New Haven Register: Celebrated Italian restaurant Strega opens second location in New Haven

New Haven Register: Celebrated Italian restaurant Strega opens second location in New Haven

New Haven Register: Celebrated Italian restaurant Strega opens second location in New Haven


Strega’s second location opened quietly earlier this week in New Haven, taking over the former Basta Trattoria space at 1006 Chapel Street.


The new city restaurant by Danilo Mongillo and his wife Rosanna Merenda, with executive chef Raffaele D’Addio, joins its Milford counterpart, which relocated from Branford in 2021. Strega has been recognized for its authenticity to Italian cuisine by Gambero Rosso, an organization described as an authority on Italian food, wine and travel.


“At Strega, our mission is to transport diners to the Italy we know and love,” its website reads. “Influenced by traditions from various parts of the Italian peninsula, Strega is dedicated to creating an authentic Italian experience. With a deep appreciation and knowledge of Italy’s historical and culinary past, we prioritize imported Italian products and are committed to authenticity in our recipes and menu choices.”


“We are chefs from Italy that opened a restaurant in Connecticut; we are not (just) opening another Italian restaurant,” Mongillo said in a phone interview.


Mongillo is a native of Puglianello, located in the province of Benevento in the Italian region Campania. D’Addio, the former chef and owner of Il Foro dei Baroni in Puglianello, actually trained both of Mongillo’s brothers, who work as chefs in Moscow and Ibiza.

“They had the opportunity to learn from this chef, and I’m the oldest brother…but I’m the last one to be trained by him,” he said. “It’s kind of like a little circle that’s closed for me and my family. It’s an honor for me.”


While Strega’s Milford restaurant has earned raves for its Neapolitan-style pizza, the New Haven location does not have a pizza oven, Mongillo said. Instead, the menu focuses on antipasti plates, pastas and “second course” dishes featuring short rib, salmon filet and duck. Antipasti selections include Adamas Siberian caviar, carpaccio tonnato (Angus strip sirloin with tuna dressing), cuttlefish “fettuccine,” butter-poached lobster tail with tomato confit and salmon tartare in ceviche sauce.


Pastas include linguine all’astice and funghi (lobster meat and claws with seasonal mushrooms), trofie with pesto and shrimp tartare, gnocchi alla Sorrentina and paccheri with beef and pork ragú. Among the “second course” options are slow-cooked Angus short rib with asparagus salad, baby corn and crumbled hazelnuts; salmon filet with creamy dashi sauce and salmon caviar and “somosa di calamaro, or “aloo masala” stuffed calamaro over a green pea velouté and samosa dough chips.


Dessert choices include cannolo with Sicilian ricotta, tiramisú, Neapolitan babà over English custard and wild berries, seasonal gelato flavors and a cheese plate featuring imported Italian selections like provolone del Monaco produced in Campania, pecorino di Fossa from Tuscany and goat’s milk Taleggio. The restaurant also offers a five-course tasting menu for $100, with an optional wine pairing for $50.


The new space only has 24 seats, so Mongillo urges customers to make reservations, he said, especially as Strega New Haven doesn’t have bar seating like its Milford counterpart. The restaurant does have a full bar, however, with a wine list heavy on Italian grapes, a few signature cocktails and digestifs like amaro, limoncello and grappa.


Strega first earned a Gambero Rosso distinction in 2019 while the restaurant was in its original Branford location. It was the first time any Connecticut restaurant had received the honor, Mongillo told Hearst Connecticut that year.


Mongillo opted to close the Branford location and move Strega to Milford in 2021, where he welcomed a mix of loyal Branford customers and new visitors curious about Strega’s “wholesome Italian cooking” using imported authentic products — tomatoes, meats, cheeses, balsamic vinegar. The menu features antipasto, salads, assorted gnocchi dishes and entrees like slow-cooked lamb shank and cannelloni al forno, but the Milford restaurant’s specialty is Neapolitan pizza, “handcrafted and served with authenticity and excellence in mind,” its website describes.


“It is possible to have a delectable pizza even in Connecticut,” Gambero Rosso noted on its website. “Located in Milford, the credit for one of the most authentic restaurants in the United States goes to Samnite Danilo Mongillo, who moved here for love. His high-quality pizza is the result of a proper balance of flavors and a very soft and airy dough; the other courses are just as good. The raw materials are imported with uncommon rigor and passion. The location is sleek and the service very attentive. It is definitely worth the detour.”


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