Recently, we were fortunate enough to sit down with Sal and Melissa Augeri, the owners of The ‘Port restaurant, now open in downtown Westport. In addition to it’s perfectly fitting name (on the water in Westport), it aims to meet the restaurant gap in this town of good food in a comfortable environment for kids AND adults. Sal and Melissa are warm, approachable, funny, and admit they are learning more and more everyday in order to make it the best experience possible. We cannot wait for our first visit.
Most importantly, when will you open, and do you take reservations? The ‘Port is now open! And yes, including lots of big tables for 6-8 people! We will be accepting reservations via phone (203-557-9057), online via Yelp and also taking walk-ins.
Why and how did The ‘Port come to life? For years, we have been talking about opening a local family restaurant. I (Sal) was commuting to Wall Street daily, and eventually decided to make a change and be done with the commute. I wanted to do something I love. I’ve always been a people person, a sports lover, and I grew up with a mom who wanted to feed everyone, so opening a restaurant is a perfect fit. Raising our family in this area, we have long felt that there wasn’t a place in town for both them and us to eat well. We wanted comfortable, good food that everyone could eat. At it’s essence, that is what The ‘Port is meant to be.
What will differentiate The ‘Port from other restaurants in town? The ‘Port is meant to be a place where everyone feels welcome. It is going to scream Westport…all of our artwork is Westport inspired. All of the bus boys and girls are Weston and Westport high school kids. Ultimately, we want to have Happy Hours for the Police Department, Teachers, run Top Chef of Westport contests for students, and be the place where sports teams go before – and after – games. We are thinking about what works for families who want to dine with their kids. We are going to have Horizon milk boxes and a kid-friendly menu that isn’t just grilled cheese and French fries. For example, a delicious item on the kid’s menu is our housemade Chicken Parm Dog.
How will The ‘Port take advantage of it’s outdoor space? We are incredibly lucky to be in such a great setting on the Saugatuck River, and can utilize all of the outdoor space we have. We will have events outside for families For example, Westport has a huge Michigan contingency; when Michigan games are on, we can have a Michigan tent outside and possibly a big screen, and hope people come to cheer loudly and eat well.
Restaurants in that space have struggled in the past given parking, size, etc. How will The ‘Port survive? We are not going to just hope people walk in. We want to be high touch, and ensure the experience we’re creating is the right one. We want people here to feel like they can go out, and not have to dress up, but also know they can find great wine and have a delicious meal, even while watching the World Series. We have brought in a talented young chef named Justin Kaplan who was most recently in Lake Tahoe and who has family in Westport. He is phenomenal and different. The parking is really just a perception that we will work to change. The parking in the main lot at National Hall is completely open after 6pm and all weekend. The parking garage across the street is available anytime and the gate at the North end of the garage is always open. And if people stay out too late, and shouldn’t drive home, we will send them home in an Uber. Attentive service – and excellent food – is paramount for us to survive.
What will the menu be like? We have a wide range of options, from basic comfort food like meatballs and chicken wings, to healthier sliders and salads. Everything is under $30. We have beer, wine, and cocktails, but they don’t have 27 ingredients each. We want to have the best wine and tequila list in town, and all of the families invested in The ‘Port feel the same way. The dessert menu also includes The ‘Port chipwich!
What’s been the biggest challenge so far? Being patient. Not everyone works at the same speed, and no one had quite the same sense of urgency as we do. But we are now up and running, and excited to open our doors.
What’s been the most exciting thing? Sal: seeing the transformation of the space- wow! I love feeling like it’s evolved into an inviting, comfortable space and knowing that I’ve had an opportunity to create something new and exciting. Melissa: A few weeks back we had a meeting with all of the bussers, and it was incredibly rewarding to be with them and have the local kids be a part of it. We love the idea that we’re creating jobs – made by us for all of us.