Zephyr’s Street Pizza is now open at 968R Farmington Ave. at West Hartford Center.
By Ronni Newton
“Zephyr” may mean a light breeze, but Dante Cistulli has instead created a whirlwind with his new restaurant, Zephyr’s Street Pizza, which opened at the very end of September at 968R Farmington Ave., in the Brace Road parking lot of West Hartford. Center.
Cistulli brings years of experience, and even more passion, to the new restaurant.
He learned to make dough and pasta from his grandmother at the age of 5, but officially started his career as a chef at Naples Pizza in Farmington. Other places he has worked include Millwright’s in Simsbury and Max’s Oyster Bar, and he was the managing partner when Max Restaurant Group opened Savoy Pizzeria and Craft Bar on LaSalle Road in West Hartford in 2016.
He was on a break, but was considering opening his own restaurant in West Hartford when he learned that Brace Road land space was available again when Barb’s Pizza decided to close.
âI have always loved this small space, I have always been attached to this place,â said Cistulli. He used to go to high school when it was a cafe with an open mic party, and that’s where he first met his wife, Stephanie, who was a waitress there when it was Backstage Pizza.
While a number of pizza-related restaurants have roamed the place, which is accessible from the parking lot or an alley next to the Framing Center on Farmington Avenue, Cistulli, which has many followers in the industry and is overflowing with positive energy, is confident that Zephyr’s Street Pizza will be a success.
âIt’s 100% the dream, down to the place, how I do it, everything about the menu, the thoughts and the ideas,â Cistulli said. “It’s my idea, and I’m very proud of it.”
Family, pizza, skateboarding, Cistulli’s passions are all key elements of Zephyr’s Street Pizza.
The restaurant is named after Cistulli and Stephanie’s son, Zephyr, under 2 years old (the name is a nod to the iconic Zephyr competition team, aka Z-boys, a group of California skateboarders) . The art of skateboarding adorns the walls. The “Bella Roni” pizza is named after Cistulli’s teenage daughter, Bella.
The opening of the restaurant was slightly delayed as Cistulli and his wife were about to have another child. Finn was born in August, and Cistulli has said he’ll also have to think of something named after him.
The pizza is only one size, which Cistulli called “medium,” with a crust of about 15 inches. It’s really dictated by the oven space, he says.
The pizzas are really big enough for two people to share.
It also makes large pizzas to cut into generous slices. They start out slightly undercooked, so when ordered they can be reheated to perfection. âSome people would say, including me, that a reheated slice is better than a slice out of the oven,â Cistulli said.
âAt lunch, the slices are definitely the best choice,â he said. But everything on the menu can be prepared quickly, and pizzas are only in the oven for 7-10 minutes.
Most pizzas have unique and distinctive names, and like Bella Roni, many are named after or in honor of important people in Cistulli’s life, or are references to 80s or 90s pop culture.
The “Kurts” – a red pizza with garlic, basil, parma and dry oregano – is named after Kurt Kruczek, the owner of Naples Pizza where he made his debut. âIt’s his favorite pizza,â Cistulli said.
In Naples, Cistulli learned how to make New York style pizza, but if he has the big slices, what he does at Zephyr’s Street Pizza is somewhat different. âThe dough I make is more of a bread dough recipe procedure, similar to what you would see in a wood-fired pizzeria,â he said. He used to cook with wood in Savoy, but Zephyr has a gas oven.
The OG Street Taco is a variation on a pizza that Cistulli has been making for some time and has long been a favorite. A white tart, it’s topped with braised Calabrian pork, fontina, pico, parsley, crÃ¨me fraÃ®che and grated Napa cabbage. Large slices are perfect candidates for a “Z-fold,” Cistulli said.
A Z-fold, he demonstrated, involves folding the tip and end of the crust together, then folding each side to resemble a taco, so that the pizza can be easily eaten while standing or walking. , without the toppings falling off. âMmmâ¦ that’s good,â Cistulli said, taking a bite of the slice used for an example.
The Abeets Mascolo (a meatball pizza), well that’s a joke, Cistulli said, between himself and one of his good friends who was a best man at his wedding.
âTatanka, it’s a ‘Dancing with the Wolves’ thing,â Cistulli said. This is the name Kevin Kostner’s character uses to describe a buffalo. âI thought that would be a hilarious name for a Buffalo pizza,â he said, and at Zephyr’s Street Pizza he describes a pizza topped with braised Buffalo chicken, fontina, pepperocini, pico, Calabrian breadcrumbs. and grated Napa.
Then there is the sweet service.
âI’ve always wanted a soft serve ice cream maker, but they’re very expensive,â Cistulli said. One day his godfather stopped while he was working on construction.
“He said, ‘I know someone who has a soft serve ice cream maker for sale,'” Cistulli said. The owner of Dunphys – a place Cistulli had been to all the time as a child – had passed away, and they were in the process of disposing of the equipment. The Taylor rep who serviced it said it was one of the best-maintained machines ever.
Cistulli’s godfather also has a pizza named after him.
Before securing the current space, Cistulli said he and Stephanie decided they wanted to do something on their own, with no business partners. They were on a tight budget and were considering a food truck. But after helping Craftbird, his friend Eric Stagl’s food truck, he decided that a brick and mortar business would be better suited to his current family situation. âI felt like it was a better choice for me,â Cistulli said. Stagl and the chicken-centric Craftbird truck have a pizza in their honor – the court bird, featuring braised chicken thigh, fontina, Calabrian breadcrumbs, honey sriracha, and pickle relish.
For those who don’t want pizza, there are several different salads, as well as hot dogs.
âI love hot dogs, so I had to have a hot dog,â Cistulli said.
He’s also passionate about crusty dips – available with dips ranging from Nutella to black truffle, ranch and even soft serve ice cream.
Zephyr’s Street Pizza offers a selection of draft beers, as well as wine and handcrafted cocktails prepared by Drink Mechanics.
âAaron and I have known each other since we were kids,â Cistulli said of his Farmington High School classmate Aaron Stepka, co-owner of Drink Mechanics, a renowned mixologist.
Stepka and her partner, Taylor Gillaspie, came up with the cocktail mixes, and Cistulli is behind creative names like Coleco Vision (honoring a vintage gaming system) and Goofy Footed, a reference to a skateboard stance. The âShakaâ owes its name to a surfer who lost three fingers when he was bitten by a shark. Be careful, the cocktails are powerful, with each can the equivalent of two glasses.
The concept for Zephyr’s Street Pizza is the culmination of ideas Cistulli has had over the past five or even 10 years, he said. And he’s convinced others will love the ambiance and the food.
âI think what I’m doing is special,â he said. For starters, he hopes to attract customers who have followed him and the culture he helped create in previous restaurants.
âAll you have to do is come once and you come back,â Cistulli said.
After the renovation, Zephyr’s Street Pizza is light and airy, and there’s a new pickup window where you can get your food – including sweet service – without even needing to go inside.
There is also a large patio, where acoustic music will be available Wednesday evenings, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., weather permitting.
Cistulli said he designed the space from ideas he found on Pinterest and did a lot of the work himself, and he’s also very grateful for the tremendous help given. by his stepfather, Dan Daley.
The the menu is here, and is also attached as a PDF below.
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