The Sitting Duck: A neighborhood tavern right around the corner

Dave Rutigliano, back, owner of The Sitting Duck Tavern in Madison Village, hangs out at the bar with head chef Brian Auger, manager Steve Rossi, and assistant manager Anthony Sallati. ‘The Duck’ opened its doors to Trumbull residents on Oct. 29. — Steve Coulter photo
Dave Rutigliano, back, owner of The Sitting Duck Tavern in Madison Village, hangs out at the bar with head chef Brian Auger, manager Steve Rossi, and assistant manager Anthony Sallati. ‘The Duck’ opened its doors to Trumbull residents on Oct. 29. — Steve Coulter photo

It doesn’t take long to get comfortable in The Sitting Duck Tavern.

From the wide-ranging delicious dishes to the tight-knit ambiance, Trumbull’s newest restaurant has something for everyone.

“Our vision was to create a modern American tavern with a local, neighborhood-type feel,” said owner Dave Rutigliano, who operates “The Duck” as part of the SBC Restaurant Group.

“We want this to be a comfortable spot for people of all ages,” he added. “I think we have a lot to offer this community and we’re excited to finally be here.”

By infusing a creative menu with boldly flavored American plates and attracting residents who live “down the street” from The Duck’s Madison Village location, Rutigliano believes he has a business that stands out from other dining options in town.

He first opened up The Sitting Duck Tavern on Main Street in Stratford back in 2011 and saw it take off. Four years later, he’s hoping to repeat that success in his hometown.

“In Stratford, 80% of customers come from a mile radius, with a good amount of people walking in,” he said. “We wanted to duplicate that here in Trumbull. …

“As a company we were trying to figure out how to get into Trumbull,” he added. “We like the town, we like the demographics, and we like the direction the town’s heading in. We felt like we could do something here and it took us a little while to find the right spot, but we feel that we found it here in the village — it’s the perfect location for a restaurant and fits exactly what we wanted to do in this community.”

Since opening its doors at 4244 Madison Avenue on Oct. 29, The Sitting Duck has been plenty busy welcoming customers from all over town — with some even walking in from the nearby residential area that borders Madison Village.

“It’s a local place that you can come into whenever you feel like eating out, and it’s in a residential area so it’s not very far from home,” said Steve Rossi, who’s managing the restaurant after working three years at the Stratford location.

“You want a close place to be able to go to no matter what it’s like outside,” he added. “When it snows, it’ll be the best thing for people in the neighborhood.”

Head chef Brian Auger already sees the similarities between Stratford and Trumbull.

“More than half the people I talk to live nearby and say they live right up the road or down the street,” he said. “It’s cool to think that we’re perfectly positioned right around the corner from all these residences and that our business is very close to everyone. It keeps us feeling very local.”

Sprouts and chops

From small plates to salads to burgers and sandwiches, The Sitting Duck Tavern has plenty of plates that are worth trying out.

For appetizers, the beef tips, which are marinated for 48 hours and grilled with pepper aioli, are a menu highlight.

“The beef tips are the most popular item and you can get them as a small plate or as an entrée,” Auger said. “They’re really are the best around.”

One of the other standout options that a restaurantgoer can’t find anywhere else are the duck wings, which are tossed with sweet chili glaze.

“We’re the only ones who serve them and they’re definitely something everyone should try, if only to compare them to your standard, chicken wing,” the chef said. “I think they’re even better.”

That’s not the only recommendation though.

For small plates, bang bang shrimp is a popular hand-food dish that can be shared. Pairing nicely with the duck wings or the shrimp is the roasted sprouts that are cooked in a local cider-maple glaze.

Another standout appetizer plate is the Bavarian soft pretzel, served with ale-spiked mustard.

“We’ve got great salads, too,” Rossi said. “The mixed Cobb has been the most popular, but the goat salad with the focaccia-crusted goat cheese is really excellent.”

And then there’s coffee pork, which is a coffee-rubbed double-cut loin pork chop grilled with a bourbon pan sauce and served with roasted broccoli, one entrée that’s been drawing rave reviews so far.

“Almost everybody who’s had the pork chop says it’s the best they’ve had in their life,” Auger said.

Don’t forget about the burgers, Rossi said, especially the tavern burger with house-made bacon jam or the cadillac burger with bacon chipotle ranch and fronions.

“You can’t go wrong with any of them,” he added. “I think they’re the best around.”

That’s because they’re made with all-natural Pineland Farms beef. The family farm from Maine is committed to using eco-friendly, humanely raised sustainable beef that’s free of hormones, pesticides and antibiotics — a dedication that fits in line with the ethos of The Duck.

“We’re all about ingredients,” Rutigliano said. “We spend the money to get the best and we take pride in serving it.”

He said the restaurant will take a regional approach when the season allows it and get more ingredients from local farms.

“We’re committed to using locally grown produce,” he added. “We’re not trying to be something we’re not — we’re not too high-end or anything, but we have a vision for how our dishes should taste and we want to bring that to the table every time.”

Consistency

Speaking with Rutigliano, Rossi and Auger and assistant manager Anthony Sallati, there’s one word that comes up in conversation more than anything else.
“Consistency,” said Sallati. “It’s all about getting people to keep coming back.”

“Consistency is the key to every successful restaurant,” added Rutigliano.

Rossi said the No.1 objective is making people happy — from day one to day 365.

“We’re happy to hear such positive reviews this early on,” he said. “But we want to have that six months down the line.

“We want to be family-friendly and serve anyone from parents with kids to people coming in to watch the game and have a beer to people wanting to grab a casual dinner with friends,” he added. “But most importantly, we want to them to come back in and become regulars here.”

Beer and dessert

Those sitting down at The Duck can’t leave without trying one of the restaurant’s 16 craft beers on tap or one of its four dessert offerings, which include cheesecake, hot chocolate lava cake, crème brûlée, and a homemade “magic bar” that consists of a brownie with graham crackers and fresh whipped cream.

“We make our own crème brûlée and magic bars right here in the kitchen,” said Auger.

Rossi added that the beer list will rotate, and those who are passionate about local craft brewing should follow the restaurant on beermenus.com.

“Every time we change the beers it’ll go up on there and you’ll get a text or email notification,” he said.

“There’s been a big craft movement lately, so we have to cater to that a bit; we want to have at least four to six Connecticut beers on tap at all times,” he said. “But we’ll still have your standard options — Bud, Bud Light, Coors — in bottles.”

What about the name?  

Local food and local beer are the backbone of The Sitting Duck Tavern, which got its name from some local history.

“We wanted to have a cool name and we were kicking around a few ideas,” Rutigliano said.”Then we found that Stratford used to be the decoy duck capital of America, and that really fit with what we wanted and it stuck — from there on, we knew we were going to be The Sitting Duck.”

After planning it for a year, the restaurant has its new home — and second location — in Trumbull, a place that’s very special to those who run it day to day.

”Some of the other places in town, it’s more of a niche crowd,” said Sallati. “Here at The Duck, we want to cater to all demographics.”

“A lot of people from Trumbull went to Stratford and they’ve been wanting one here for a while,” added Rossi. “They’re excited about having a shorter commute to get here.”

The Sitting Duck Tavern is located at 4244 Madison Avenue. For more information, call 203-261-1400 or visit sittingducktrumbull.com.