The same folks who maintain Italian/Spanish restaurant Bella Pasta in downtown Norwalk also operate Café Madrid Wine & Tapas Bar on New Canaan Avenue.
Under the same management, Café Madrid was briefly a Mexican restaurant named El Rancho de Pancho, and for years before that, popular Spanish restaurant Costa Brava. Costa Brava diehards are rejoicing at the return to a Spanish theme.
Ecuadorean Wilson Rodriguez runs Café Madrid’s kitchen, while his brother Marcelo runs the front of the house. A high school senior, Wilson’s daughter, Ariel, sometimes works the floor. Here are the proud father and charming daughter (more on talented Ariel later).
The interior has changed somewhat since the restaurant’s Costa Brava days, including the abandonment of its distinctive murals. That’s not to say that an appreciation of art doesn’t factor into the décor, however, even if it still tilts toward the Mexican side of the spectrum. There are Diego Rivera reproductions
as well as a Frida Kahlo self-portrait.
The red and yellow color scheme obviously reflects the flag of Spain.
The dining room
kind of flows into the bar area.
There’s a wall full of restaurant-appropriate tchotchkes,
including this colorful lizard.
We begin with a nice Albariño,
which the staff places in a chiller.
A loaf of bread
is accompanied by olive oil, balsamic vinegar and Parmesan,
but ultimately we opt for plain extra virgin olive oil
brought to us by Ariel.
Our tapas are brought to us by Walter,
an old friend from his days working at Meigas in Norwalk (which has become Tinto). They include delicious mushrooms with Cabrales blue cheese,
piquillo peppers stuffed with seafood,
and snails in garlic and Pernod.
Our main courses are skirt steak in chimichurri sauce
and a half duck in raspberry sauce.
For dessert, my companion can’t resist childhood memories of tartufo,
while I opt for a nice, light, authentic Spanish flan.
are ideal accompaniments.
But the most pleasant surprise of all may be Ariel, who it turns out is an accomplished young artist and is applying to top art schools. Ariel created this Mayan calendar
painted this tabletop
and did this terrific mural in the entry.
No wonder Dad is so proud.
Café Madrid, 120 New Canaan Avenue, Norwalk, 203-295-8054, www.cafemadridtapasbar.com