When Marc Minella decided to open a restaurant in New Canaan, he didn't want it to blend in its surroundings. He was looking to put his stamp on the town with and it seems as if his mission has been accomplished. , Tuscan, as it's commonly referred to, has created a buzz with its great food and a bar scene that is anything but typical.
"We know that we're a little bit different," Minella, co-owner and executive chef and Darien resident, said. "We're younger and doing something that's not the 'norm' for the town. We saw the need for it. There isn't any place you can go to at 1 a.m. on a Saturday, grab a bite, get some drinks and listen to some live music. We're happy the way things have gone so far."
Word has traveled from Wilton to Westchester that Tuscan is a hot and happening spot on Thursday to Saturday nights with the live bands, DJs and diverse crowd. Minella has heard many stories about Tuscan from it being a "cougar den" to having stripper poles. He laughed off all the rumors and actually embraces what people are saying.
"It's different. It's not the kind of talk they are going to be getting over at or something like that," Minella said. "It's a little risqué."
Bar manager Shawn Longyear added: "New Canaan hasn't seen anything like this, but there is not any of that craziness that people talk about."
According to Tucker Murphy, executive director of the , people seem to be enjoying Tuscan for everything that it offers. "They said they were going to do things a little differently when they came here and they have, she said. "The live music has made it different from a lot of other restaurants in town."
Customers also seem to be raving about Tuscan's food. The New York Times gave it a sterling review last Sunday, and Patch readers named it the . The lobster salad, Fiorentina per due (Porterhouse steak for two) and pasta bolognese are among the most popular items on the menu.
Minella added that Tuscan has attracted more than a few celebrities, including New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman, ESPN's Chris Berman, entertainer columnist Mike Lupica and former soccer star Alexei Lalas.
"We wanted to provide a fun environment," Minella, who co-owns the restaurant with James Dadio, said. "Our service is a little more informal. Everything around you looks like fine dining, but the service is relaxed and that makes the customers feel more welcomed."
Tuscan's had its share of growing pains — as most new restaurants tend to suffer early on — which has forced Minella to adjust and adapt. "I set out to make this a full market with vegetables and produce and canned goods and olive oils, but I think people are set in where they get those kind of things," he said. "We had to change our original plan, but changing on the fly is good."
He added that there are plans to make the front of the store more of a café and is looking to add about 40 seats, while keeping the butcher shop the same.
Minella admitted he knows that not everyone in town likes everything about his restaurant, saying that it just comes with the territory, but there's no denying that Tuscan has made its mark in the town's competitive restaurant market in a short period of time.
"It's been great," he said. "There are so many really good restaurants and it's a great time to be here."