Inside Baldanza at the Schoolhouse, Wilton’s Historic Hidden Gem

above: The historic schoolhouse at Cannondale station is home to a seasonal farm-to-table menu. – images courtesy of Baldanza at the schoolhouse

Ten years ago, when Angela and Sandy Baldanza pivoted from the fashion industry to hospitality, they never thought that their restaurant would one day host a Friendsgiving celebration formed by a group of regulars in the Baldanza’s very-own restaurant. But with their team, the couple has cultivated a cult-following among a devoted clientele who moved with them to Wilton when their first restaurant in New Canaan shuttered in 2020. This August, Baldanza at the Schoolhouse will celebrate its 3rd anniversary in Cannondale Village, Wilton. The story of Fairfield County’s historic hidden gem begins with a passion for hospitality and how it comes to life for its guests, who in turn have helped to build this tight-knit community.

left: Angela and Sandy Baldanza (portrait: Andrew Dominick) offer a warm welcome to their guests daily. right: Specials are offered daily to delight guests with what’s in season.

“Everyone is taken care of here,” says Angela, referring to the intimate space offered by this historic Wilton schoolhouse. It enables the couple to pay attention to the smallest details from the seasonal menu with local Liuzzi cheese to the Juliska tableware and fresh flowers at every table. The Schoolhouse and its picturesque location also offered Angela and Sandy an exciting opportunity to continue serving their loyal guests, while introducing Baldanza to an influx of new residents who moved to Fairfield County at the peak of the pandemic.

An evening at Baldanza is an immersive experience — evocative of a Nancy Meyers movie filmed in the heart of New England — but only 15 minutes from downtown Westport. Nestled next to the Cannondale train station off Route 7, the restaurant overlooks the Norwalk River with a wall of windows to offering diners unobstructed views. Pulling into the Schoolhouse, guests get a feeling of Connecticut’s quintessential “country living” despite the fact that the drive is shorter than a trip to Target.

left: Baldanza’s Tomahawk Veal Siciliana is a modern way to experience this classic dish

“Service is the most important part of every restaurant. Guests come for the food but they come back for the way we treat our guests,” says Sandy, who with Angela, is at the restaurant most evenings. Upon a recent visit, the server had greeted and welcomed me before I had even arrived at the door. The entryway, which doubles as a small service bar, features a curated selection of high-end spirits such as Monkey 47 gin and Carpano Antica vermouth that would garner the approval of the finest bartender (and make a luxurious negroni!). Baldanza’s hospitality is exemplified by its carefully selected wine list which offers a generous selection by the glass, including exceptional champagnes. And if you feel like partaking in the restaurant’s collection of rare and unique wines, there is a treasured collection with some priced in the thousands.

Open Wednesday through Sunday for brunch and dinner, Baldanza’s farm-to-table menu is anchored in seasonal ingredients that highlight New American and Italian cuisines. With only 36 seats, reservations are suggested, especially on weekends. In warm weather, arrive early for a drink on the patio which overlooks the Norwalk River. It’s the perfect spot to have an aperitivo while planning how to enjoy the menu. Upon ordering, must-have starters such as the beet salad, fritto misto, Baldanza’s famous meatball and the hand cut ahi tuna, are beloved by regulars.

left: Pappardelle Bolognese with fresh pasta made in-house; right: Attention is paid to every detail to offer a warm, quintessential Connecticut dining experience.

Guests should not overlook Baldanza’s pastas, many of which are freshly made in-house, including the pappardelle used for the luscious Pappardelle Bolognese. Also consider the latest ravioli, a hit featured as Lobster Ravioli in the Holiday 2023 season. If you’re having trouble deciding between pastas and entrees, the Baldanzas have it figured out for you: the Tomahawk Veal Siciliana, served with fresh tagliatelle, of course. Every night, the specials menu is used to test new ideas, so consider trying something and offering the Baldanza team your opinion — they welcome your feedback.

In addition to forming a tight-knit family with its loyal regulars, Baldanza at the Schoolhouse plays host to critical members of the community, from an opening dinner for Ambler Farm to Wilton and Weston’s respective Women’s Leagues. As a result of Baldanza’s carefully selected menu, special location and high-touch hospitality, the restaurant has become a cornerstone in the community, which has truly given Baldanza a sense of purpose. “We’ve created a special atmosphere,” says Angela recounting the November 2023 Friendsgiving celebration organized by a group of six regulars. Whether you’re a loyal or new guest, we are all grateful
to have this treasure in our community and look forward to toasting its anniversary.

See you on the patio. Cheers!


AN ANNIVERSARY TOAST

A cousin of the famed Cosmopolitan, this is a cranberry spinoff which, like it’s relative, is always in style.

SCHOOLHOUSE CRANBERRY MARTINI
1 1/2 oz. Tito’s vodka
1 oz. dry white vermouth
3 oz. unsweetened cranberry juice
1 oz. ginger simple syrup
1/2 oz. lime juice
Fresh cranberries, to garnish
Lime wedge & Lemon twist, to garnish

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