, 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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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."