From the time construction began more than a year ago, townspeople have been wondering what kind of establishment would open at 105 Church Hill Road. Figs is the answer.
Owner Joe Tartaglia has been a chef for more than 25 years, owning and running restaurants in Derby and Bridgeport, and currently teaching in the Culinary Arts program at Danbury's Henry Abbott Technical High School.
He and his wife Kristina, a reading specialist at Reed Intermediate School, looked at several properties that would fit their vision of a neighborhood restaurant, finally settling on the Sandy Hook location.
Dating to 1782, the property was once home to Squire John Sanford. The Tartaglias bought the property 12 years ago and later knocked down an addition to the original home in order to build their restaurant. They live in the original portion of the building with their 6-year-old son, Joey.
"Originally why I bought it was that I just love the area and the setting," said Joe Tartaglia. "The Sandy Hook design district allows for mixed use, so the property was perfect."
The name was a little more of a challenge. The Tartaglias went through several possibilities for their bistro until this one "just fit," according to Kristina Tartaglia.
It also was a name that held childhood memories for Joe Tartaglia.
"When I grew up in Bridgeport, we had fig trees all over our yard," he said. "It's earthy, it's fresh and it's easy to remember."
The traditional white exterior welcomes diners into a comfortable modern dining room. Dark wood paneling accents the interior, crowning deep red cushioned booths. A long wooden bar warmly lit by pendant lighting separates the eating and cooking areas. French doors open up to the side patio, where there is additional seating in warm weather.
"We built the restaurant that we want to eat at," Kristina Tartaglia said.
Joe Tartaglia added, "We want people to feel comfortable coming in to have just a cappuccino and a brownie."
The husband-and-wife team describes Figs as an American Bistro. What makes Figs different from other venues is the open kitchen, they said. Diners can watch the action in the kitchen, trying to guess which pizza is theirs as the chefs work the centerpiece of the restaurant, an authentic wood-fired brick oven.
"This is a real brick oven fired with real wood -- no gas," Joe Tartaglia said proudly.
And the oven is sure to be the star here, not only crisping pizza crusts, but roasting chicken and other entrées as well.
Much of the food at Figs will be locally sourced. Bread and pasta will be made on site, and as much local produce as possible will be used, as well as local honey, McLaughlin Vineyard wines and Thomas Hooker beer.
Some offerings on the opening menu include the Newtonian Chicken Sandwich ($11), a panini with oven-fired chicken, roasted red peppers, pesto aioli, mozzarella and fresh spinach; the Potato Pie ($15), a pizza with new potatoes, rosemary, bacon, Vermont cheddar and pecorino Romano; and Sesame Crusted Sea Bass ($25) with Grand Marnier sauce and scallion risotto.
The restaurant welcomes children with a kids' menu designed by the owners' son. Desserts are also a family affair. The dessert case is the first thing to greet customers at the entrance, and Kristina Tartaglia's love for baking will keep it stocked with sweets.
Figs will be open for dinner throughout the summer, with lunch available eventually. The restaurant is starting with a soft opening this week, then will host a grand opening in a couple of weeks. Visit the website to view the full menu: www.figswoodfiredbistro.com.