July 25, 2014

Dog Daze Café: new this summer in Wilton

Route 7 food stand gets organic makeover

Jesse Cipollone is the owner and cook at Dog Daze Cafe on Route 7 in WIlton.

Jesse Cipollone is the owner and cook at Dog Daze Cafe on Route 7 in WIlton.

A customer leaving the newly opened Dog Daze Café made a point to return to the drive-in’s window just before he left: “Those were the best onion rings I’ve ever had,” he said.

Owner and cook Jesse Cipollone wouldn’t have it any other way.

His last name isn’t just a moniker — it’s a description of his most sought-after product: homemade, fresh-battered onion rings. Cipollone fittingly translates to “big onion” in Italian, said his mother, Roxanne Sachetti.

Dog Daze Café has been open since May 1, and is at 713 Danbury Road. Though his family has owned the property on Route 7 for many years, this is the first time a relative has owned the familiar hot dog stand.

“I made a point to create something that everyone can enjoy anytime,” Mr. Cipollone said during a break from his lunchtime grill duties. “I really like the fact that four people can come here and eat for under $20.”

Hot dogs at Dog Daze run $3, plus toppings, and there is a daily dog special (like May 16’s Reuben Dog) for $4. The stand also serves six-ounce Angus hamburgers, sausage and peppers, and a wide variety of roadside fare.

Mr. Cipollone was raised on a farm in upstate New York that is still owned and operated by his mother and his brother Nick Cipollone. All the produce in his café, the owner said, is grown organically and pesticide-free at the same farm.

“There’s nothing better than farm to table, and all-organic veggies,” Mr. Cipollone said, especially those that come from his family’s 60-acre Barthel’s Farm in Ellenville, N.Y. Nick Cipollone, the head farmer at Barthel’s, is a fifth-generation Ellenville farmer, his mother said.

With ample warning from Ms. Sachetti not to “give up his grandmother’s secrets,” Mr. Cipollone said the savory taste of his onion rings — and of his equally seductive handmade french fries — is the product of freshness.

“There are some old family secrets involved in the onion rings,” he said, but the most important aspect is that his onion rings are “hand cut and fresh battered every day.” He added, “Every onion ring I had ever had, from a sports bar or wherever, was so dark and brown that you could barely taste the onion. I wanted something better.”

Mr. Cipollone has an 11-year history in the food service industry, and was a longtime manager and cook at a Bone Fish Grille in south Florida. But after all that time in the industry, he felt the urge to make it on his own.

Dog Daze Café is the product of that desire, and is his first independent venture. “The door is open for many things,” Mr. Cipollone said, noting he is interested in expanding when the time is right.

But for now the owner plans on keeping his role in Dog Daze “all hands on,” he said. “I get to cook everything, meet everyone, and do everything.”

As a guy who has “made money for other people his entire career,” he said, he couldn’t ask for anything better.