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Good-Bye Phil's Grill, Hello Jimmy's Southside

Phil Santomassi who founded the popular Phil's Grill just last year, has retired. Jimmy Love, a longtime area restaurateur, has taken over the spot and will be reopening it as Jimmy's Southside.

, a in Noroton Heights, has shut its doors with the retirement of Phil Santomassi. In its place a new restaurant is springing up—to be called Jimmy's Southside after it's owner, longtime restaurateur Jimmy Love.

Love is hoping to get the interior renovations done and the restaurant opened by mid-September. His sister, an interior decorator, and wife are helping him figure out how the interior will look, and on Friday two of his brothers were helping with decisions about reconstructing the interior.

"We're going to do a lot of seafood, a lot of fresh food," Love said during an interview in the gutted interior of the building. Until the new restaurant is closer to opening, Love said, he didn't want to give a detailed description of its planned offerings.

The Phil's Grill television screens are still in the restaurant space, although their locations haven't been determined yet.

"We'll feature the games and contests on four or five tubes," Love said.

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In other Darien restaurant news, see also: ""

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Jimmy's Southside will have a bar between the kitchen and dining area and an expanded indoor space with a new entrance on the side closest to Hollow Tree Ridge Road, he said.

The indoor space of the restaurant has been expanded toward the courtyard, with the covered walkway by the courtyard now part of the indoor dining area.

The new restaurant was still calling itself "Phil's Grill" in recent Planning & Zoning applications (Love was still discussing the new name with his brothers and wife during the interview). has retired and moved to North Carolina, Love said.

Jimmy's Southside already has a full liquor permit, which will expand the wine and beer offerings of Phil's Grill. Love is also the 33-year owner of , just yards away from the restaurant.

The new liquor license allows for a 94-seat restaurant, but Love said he expects about 48 seats in the indoor dining area and perhaps 15 to 20 seats at the bar.

The new restaurant will continue to use the courtyard just outside for dining in warmer weather. Love said it might be nice to have bocce ball or possibly horseshoes on the grassy area near the courtyard.

Past and future

Love, a Darien resident since 1998, has had a long career as a restaurateur. He is the former owner of Jimmy's Seaside in the Cove section of Stamford, Five Mile River Grill and the diagonally across the street from (and across the Darien-Stamford border from) the Water's Edge at Giovanni's.

Helping to manage the restaurant will be David Bondlow, who also worked with Love at Jimmy's Seaside and other restaurants.

Love has known Colin Ambrose, owner of in Darien, for a long time and says he's a great admirer of his friend's downtown restaurant.

The name of the future restaurant comes from it being on the south side of Darien and the "south" side of the Noroton Heights Shopping Center (although it's technically west, in the same way that Interstate 95 southbound lanes really move west and the East Coast is, in Connecticut, the south coast—but hey, he's running a restaurant, not navigating on the open sea).

The new business will have the first bar in Noroton Heights since Benny's closed down and its old building torn down several years ago, when it was replaced by a Chase Bank branch at the corner of Heights Road and Noroton Avenue.

The location of Jimmy's Southside should be convenient to a lot of people in Noroton Heights, Love said. "I think you're going to have a kind of happening spot here."

Karen Boccadoro August 20, 2012 at 12:48 PM
:( I loved phil's grill and the burgers. We don't get out often, butphil's grill was one of our go to places. :(
sam August 20, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Im confused are they or are they not keeping the name? "In its place a new restaurant is springing up—to be called Jimmy's Southside after it's owner, longtime restaurateur Jimmy Love." then you state later "The new restaurant, which still calling itself "Phil's Grill" in recent Planning & Zoning applications (Love was still discussing the new name with his brothers and wife during the interview). Phil Santomassi has retired and moved to North Carolina, Love said." :( I will miss Phil's Grill! Jimmy's Seaside is such a hole in the wall place...I would hate to see that "night life" take over such a great location/neighborhood.
David Gurliacci (Editor) August 20, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Sorry, Sam -- I've changed the wording to "The new restaurant was still calling itself [...]". I had rewritten that sentence and thought I fixed it before, but I guess I didn't. The name is changed; the signs haven't all been taken down yet.
Kelsey Brooks August 20, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Congratulations Jimmy! I am BEYOND excited for the opening.
A resident August 20, 2012 at 06:20 PM
I hope they're not changing what used to be a walkable, comfy neighborhood family restaurant into what it sounds like it's becoming. A sports bar? I regularly ate at Phil's Grill but if this is the case, I won't be here.
Charlie Dobbins August 20, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Jimmy....... Still remember 30 acres on Nantucket Love and success brother Charlie Dobbins
Connie Bailey August 21, 2012 at 03:34 AM
Jimmy's past success means a great new spot for Darien. He is the perfect frontman for any establishment - he genuinely wants everyone that steps in the door to have a great meal and an even better time. Glad you're back in the game, mister. Congrats, and see you soon!
Marge Barnstable August 22, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Hey Sam, Why don't you leave your last name. And FYI Jimmy's Seaside is no longer owned and run by Jimmy Love, it hasn't been for over 5 years. But don't worry, he will not need your business anyway.
Ksmithee August 25, 2012 at 04:23 AM
Just to clarify, the folks that bought the thriving Jimmy's Seaside Restaurant known for its great food, atmosphere, and friendly service changed the name to Seaside Tavern. I can't wait til Jimmy & Pams new restaurant opens in September and know it will continue their tradition of excellent food and service as per their reputation from Jimmy's Seaside and the Boathouse.
Sister 3 August 27, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Wow Sam "Jimmy's Seaside is such a hole in the wall place"..Interesting - As far as I remember it was successful for at least 23 + years. I think that states "remarkable" in the restaurant world. I think Jimmy Love knows what he is doing and has been extremely successful at it. The Heights area is need of a fun-loving, cozy and welcoming place and Jimmy is certainly the person to bring it on. Good luck and we welcome you...Can't wait!!!!
Carla H. August 29, 2012 at 12:51 AM
The snobs can just stay home. I look forward to trying a new restaurant by the Love's. I enjoyed Jimmy's Seaside and The Boathouse and know they will be a success. Best of luck to you Jim & Pam! And by the way, what is wrong with a "sports bar"?
Cushing September 20, 2012 at 10:47 AM
You can please some of the folks all the time and all of the folks some of the time and thats not a bad average. I remember the hgt's area when Viti's bar was the working stiff hang out. Pam & Jimmy are life long Darien people and run a very tight ship. Can't possibly see how this will not be a smash hit....
Kevin Galvin October 25, 2012 at 04:55 PM
KevinG, Good luck Jimmy and Pam. Can't think of a more friendly, hospitable, fun, host and proprietor than Jim Love. I am sure those who appreciate good food, good company and a good time will enjoy Jimmy's Southside. Much success to Jimmy and Pam and dont forget good apple pie for dessert.
Lin December 01, 2012 at 03:24 PM
I was excited about this new restaurant but after our second visit we will never return. Rude bartenders. Did not seem to care if we were there or not. Did not even offer menus and I had to flag down the bartender to order a drink when she was just standing around doing nothing. So sad....I had such great hopes for this place.
EG January 07, 2013 at 10:48 PM
Jimmy's has been in business a few months now, and I have eaten and had a few pops there on a half dozen occasions and have had great experiences both as a diner and drinker. As a life-long Darien resident I have eaten at pretty much every place in town, and not just right after they open but I give them a few months to work the kinks out, and I can say that for dinner and drinks Jimmy's is one of the best. The seafood specials are one of the places it shines, deals with local catch of the day fishermen/vendors, the seafood is and always fresh. The burgrers are big, juicy, and cheap. The regularly changing specials are as unique as they are delicious. My lunch favorite is the steak-piled high Philly Cheesesteak. The ribeye special I had last week was awesome, beats any steak I've had in town, and came with a nostril-clearing horseraddisah-infused mashed potato side that was delicious and different. My girlfriend had the brined and roasted half chicken which she raved about the flavor and tenderness of the meat. The service was very good from waitstaff to busboys. Might not be the diner Phil's was, but if you want a diner go to the Sugar Bowl. It is a restaurant and a bar and doesn't pretend to be anything else, great atmosphere for dinner and drinks.

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