(column for March 18 Fairfield Citizen news)
By Mike Lauterborn
It was an overcast Friday a week out from St. Patrick’s Day and buckets of rain were in the forecast. The friendly glow of The Angus Steakhouse, at 2133 Black Rock Turnpike, was like a beacon drawing me in from the gloom. Manager Steve “Dibo” Dibartolomeo happened to be on hand at the lunch hour to give background about the place, share its evolution and outline menu favorites.
“Joe ‘Cozy’ Dolan, a bartender in Bridgeport, came out in 1950 and built the whole strip mall here, calling it Dolan’s Corner,” Dibo began. “The only other thing out here was Miro’s Farm. Most people thought Dolan was crazy to build in the middle of farmland. On Mother’s Day that year, Dolan opened the original Angus Steakhouse, which was actually called The Black Angus Steakhouse. ‘Black’ was dropped from the title after a suit for trademark infringement was filed by a similarly named restaurant.”
Dibo said The Angus quickly became popular. “The old-style steakhouse, with its masculine dark rich woods and colors, came to define Black Rock Turnpike. Actor Paul Newman used to frequent the steakhouse in the late 50s and early 60s as well as legendary NY Giants players Andy Robustelli, Y.A. Tittle and Frank Gifford, after they finished up practice at Fairfield University. Their patronage became an original draw of the restaurant and helped popularize both the eatery and the area,” Dibo said.
The Angus changed hands several times in its history and, as its popularity grew, so did the space. “The original place was 1,200 square feet,” said Dibo, “and consisted of a small kitchen, bar counter about 12 feet long and seating for 55 to 60 people. Over the years, The Angus changed its configuration by adding a single unit at a time from the adjacent strip mall, so that it now encompasses four store spaces totaling 3,400 square feet and accommodating 168 people – 68 in the bar and 100 in the dining room.”
Dibo said that as the space grew, the bar itself kept getting relocated, until Dibo’s brother Steve, an experienced restauranteur, purchased The Angus from Robert Wool in 2007. “Wool had operated the restaurant under the banner Eric & Michael’s Angus Steakhouse. Steve gutted it and returned the bar area to its original layout and glory. The décor is retro with tin ceilings and mahogany wood throughout, and the fare is classic steakhouse with an Italian flair serving certified Angus beef and the classic Angus Burger on a large English muffin. The latter has been an original favorite since 1950.”
Besides traditional steaks, Dibo said they also feature favorites like eggplant lasagna, swordfish over escarole and beans, a huge selection of pasta and chicken dishes and Pork Chops Giambotta – onions, mushrooms and cherry peppers in a demi-glaze over the meat. “These are a few examples of how we’ve put an Italian twist on the classic steakhouse fare,” said Dibo.
With regard to patrons, he said, “We have served generations of local people who used to come in here as kids with their parents. Our customer base is families and we have an expanded kids menu that offers smaller versions of the dinner menu.”
Dibo’s own background as a pro baseball pitcher with the Cubs also attracts notable baseball figures like Tommy John, Jimmy Piersall and Rob Dibble.
Dibo said the atmosphere varies within the entire space. “The tap room provides a light festive environment with big screen TVs and high top tables, and people order light food like sandwiches and burgers. The dining room offers a more classic dining experience.”
It had come time to saddle up and head back out on the range. Many more Fairfield establishments lay in wait to be profiled as Man About Town adventures.