Outdoor dining is commonplace at restaurants in downtown Fairfield. Now, it appears the alfresco trend is on the menu for Black Rock Turnpike restaurants.

The Town Plan and Zoning Commission on Tuesday approved an outdoor dining patio for Tomato & Basil, a restaurant in a shopping center at the site of the former Miro Farms. The vote was 5-2 in favor.

Originally, the restaurant's owner wanted to construct a pergola structure over an outdoor dining area, but TPZ members didn't think that would blend well with the building's architecture.

The design of the pergola was "poorly executed," said TPZ member James Kennelly, and the commission approved the application as seasonal dining, with tables, chairs and umbrellas, but no pergola.

"I support the idea wherever possible to put a couple of tables outdoors," Kennelly said. Outdoor dining, he said, can have a calming effect on traffic. "It tends to make them a little more careful."

"Not to be argumentative, but this isn't going to change the walkability of Black Rock Turnpike," TPZ Commissioner Richard Jacobs said. "They're just looking to increase space" and make more money.

He also said the restaurant has already received several zoning variances.

Jacobs and Commissioner Sally Parker voted against the proposal. Parker said with a Citibank office next door, parking is already tight on the property.

"Commissioner Kennelly raises a good point," Chairman Bryan LeClerc said. "It's worked out well in a lot of locations."

Vice Chairman Seth Baratz said the parking seemed to be working fine. "Outdoor dining has become a basic component. I think it's been a very positive thing."