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Terrasole dish

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The Four Faces of Italy

Italian Influences that Shape These Local Dining Experiences

Article by Jillian Fontana

Photography by Jennifer Barrett

Originally published in Ridgefield Lifestyle

Aren’t we Ridgefielders lucky to enjoy four fine-dining Italian establishments in our bustling town? There is no lack of individuality; each spot certainly knows its charm.

The Restaurateurs draw on a combination of their own tastes: culinary, aesthetic and experiential, to craft a dining adventure that represents their unique perspectives and influences from Italy. 

Bartolo

Arthur Michaelsen, chef and co-owner along with his wife, Julia, has deep roots in Ridgefield and its area’s restaurants. At the age of 16, Michaelsen got his feet wet as a dishwasher at the Ancient Mariner. While attending university in Hawaii, Arthur unexpectedly fell in love with pasta-making. He decided to pursue his newfound passion by coming back East and attending the Culinary Institute of America. 

Adept in many cuisines, Michaelsen owned seven restaurants over the course of his career. But in 2012, it was time to dig down to his deepest culinary love, Italian cuisine, especially “old style pasta making”. At that, Bartolo opened, with the restaurant’s name serving as an homage to Julia’s Italian family. 

Upon entering, the handwritten chalkboard menu is the “artwork of the restaurant”, keeping the inviting ambience “clean and simple." When building out the space, they framed a chef’s window, inviting the diner to peek through to the heart of the restaurant, the kitchen. Julia brings her warmth and depth of experience to the front-of-house; going as far as bringing in new wines to suit customer requests. 

Gallo

Owner Raffaele Gallo is the namesake of Gallo Ristorante, and along with Chef Giuseppe Castellano, have created an authentic Italian dining experience. The restaurant is tucked a few steps away from Main Street, perched atop the Grove Street corner. The outdoor seating is perfectly serene; when upon entering, one beholds the many “galli”, or roosters, dotting the decor.

The menu has classics like polpo (octopus), polpette (meatballs) and a slew of fresh pastas and entrees. Chef Castellano is a wonder with all things flour; the fresh bread and pasta is made every day, but do yourself a favor and order the pizza (which flies under the radar). Hailing from Naples, it’s definitely in his genes, and the crust is both chewy and crisp, topped with the best imported tomatoes and bufala mozzarella. 

Posa

For owner Massimo Carro, hospitality is in the blood. Carro was born in Positano, the sun-soaked Amalfi coast village with steep cliffs and the bluest waters. His family owns two hotels there and Massimo grew up in those restaurants, eventually opening his own place, “Max,” before crossing the pond.

When he and co-owner and wife Ariane decided to move to the States, they chose Ridgefield as the perfect town to raise their family. They opened Posa in 2019, to be immediately confronted with the challenges of Covid. Lucky for us, the business prevailed! 

The menu at Posa is authentic Italian, with all the key ingredients (olive oil, cheese, cured meats) coming directly from Italy. Carro will tell you, “anything that is not imported is handmade—pasta, bread and even the gelato." While the cuisine is authentic, the decor is decidedly more modern, with a muted palette and an understated sophistication. The drinks list is deep with a broad selection of spirits, especially if you are a lover of whiskies.

Terrasole

When owner Pietro Polini has a vision, he doesn’t stop until it's realized. Pietro hails from Puglia, the hot heel of Italy’s boot. His obsession with quality is evident, as evidenced by his dapper dressing and attention to every detail. The core of the menu is northern Italian with handmade pasta, but borrows some inspiration from Japan with a crudo (raw) bar and high-end American steakhouses. 

The addition of the sleek, Miami-styled bar is a tribute to Sofia Loren who graced the restaurant as a one-time customer, quite literally solidifying her visage upon the wall. A wood-fired oven serves double duty; it also happens that six hundred degrees cooks a dry-aged steak quite nicely.

For oenophiles, Pietro’s “notorious” reserve wine list is not an overstatement. Heavy hitters abound; the biggest names, and price tags, fill the cool cave. 

Whether the setting is cozy or sleek, elegant or chic, Ridgefielders don’t have to travel far to experience the multi-faceted jewel that is Italian cuisine.

  • Terrasole Owner, Pietro Polini
  • Terrasole dish
  • Posa dish
  • Posa owner Massimo Carro
  • Bartolo owner Arthur Michaelsen
  • Bartolo dessert
  • Terrasole