It’s big news in the foodie world when you hear that the Schoolhouse at Cannondale chef and owner Tim LaBant is expanding his culinary footprint and opening up a second restaurant. The award-winning chef is known for melding farm-to-table creativity with fine dining, so you can only imagine what kind of white tablecloth, haute cuisine will spring from LaBant’s imagination.
That’s right, LaBant will be opening up a pizza place, called Parlor, right here in Wilton, in a space at River Park Shopping Center.
Yep, a pizza place in a shopping center. Light years from what you think of when you think Tim LaBant, Schoolhouse Restaurant chef/owner.
LaBant laughs at the image. “There’s a reason for that.”
He wanted to open Parlor in the center of town and for it to have a different vibe–something of a cross between the old school pizza parlors that CT is known for and a lively, great, neighborhood space.
“I think there’s something humble about an old school pizza parlor. Look at like a place like Pepe’s, something that’s just got linoleum everywhere. It’s got an amazing product and they’re packed all the time for a reason, because their product is great, and they care about one thing–pizza and the people that are there,” LaBant says.
Parlor will be located in the former tutoring space between PTP Personal Training and Happy Wok. It’s a small space but it’s being built out with around 32 seats, a bar, and a wood-burning brick pizza oven they call “the Ferrari of ovens,” all with an open kitchen for diners to be able to watch what happens in the kitchen. LaBant says he also hopes to bring a similar atmosphere that he has every night at Schoolhouse.
“When you come out here on a Saturday night and it’s just this sort of raucous energy and everybody is enjoying themselves and you can hear people eating and clinking glasses, this energy is super exciting. I hope to bring that sort of energy over there too,” he says.
Something else he’s bringing with him is actually someone. LaBant’s longtime Schoolhouse sous chef Lenny Pisani will be the executive chef at Parlor. The two share the vision for what the menu and food will be like, as well as a rapport of two colleagues who have been working off of each other’s brainpower for years. When you ask them what that vision will be, prepare for a rapturous, obsessive, joyful 30-minute dialogue about the dough–how they’ve been experimenting with different flours (organic, ancient grains), yeast, grinds, baking temperatures, hydration, and more. Because for them it’s all about the dough, and they’ve been working for over a year on just getting the dough right.
My kids are like, “Are we going to have pizza again?” LaBant laughs.
“It got a little bit out of hand for a bit. Even the guys here at work were like, ‘Oh my God, please don’t tell me we’re eating pizza again,'” adds Pisani.
Like artists who paint with food, it’s sort of hard to get them to pinpoint exactly how to describe what they’re creating. Some of the words they use to finish one another’s descriptions are “neo-Neapolitan,” artisanal, super-airy, light, a little bit crispy on the bottom, healthy. The two will bring their mix of creativity to what they create at Parlor, and it certainly won’t be fast food or “just another pizza joint,” where you order two slices handed across the counter on two paper plates with wax paper under it.
They’ll be making their own mozzarella, using interesting combinations of toppings, and sourcing seasonal, fresh produce from local farms. There will be several different salads on the menu as well as vegetable sides.
“It’s the same thing that we’re doing here at Schoolhouse. It’s a constant evolution of newness, Lenny or I creating new dishes all the time, new seasons, new dishes,” LaBant adds.
It also isn’t meant to take away from any other pizza places in town.
“It will be a different crowd with different everything,” says LaBant, who grew up in Wilton. “The first job I had was at Village Market bagging groceries. The second job I had was delivering pizzas for Tom-E-Toes. There’s different pizza for different times.”
Speaking of times, exactly when will Wilton get to enjoy the Parlor experience? LaBant and Pisani say it will hopefully open in January or February, which means there are just a few months for the excitement to build. But the two people who might be most thrilled about the opening are the chefs themselves.
“You get excited. You can hear it in our voices, we’re so excited,” LaBant says with a grin.
Parlor will be located at 5 River Rd. in the Wilton River Park Shopping Center.