Trumbull restauranteur takes over Stratford landmark

Word that the owners and operators of the Vazzano's family of restaurants had acquired The Windmill on Hollister Street brought one question to the minds of many.

"The hot dogs aren't going to change," said John Vazzano, who with cousin Larry LaConte Jr. purchased what will now be known as The Windmill Tavern and the parking lot across the street. They are now renovating it, creating what Vazzano said would be a more family-style restaurant.

"I wanted to get back into the hot dog business," quipped LaConte, whose family owned Conte's adjacent to the University of Bridgeport for many years. A van will take The Windmill's hot dogs to off-site events, he added.

The Windmill was built in the early 1930s, and work inside includes stripping panels and wall coverings to expose the original brick walls. The bar is being renovated, with steps taken to match the wood on the face, though the original Formica countertop will remain.

Tables will extend out from walls opposite the bar, surrounded by stools.

The dining room, with booths and tables, will be set up in the side room beneath the brick replica of a windmill.

Renovations to the kitchen include the addition of a pizza oven.

"We'll have one-size pizza," Vazzano said.

Some of the food, like the Hummel Brothers hot dogs that have earned local acclaim and recognition from The Boston Globe, will remain.

"They'll be better," said Vazzano, pointing out the grill being worked on behind the bar.

The German fare familiar to regulars of The Windmill will remain on the menu. Prix fixe offerings are planned.

Local favorites from around the area will also be on the menu at The Windmill Tavern, such as Koon's Corner Chili, Conte's Chili and the Chow Mein sandwiches once served at Conte's.

Vazzano said the 10 beers on tap will include local products, from such breweries as Southport Brewing and Two Roads.

The Windmill Tavern is already sponsoring two hockey teams, one at the Sports Center of Connecticut in Shelton and one at Wonderland of Ice in Bridgeport, and five adult softball teams in area towns. Vazzano said there will be 10 televisions, creating a sports bar atmosphere. A 5K road race is scheduled for next spring.

The grand opening is scheduled for Dec. 15, with a Christmas party for the community Dec. 23.

Vazzano and LaConte are the fifth owners of The Windmill.

"It's an investment in town," Vazzano said. "This neighborhood was known as Hollister Heights. We want to bring that feel."

Nights will be dedicated to teachers, workers and others who make up the neighborhood that surrounds The Windmill and the rest of the town.

The Windmill Tavern joins Vazzano's establishments that include Vazzy's Brick Oven Restaurant, 513 Broadbridge Road, Bridgeport; Vazzy's Osteria, 415 Main Street, Monroe; Vazzy's Cucina, 706 Bridgeport Avenue, Shelton; Vazzy's Trattoria, Cherry Street, Milford; and Vazzy's 19th Hole at Fairchild Wheeler, run by LaConte at Bridgeport's D. Fairchild Wheeler Golf Course in Fairfield, and Vazzano's Four Seasons, the former Liedle's on Kenyon Street in Stratford.

"It's nice to have the Vazzy's name behind us," Vazzano said.