By ELIZABETH KEYSER
Special To CTNow
1:55 PM EST, December 9, 2013
Chef Gino Riccio recently opened Boca, a small plates Mediterranean bar and restaurant in downtown Stamford, where the colorful food contrasts with the contemporary white lounge of a room meant to evoke Greece through a Miami Beach lens. The seasoned restaurateur is also the chef and owner of Quattro Pazzi in Stamford and Fairfield, and Oceana in Fairfield.
Q: How did you develop the menu at Boca?
A: I’m Italian and my wife is Greek. We were inspired by a little by Greece, a little by Italy and also by a trip we took to Barcelona.
Q: If there’s an overall quality to the dishes I’ve tried at Boca, it’s brightness. You use a lot of lemon.
A: That’s Greek. Lemon is their vinegar in a way. They dress salads in extra virgin olive oil and lemon.
Q: Almost every restaurant has a Brussels sprouts dish. Most chefs make them sweet. I found your take – raw, shaved Brussels sprouts as a salad with slivers of manchego and toasted hazelnuts – to be refreshing.
A: It’s like everyone used to hate Brussels sprouts, but now it’s the No. 1 seller on Boca’s menu. When you cook them, they release a gas. That’s why people sweeten it up. We were shaving the Brussels sprouts on the mandolin to sauté it, and then we tasted it raw and said, “Wow, this tastes better.”
Q: My friends raved about Boca’s Greek sausage. That dish is like a twist on sausage and peppers.
A: We have a Greek butcher in Astoria that makes the sausage. It’s cured for about three months and has lemon and orange zest and fennel. It’s really amazing how orange can brighten up a sausage. And we use orange zest in the onions and peppers.
Q: What else is popular?
A: We make a really nice flat bread. There’s one with butternut squash, Tuscan kale and burrata.
Boca, 245 Bedford St., Stamford. 203-724-9300, bocact.com.