WESTPORT — In Italian, stuzzichino means a snack, or appetizer, or nibble. Assaggio, similarly, means a small amount of food or drink.
From Italian to Spanish, both translate roughly to tapas, an Iberian food culture that pairs small servings of food with drink in a laid-back setting.
It’s the kind of cuisine and vibe that Massimo Tabbacco and Miguel Angelo D’Onofrio, co-owners of the recently opened Bar Lupa, want to achieve at their redesigned space on the Post Road in Westport.
“It’s little portions, so you can taste a variety of things,” Tabbacco said. “It’s basically the same thing as Spanish tapas. But here in America, they know the word tapas more than stuzzichino.”
To avoid confusion, the items are listed on the menu as “Italian tapas,” but the dishes are inspired by Tabbacco’s and D’Onofrio’s respective upbringings — in Rome and Sao Paolo, Brazil, which has a large Italian population — and shared experience working in Italian restaurants throughout Fairfield County, as well as New York City.
Lasagna, grilled eggplant, crostini, fried calamari and a six-inch Roman-style thin-crust pizza are among the offerings, all cooked by D’Onofrio, who is the head chef. They’ve expanded their menu of pastas and pizzas, as well as their wine list, which has selections from Italy, France, Argentina, Chile and California.
“The wine list is very nice,” Tabbacco said.
The duo met 25 years ago, while both working at Columbus Park Trattoria in Stamford.
“He was always a chef, and I was always a front guy,” Tabbacco said of the partnership.
Prior to the redesign, D’Onofrio independently owned Rustico Trattorria in the same location. Tabbacco came on board in recent months to help bring about the change from a more formal sit-down Italian restaurant to a more-relaxed tapas joint they hope will draw a larger bar crowd.
“We wanted to change the conception a little bit. It’s still Italian, but it’s more bar-friendly,” D’Onofrio said.
The restaurant never closed during the rebranding. Week by week, D’Onofrio and Tabbacco made small changes: repainting; switching out larger, rectangular tables with smaller square ones; adding a wall-length countertop in the bar for less-formal dining; redesigning the logo, which now features the suckling Romulus and Remus of myth; and hanging a wall of photos in the dining room depicting the Tiber River, Vespa scooters, the Italian actress Sophia Loren, and other images of Italy.
Bar Lupa’s soft opening was mid-November, and Tabbacco and D’Onofrio have plans to add a Sunday brunch, weekday happy hour and live music, which will begin Friday.
Tabbacco and D’Onofrio hope that music and happy hours, especially, bring a new energy to the restaurant.
“We love the vibe of Westport; we love the crowd; we love the style. Westport is a little jewel.” Tabbacco said.
For information, visit barlupa.com.
Hungry? Click through the gallery above for more Italian places in southwestern Connecticut.