Outdoor dining expansion OK’d for Darien

Proposed outdoor dining for Bodega as per a presentation to the Board of Selectmen.

Proposed outdoor dining for Bodega as per a presentation to the Board of Selectmen.

Bodega

DARIEN — “Last year it was about survival. This year, it’s about recovery.”

That’s how Baywater Properties’s David Genovese, who is behind many downtown eateries, described expanded and continuing outdoor dining this spring for Darien’s restaurants.

The Planning & Zoning Commission has approved the continuance of the outdoor dining plans of several Darien residents and permitted the expansion of others. The approvals take effect April 1.

Darien reopened outdoor dining in May, and the town relaxed customary zoning guidelines during the unusual times of COVID-19. Restaurants and, in some cases, fitness studios put up large tents to allow customers to enjoy their services safely.

Earlier this month, the Planning & Zoning Commission voted to approve the current outdoor dining plans through the end of 2021 for Giovanni’s, Post Corner Pizza, Rory’s, Papa Joe’s, Nino’s, Tengda Asian Bistro, and a fitness studio, the Bar Method.

At that meeting, Papa Joe’s manager Steven Rivieccio said extending the guidelines was “about making people happy, and keeping them safe.”

Also earlier this month, Ten Twenty Post owner David Nelson said he expects a good spring after the commission approved an outdoor renovation for the restaurant that includes removing the outdoor tent and adding a pergola in the back. Additional outdoor seating will also be created along the side of the restaurant.

Inside improvements will also be coming, in terms of changing colors in what Nelson described as a “face-lift” for the 13-year-old restaurant to “lighten it up.”

The improvements will begin in the next few weeks, Nelson said, once the building department approves the plans.

“It’s going to be really beautiful and that’s very exciting,” he said. “These are all good things, good steps.”

Last week, the Planning & Zoning Commission approved additional outdoor dining space for Bodega in the parking lot near Upper Crust Bakery & Cafe. The space will include black-and-white striped umbrellas and disguised jersey barriers for safety from vehicles.

Genovese, whose company owns the buildings that house Bodega and Ten Twenty Post, said the Board of Selectmen had to weigh in because the Center Street parking lot is town-owned property. He said they approved and were impressed with the design.

Genovese said the new design was to make those who dine there feel like they were dining far away from a parking lot. Planning & Zoning Chairman Steve Olvany said he expected the Goose, next to Bodega, to also approach the town for an outdoor extension.

Mario Fontana, of Bodega, expressed his gratitude to the commission for its support and approvals. Planning & Zoning Department Director Jeremy Ginsberg said Fontana had done “a lot of legwork” to secure the necessary approvals for the project.

In addition to further outdoor options, Darien will have more restaurants to choose from. The commission approved a request from Parlor Pizza & Wine — opening soon — to prepare pizza dough in its basement, as well as the ability to periodically have a musician play on its patio.