The chef walked out of this top-rated New London restaurant
Gaspar's New American Restaurant only opened earlier this year, but it is now ranked the number one restaurant out of 105 in New London listed on tripadvisor.com, a popular national web site that compiles customer reviews.
But, alas, Gaspar, the Vienna-trained chef who lent the restaurant its name, is no longer in the kitchen.
Gaspar Stantic, a former Dallas restaurateur who claims to have worked for Donald Trump and cooked for Queen Elizabeth, has most recently been delighting New London foodies. Stantic recently told a food writer for The Day that one of his establishments was named one of America's top restaurants by Zagat, a gold standard in American restaurant rankings.
Here in New London, Stantic wasn't feeding royalty. But he can claim to have cooked for Mayor Finizio. And the place has been popular.
Last week, in a noisy dust-up that led to police being called to the restaurant, Stantic walked out and left his partner to find someone else to run the kitchen. Word of the dramatic breakup spread quickly through the local restaurant scene.
The restaurant has remained open for its regular hours, but I'm sorry to report that Gaspar won't be there to make such dishes as a salad with Asian pears, prosciutto, creamy feta and walnut vinaigrette, which especially delighted one tripadvisor reviewer.
"It has only been around for three months, but it is the best dining experience I have ever had," is one of the typical rave reviews on tripadvisor for Gaspar's. "My husband, a retired chef, and I spent all evening and were thoroughly delighted with everything. A must see in New London."
And there are lots more like that, under headlines like: "Amazing," "Best of the Best" and "Kudos."
When I first heard about police being called to a disturbance at Gaspar's I put in a call to Stantic. He confirmed that he has left the restaurant and agreed to get together to talk about what happened.
But on the day we had arranged to meet, he backed out, saying a lawyer had advised him not to discuss the situation.
In our brief phone conversation, Stantic confirmed, in an accent that betrays his Swiss origins, "I'm not there, for sure."
I was sorry we did not get a chance to meet. I had hoped to ask him more about what brought him to New London.
A search of some articles on food blogs that have been written about him indicated he came up here to be close to some family. He was living in New York after leaving Dallas, where one food blog wrote about an abrupt ending to a restaurant partnership he had with another chef there.
I didn't have any luck reaching Stantic's partner in Gaspar's of New London, after leaving messages and visiting the restaurant.
The restaurant's liquor license is held by Andrew Bell of New London, and Bell is the managing member of A & G Group LLC, which is listed as the restaurant's principal backer.
Editor's note: Bell is listed in state records as the liquor license permittee for Gaspar’s but said Friday he sold his interest in the restaurant about two months ago. He said he remains the liquor license holder while paperwork for the transaction is in transition.
A kitchen worker who let me into the restaurant after hours, when I stopped to find the owner, refused to say much on the record but complained that Stantic "walked out on the people of New London" and the other employees of the restaurant.
I'm just sorry I may never get to try one of Chef Gaspar's appetizers of roasted yellow beets with Gorgonzola cream and pistachio vinaigrette that one tripadvisor reviewer gushed about.
This is the opinion of David Collins