Lafrance Hospitality Company is no stranger to the Westport dining scene, having run Bittersweet Farm Restaurant & Tavern and The Galley Grille at White’s of Westport for many years. The most recent addition to the portfolio is Ten Cousins Brick Oven, located on the site of the former Fred & Ann’s in Westport’s Central Village. The establishment is named after CEO Richard Lafrance’s ten grandchildren, with the idea that all ten (whose adolescent photos grace the entry foyer) will “play various roles for many years to come.”
In addition to “family,” the theme is “local.” The concept for the restaurant was “built around the idea that it would be owned, managed, staffed, built, and decorated all by locals, incorporating fresh ingredients supplied by local farms.” The star of the show is an Italian-made, wood-fired brick oven that produces scrumptious gourmet pizzas and breads, but the seasonally-based menu offers a host of delectable dishes.
When I lived in Westport, I visited Ten Cousins several times and it was always jam-packed with locals and families. My recent return, the first in a while, yielded a strangely quiet building. Although it was a Friday night, it was also Halloween, and the first wave of trick-or- treaters had likely just set out. For the first time ever, I would not have to wait to eat! I make note of it because in most prime-time situations, expect to wait for a table. As a telling omen, the waiting area is larger than the bar.
Our meal started with Brick Oven Wings ($9), which are tossed with lemon, rosemary, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, and olive oil. The wings are accompanied by whole cloves of garlic – a good sign, since garlic makes everything better. The chicken was moist, flavorful, and best of all, not too messy. Too many chicken wings are slathered with enough sauce to make you feel like you need a bath when you’re done eating. Ten Cousins’ recipe focuses on the seasoning.
We also tried an order of Frenchy’s Stuffed Clams ($9), four clams stuffed with bacon, chourico, corn and fresh herbs. Four clams does not sound like much, but these clams are heaping with stuffing that’s chock full of ingredients. If you don’t plan on sharing this appetizer, you might not have much room for your entrée. And if you didn’t have room it would be a shame, because the feast continues. The Meatball Brickini ($8.50) contained sliced jumbo meatballs and mozzarella in fresh, soft homemade bread. I’m a huge fan of meatball sandwiches, and while these meatballs were great, this is the only version I can think of that will have me going back for the bread. However, it will have to wait because on my next trip I’m getting the Mango-Chipotle Pulled Pork ($9) sandwich again. Juicy pulled pork piled high on a toasted sweet roll and topped with slaw – quite simply, it was the best version of this sandwich that I’ve ever had. Our group of three had been splitting everything so far, and we needed one entrée for the mix.
We regretfully passed on the Shrimp and Bacon Mac N’ Cheese ($13.50) – shrimp and bacon in a creamy three-cheese sauce topped with tomatoes, toasted pan- ko crumbs and parmesan. It simply sounded too decadent for an already gluttonous evening, but with cold weather upon us, I have a feeling I’ll be back for it before the winter is out. We settled on Leah’s Lasagna ($12.50), a hearty mix of beef, pork, Italian sausage, ricotta, parmesan, and mozzarella. While the lasagna was good, it had big shoes to fill and wasn’t as memorable as the other dishes. Last but not least, there was pizza.
There are some unique versions on the menu that take advantage of Ten Cousins’ specialties, like the Hen & Chickens ($11.50) that’s topped with brick-oven roast chicken and the Sow & Pigs ($11.50) that’s topped with the mango-chipotle pulled pork. We went with the Farmer’s Market Pizza ($11.50), topped with spinach pesto, peppers, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, garlic and mozzarella. First impression – it’s beautiful. Every inch is covered with veggies, so much so that it looks like a veggie platter instead of a pizza. The spinach pesto is on the thicker side and replaces tomato sauce. While tasty, it does take a few bites to mentally get over ingesting a thick, green substance on your food.
Maybe I watched too much You Can’t Do That On Television as a kid. Nevertheless, the pizza will certainly add to the problem of deciding what to order when we return.
I’m sure they have dessert, but by the end of this meal we were too full to find out. With execution this good, Ten Cousins might not be enough cousins to feed the crowds.
Ten Cousins Brick Oven
977 Main Road, Westport