(photo credit: Martha Outlaw)
I’ll take an order of a superb tasting appetizer, a beautifully prepared entrée, and an exquisite dessert, served with a fun cocktail and the perfect after-dinner espresso–all accompanied by a heaping serving of suave charm of the Lopez brothers. That’s the ideal recipe behind one of Wilton’s most stylish restaurants, Bianco Rosso Wine Bar & Restaurant. The hot spot owes its popularity as much to its talented kitchen team, which executes the carefully-crafted menu, as it does to the menu’s architects, the four brothers who own and run the restaurant: Carlos, Jaime, Alejandro and Mario Lopez (left to right in the main picture above).
Just try interviewing them all together. “Alejandro, this interview is going to be on the website, so they need to hear your voice–speak into the microphone,” Mario playfully says to his younger brother, trying to pull a fast one as if they’re still teenagers.
What are their ages? “He’s older,” Alejandro says about Mario, at the same time as Mario says “He’s older,” too. In truth, it’s Mario who’s the oldest at 38; Alejandro is 37; Carlos is 35 and Jaime is the baby at 33. Carlos pipes in, “It looks like I’m 21 but I’m not!”
The jokes and laughter are well-honed by all those years of fraternal closeness, even though you can probably imagine what it was like when they were all in high school at the same time. Knowing that there are four other Lopez siblings, including three sisters, it inspires respect for the boys’ parents.
“We’re very proud of our parents,” agrees Alejandro.
Of course there are laughs, but the family bonds also help make the restaurant run like a Formula 1 race car. “We’re a team. Sometimes we fight, or not agree because we’re always trying to do the best thing. But we get along together,” Mario says. Usually the brothers don’t even need words to make the communication happen. “When we’re working, absolutely. We see each other–” and Mario silently gestures with two fingers pointing at his own eyes and over to his brother, and back again, “–with the eyes, we know what we’re saying and we just cover each other to the tables.”
“It’s very good to rely on each other,” Alejandro agrees, as Mario adds, “It’s the best thing because in this business, you have to be here 24 hours. I can’t do it. So all of us, together…when I’m not here, Alejandro is here, or Carlos is here.”
Their teamwork must be paying off, because not only is Bianco Rosso constantly humming and full, but they’re in the construction phase of opening two new restaurants in Stamford—Azuca, which will showcase Latin cuisine, and Gastro Bar, which will feature small plate Mediterranean food. Their interiors will be designed by Mario’s wife, Christina Ramirez, who also created the chic interiors of Bianco Rosso.
The brothers’ history in Wilton, however, stretches much further back than when Bianco Rosso opened in January 2012. Both Mario and Alejandro worked in Wilton 19 years ago, shortly after they first moved to the United States from Ecuador. “I used to work as a busboy in the restaurant where Mediterraneo used to be,” Mario recounts, “And Alejandro used to work at Per Bacco across the street, at a restaurant that was there before Luca’s.”
They’ve earned their restaurant-business stripes through the years, having spent time in several establishments as dishwashers, busboys, waiters, bartenders, line cooks, managers and now owners. Knowing Wilton, they thought it would be a great place for bringing their idea of a chic restaurant with great food and great atmosphere. “It’s something different. This scene was our idea from the beginning,” Mario said. “Good food, good wine and a good time.”
It’s paid off, with a spot that has been busy since almost day one. “Thank God. Wilton has been very good to us.”
A ‘very good’ review in the New York Times last fall certainly confirmed what a lot of people already knew, that the “stylish Italian food” was matched by the “stylish dining room.” Among the words peppered through the review were “succulent,” “creativity,” “delight” and “we loved.” Oh, and it ended with the phrase, “impressive cooking at modest prices.”
The brothers are grateful for any support, not only from the paper of record, but of course from their more local customers. They’re very aware of the fact that good word of mouth is what keeps the Bianco Rosso tables full. “That’s the best advertising, people talk about you and they come and try. We’re doing good, we can’t complain,” Mario said gratefully. “It would be nice to bring more people from outside Wilton but we have regulars here all the time. I see a lot of locals, that’s the most important thing. But everybody is always welcome.”
And they give back to the community to, sponsoring groups and catering events for local Wilton organizations. Case in point, they’ll be the caterers for the “Beyond Words” benefit gala for the Wilton Library this coming weekend.
No matter where they’re feeding people the Lopez brothers say that making people feel welcome, from the first warm greeting at the door, all the way through dessert and goodbyes, the secret to their success is in the service. “We’re here to serve,” says Mario. “We make sure they leave happy–that they leave and come back!”
As for when people come back…and keep coming back again, there will always be Lopez family members to make sure everyone is happy. Mario’s wife just gave birth on Valentine’s Day to their first baby, daughter Luciana Valentina; Alejandro’s wife is expecting a girl as well, in June; they join Carlos’ 5-year-old daughter. “They’re going to be the future, working in the restaurants!” laughs Mario. “We’re brothers with girls! Jaime is married but doesn’t have kids yet. We tell him, ‘C’mon Jaime! You gotta get to work!’”