For Mark Tambascio, a typical day at My Place Pizza involves exchanging hugs, swapping stories and engaging his customers in a conversation. Oh, and he runs his beer bar too.
Initially opened by Mark’s mother, Louise Tambascio, in 1979, My Place Pizza in Newtown, Connecticut is a lively, family-run business where the star of the show is the exhaustive collection of Mark Tambascio’s beer.
Tambascio’s bar is one of five beer bars in our little nutmeg state that offer high-end beer. And in his wide selection of beer, originating from Belgium, Germany and England, is a passion for flavor and quality that is clearly visible.
According to Tambascio, beer may as well be the un-sung hero of the dining world.
“It’s not like wine,” he says. “Beer complements food more than contrasts it.”
I’m inclined to agree, especially after a tasting on a particularly sweltering day. I decided to try a Hoegaarden from Belgium; a light, crisp and surprisingly flavorful white ale tinged with coriander and orange peel, which decidedly enhanced the flavor of my sweet and flaky coconut shrimp. The shrimp, by the way, was a perfect balance of sweet, crunchy and savory, set off with a peppery kick from the mango salsa served alongside.
And the pizza. The pizza at My Place deserves special mention because it’s not just baked flatbread with sauce and toppings. It’s an explosive and tantalizing journey that begins with a salty, crispy bite.
It’s been a while since I’ve had pizza, outside of New York, with a crust that can hold up on its own, even when it’s cold. I tried the White Casino Clam pizza (clams, smoked bacon, garlic and peppers), and soggy is not a word to mention anywhere near this pie.
There’s plenty of beer to chase all the salt down, with a beer list that’s far from boring.
“We have a rotating tap and bottle menu,” Tambascio says.
Which means, you’re not likely to find the same drink twice, too often. The beer menu is definitely not for the faint of heart, but they do offer beer samples if you’re wary about being adventurous.
If you’re in the mood to experiment, Tambascio holds beer tastings, formal and informal, typically on Tuesday or Wednesday nights, with a meet-and-greet with the brewers sometimes folded into the mix.
Overall, the My Place Pizza experience is one that is full of flavor, warmth and a lot of conversation. Maybe even a game or two off their high-def TV screens.
The customers agree with me. Kayla Martin, 22, and Josh Aponte, 23, frequent the bar for the Dogfish Head on tap and for the warmth of the Tamabascio family.
“They remember you and know what you drink,” says Aponte.
My Place Pizza is located at 8 Queen Street in Newtown, Conneceticut. For more information and to sign up for Mark Tambascio’s beer tasting list, visit the My Place website at MyPlacePizza.com or call the restaurant at (203)270-7061.