways, including through his restaurant, Dressing Room , where Chef Michel Nischan remains committed to creating meals with fresh, organic, locally-sourced ingredients.

It’s this commitment to greener eating that might be what makes Westport stand out in the suburban dining crowd, and what makes it such a perfect locale for Mario’s Tarry Lodge. In its original incarnation in Port Chester, NY, Tarry Lodge is a Certified Green Restaurant, which translates to using sustainable materials and practices -- no Styrofoam, no bottled water -- as well as locally sourced, organic ingredients.

Sustainable chefs are part of the Westport gastronomic landscape. Chef Bill Taibe of LeFarm is a vocal advocate for the Farm to Table movement. And the Green Village Initiative , a local non-profit whose focus is “sustainability and community-building through regionalization, local food production, water/power/garbage efficiencies and education,” is a driving force in the community, encouraging Westporters to commit to an ecologically-responsible existence. (And we all know very well that in 2008 “plastic bag” became a four letter word.)

So Mario, if you’re reading, Westport will likely welcome your greener practices, and definitely devour your delicious Italian fare. We all miss our New York City Babbo days, after all. Move in, get acquainted with the neighbors, and make yourself at home. Don't miss the farmers' market on Thursdays, as there's always something yummy happening there. But if shopping is on your agenda, please make sure you bring your own bag.

Westport, what do you think of our new neighbor? Leave a comment here, or email me at mmorelli@mainstreetconnect.us and I'll pass it along to Mario.

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