If you had passed by in 1978, you probably would have missed Vito's Pizzeria. The storefront was completely invisible from the street, an unfortunate reality that might have been the death knell for a lesser business. But the 600-square-foot, strictly-take-out pizzeria managed to survive and even thrive based solely on word of mouth.
It's been more than 30 years, and people are still talking. Thankfully, the pizzeria has expanded quite a bit in terms of space and menu. Today, Vito's chefs craft everything from deep-dish pies to Italian grinders, which, as their name suggests, taste just as good when ground up and served with a straw.
At City Steam Brewery Cafe, the owners concoct some of the area’s finest beers, scoring “best of” awards from Hartford magazine and Connecticut Magazine. They also brew potent batches of laughter inside their 200-seat comedy show-room theater. Ensconced in the historic Brown Thomson and Co. building, which was the state’s largest department store in 1877, Brew Ha Ha once was known as the Last Laugh Comedy Club, where fledgling unknowns such as Ray Romano and Kevin James vied for laughs in the smoky rathskeller of a restaurant.
Reborn in 1997 under a new moniker, the standup speakeasy keeps its calendar packed with nationally touring comics and local joke slingers. During shows, guests can toast with mugs of handcrafted beer and make edible sculptures of their favorite comedian using menu’s custom burgers, pizzas, and omelets.
Ranked 73rd best brewer in the world by RateBeer and 15th out of the top 50 American Microbreweries by BeerAdvocate, Thomas Hooker Brewery has earned its share of accolades. The brewery’s staff has been forging consistent, small-batch brews for more than a decade. Today, they produce 11 one-of-a-kind beers, with year-round flavors such as the Hop Meadow IPA, or the Irish Red Ale. Their seasonal flavors, meanwhile, include the Chocolate Truffle Stout and the Watermelon Ale, whose fruity notes make it ideal for summer drinking or as the proper liquid with which to hydrate a fruit garden. The team leads a tour and tasting on Saturday afternoons, and their gift shop is fully stocked with paraphernalia and growlers of their popular brews.
Co-founders Alana La Fleur and Vanessa Jennings put the mission of VAz Media right in the name: V stands for "Vanessa," A for "Alana," and Z represents "everything for women, from A to Z." The duo established their event-planning company to give women a place to relax and socialize in a supportive environment, free of stress or the incessant pandering for their votes from mayoral candidates. La Fleur and Jennings also partner each event with a charity, raising funds for organizations such as the Connecticut chapter of the National MS Society and CT Women’s Education and Legal Fund.
Glasses lift into a treble-laden symphony of toasts and from a distance, many of the elixirs they contain seem nearly the same. Up close, 28 wines by the glass and more than 75 unique varietals by the bottle span a rainbow of hues, from reds deep and earthy enough to appear almost black to white wines barely kissed with a delicate straw color. In The Hidden Vine Wine Bar and Lounge's dedicated room for tastings and classes, guests further hone noses and taste buds to make nearly imperceptible distinctions in flavor and bouquet.
Drawing upon family recipes held close to their hearts, culinarians fill two dining areas with inventive dishes including bruschetta draped in paper-thin soppressata, peach honey, and hanger steak. Beneath diamond-shaped burgundy paintings, forks chatter against plates of fresh pasta and patrons sidle up to the marble bar for a chilly cocktail. A patio begs diners to let the warm sun aid in digestion or in calming outraged bulls delivering pamphlets to the eatery's crimson ceilings.
Brewing wine or beer at home can seem daunting, similar to growing your own food or bathing your own toddler. But for nearly 40 years, the hoochmasters at Brew and Wine Hobby have been making that dream a reality. Besides supplying everything a casual enthusiast needs to get started fermenting, beer and wine enthusiasts lead educational classes that cover chemistry, ingredients, brewing techniques, and how they all affect the final product.