Stamford pizza joint colonizes Fairfield
What is love?
For Liza and Joe Liotta, love is oily, thin-crusted and has long been baked in a Stamford pizza oven. On Friday, love landed in their backyard.
Love for the Liottas is Colony Grill, the 75-year-old Stamford staple that on Friday opened a second eatery at 1520 Post Road in Fairfield.
Seconds after Colony Grill Fairfield unlocked its doors, Liza and Joe slid into a freshly minted booth, their three children beside them. The clock read 4:01 p.m.
"We just had to be the first customers here," said Liza, nodding to her three children. "They all had Colony Pizza on their first birthday. This place just means so much to us."
Living up that lofty tradition would stress many an aspiring restaurateur. But the four owners of Colony Grill Fairfield have impressive backgrounds themselves. They were teammates on the Trumbull baseball squad that won the 1989 Little League World Series. Members of that foursome are Ken Martin, Paul Coniglio, Cody Lee and Chris Drury, who's made the transition from baseball diamond to ice rink as a star on the New York Rangers.
Last spring, the lifelong friends started meeting at Colony Grill Stamford to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their world championship. They were looking for a way to rekindle their partnership. "And we started thinking, `Boy, why don't we open one of these?' " Coniglio said.
They proposed the idea to the owners of Colony Grill Stamford, Gary James and Jim Screws, who, coincidentally, were already thinking of expanding. The two visions meshed and the sides hammered out a deal for the Fairfield off-shoot within months.
As the new restaurant's first customers streamed inside Friday, Drury recalled his first taste of Colony pizza about five years ago. It came at Ken Martin's request.
"He told me about it for a while, but I didn't know what to expect," Drury said. "When I got inside, the whole atmosphere and the whole process were amazing to me. And when I got to eat the pie -- aaah!" He simply sighed.
He listed a roster of pizza styles that he's sampled from around the globe -- pizzas in Italy, Canada, Germany, Czech Republic, Manhattan and all over the United States. Even Japan.
"You name it, I've had a lot of pizzas," Drury said. "And I'd put Colony up there with the very best."
Minutes later, Drury walked over to the Liottas' table to personally take their order. He scribbled down the order of six pies -- one for Joe, one for Liza, one for their kids, and three for Liza's friends.
When he left to place their order with the kitchen, the Liottas reflected on their devotion to Colony pizza.
Seven years ago, Joe proposed to Liza by taping an engagement ring inside a Colony Grill pizza box. He hoped to surprise her after their meal, and so he hid the box in their oven. Bad move. Liza was hungry. She saw "LTO" written on the box's side, which is Colony-speak for "light onion," one of Liza's favorite toppings.
"I said, `No! No! Don't open that box yet!' " Joe recalled. But he was too late. They married months later.
Last year, the Liottas moved to Fairfield. The pizza "engagement" box was the first thing they hung on their wall. And when Liza heard a short time later that Colony Grill would be opening a restaurant in Fairfield, she cried.
So what did she say when she opened that life-changing pizza box?
"I was like, `Man! No onions?' " she said, smiling.