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Neighborhood cheering return of Loves to Darien restaurant scene

Published 11:43 am, Wednesday, February 6, 2013
  • Jarret Liotta/For the Darien News
Jimmy and Pam Love of Darien opened their new restaurant Jimmy's Southside Tavern in October and hope to give Noroton Heights a much-longed-for pub-style restaurant. Photo: Contributed
    Jarret Liotta/For the Darien News Jimmy and Pam Love of Darien opened their new restaurant Jimmy's Southside Tavern in October and hope to give Noroton Heights a much-longed-for pub-style restaurant. Photo: Contributed

 

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Every neighborhood needs a place to go where people know your name. For Noroton Heights, Jimmy's Southside Tavern looks to become that place.

"We knew the neighborhood was in need of a little eating and drinking establishment," said Jimmy Love, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife, Pam.

Along with 31 years of matrimonial partnership, the Darien couple have enjoyed a series of successful businesses in food and entertainment.

Beginning in 1981, they ran a nightclub in Nantucket, then returned to Connecticut to operate several restaurants, including Jimmy's Seaside in Stamford, which enjoyed a 25-year run in popularity under their ownership.

"We sold Jimmy's a couple of years back and had the opportunity to come over here," Love said.

They opened the pub-style bar and restaurant on Oct. 1 at 340 Heights Road, and while word is still getting out about the couple's latest venture, local patrons are already thanking them for offering the neighborhood a comfortable, quality tavern featuring great food, good wine and a low-key atmosphere.

"The neighborhood was in need of a tavern-pub," said Pam Love. "There really isn't anything else around. ... We wanted to give the neighborhood a fun place to come to. ... It's what we've always done."

For 35 years, Pam's family has owned -- and the couple currently runs -- Glen's Liquor, which is located right around the corner from Jimmy's Southside at 390 Heights Road.

"The nice thing about owning the liquor store," she said, is that it lends them the knowledge to expertly pair wines with their menu -- another favorite point for new customers.

"Because they own a liquor store, they have great wines," said Bruce Bassock, who owns Elements Yoga and Wellness Center next door with his wife, Donna Kuebler.

The couple have become almost daily diners, but not just because of the proximity.

"The food ... the decor," said Kuebler, enjoying a large, warm lobster roll, while her husband savored a plate of large grilled shrimp over an arugala salad. "It's spacious ... and everybody's nice."

Pam and Jimmy Love are quick to point out that their staff --s ome of whom they've worked with in other establishments -- play a pivotal role in making the place what it is.

"That is the key to our success," Jimmy said. David Bondlow is the general manager. "He's been a right arm to me for 20-plus years," not only helping create the menu but co-designing the bar, which covers a large section of the main room.

The tavern is light and airy during lunch hours, with a high ceiling and a casual decor that highlights the couple's love of the sea.

Regarding the menu, Pam called it "comfort food with a flair."

John Onetto, their head chef, is also an integral part of their operation.

"He takes care of the kitchen," Jimmy said. "I don't need to worry."

The tavern is drawing patrons primarily through "word of mouth," said Jimmy, but ads soon will start appearing and thanks to the help of their daughter, Madelyn, a website will be up and running.

"We need to get the word out," Jimmy said, "because we are a known couple and there are a lot of folks who don't know we're back in business."

But owing to their longevity in town -- raising three kids and knowing many neighbors -- word likely will continue to spread.

"The local mileage is important," Jimmy said. "Very few restaurants in town have local owners and I think the guests like to be recognized ... and people have always like the informal style we've portrayed."

Jimmy's Southside Tavern is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to midnight for lunch and dinner. For information, call 203-309-5090.