• October 26, 2007

  • Eat Your Green’s – Branford Restaurant Offers Water Views, Seafood, Much More

  • By Todd Lyon

  • New Haven Register – Weekend Section

  • If you were around town in the 1970’s, you may remember a Branford bar/nightclub called Nellie Green’s. It was on Short Beach Road and had both a fabulous dance floor and a colorful history.

    I myself preformed there 30 years ago with my sister’s band, Eight to the Bar. Back then, we didn’t realize that Nellie green was an actual person, known as the fastest rum-runner in the East, and that the club was once a speakeasy. Nellie Green’s and the Hotel Talmadge long ago became condos, but now there’s a new Nellie Green’s in town. No speakeasy, no ballroom, no bucket-of-blood bar — the new Nellie Green’s, which is unrelated to the original hotel or the current condos, is a tidy and serene restaurant on the water that serves very good food.

    “I read an article about women of power in the 1900s, and there was a section about Nellie Green — I fell in love with her,” recalls owner Mike Savinelli.

    He chose her name and image — which is right inside the door — to grace the restaurant. which opened this April. “As soon as I saw the place, I knew it was Nellie’s new home.”

    Located at the Branford Marina, the small building, which is touched among enormous ships in drydock, Nellie’s was most recently home to the Regatta restaurant, and before that was the Calypso River Grill.

    Today, the nearly 70-seat dinning room is a wash in butter-colored paint, with rustic beams, ceiling fans and a doorway to an excellent, 65-seat deck directly on the water.

    This summer, that deck was a popular spot for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And, although breakfast has been suspended for the season and the weather is a bit chilly for al fresco dining, there are myriad reasons to visit Nellie Green’s this fall and winter, and all of them can be found on the menu.

    First, the cheese plate. This sample platter of five cheeses, arranged from mildest to most pungent, is a fascinating trip for the palate and can be easily shared between two or more friends. (At 18$, it’s a bargain, and a fine choice on Monday nights, when wines by the bottle are half price.)

    Appetizers at Nellie’s are appetizing indeed, and include raw bar selections, steamed mussels, Mini Club Burgers (yum!) and more. Salads are outstanding.

    For casual dinners, Nellie’s offers a selection of sandwiches and burgers, including a Crispy Crawfish Po’Boy and the Hotel Talmadge Lobster Roll; but it is the entrees that really pack excitement. Herb Country Mustard Grilled Lamb Chops with parsnip mashed potatoes … Espresso Rubbed Beef Short Ribs … these are the sorts of dishes that make dinner at Nellie’s memorable.

    The dishes are the handiwork of Executive Chef Daniel Garbarino, a graduate of Johnson & Wales who worked in Providence and Manhattan before being recruited, via his uncle, to an interview with Mike Savinelli.

    Mike, for his part, was looking to fulfill a dream that had slowly developed during his 23 years as proprietor of New West Cafe in Westville. “It was a great mix of people,” recalls Mike of New West. “We had students, suits, blue-collar people — it all gelled.”

    Mike sold the bar in 2003 in pursuit of a vacation and a future that included fine food.

    In 2004, Mike became the food and beverage manager of the Quinnipiack Club; two years later, he began searching for a place to call his own.

    When Mike met young Chef Daniel, 24, they had a melding of the minds. “He actually asked what I wanted,” recalls the chef. “I was allowed to project my personality and style — not many owners will let you do that.”

    With Megan Montano, a former New West bartender, installed as general manager, Nellie Green’s was born, bringing American Bistro cuisine to the marina. “Once people come here once, I’m pretty confident they’ll come back,” says Megan.

    I’ll drink to that, and I suspect Nellie Green would, too.


    Todd Lyon of New Haven is a freelance writer. She can be reached at toddlyon@earthlink.net.