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Beachhead Restaurant

3 Cosey Beach Ave. East Haven * (203) 469-5450

By Colleen Van Tassell
Published 06/27/02

On the drive to the East Haven Shore we passed boys in cars slowing down to look at girls, empty lifeguard stands, summer cottages and Paul's, our favorite pizza joint. All was right on this Jersey girl evening.

Beachhead is located directly across from the Long Island Sound; its legacy dates back to 1942. And while luxury condos yuppied up around the little gay-friendly restaurant, the breathtaking views remain.

What looks like original 1940s cabinetry--blond with fronts that resemble a hi-fi console--the bar area is charming. As is the adjacent seating area with seaside accessories (netting, buoys, fish, a lighthouse). It's exactly what you want from a shorefront restaurant.

Yet our greeting, and that of a group who arrived before us, was not as warm as the sea air. They were told to wait by a member of the waitstaff.

"How long?" asked the man.

Silence.

"Can you tell me how long?

Silence. She continued to ring up a bill.

He shook his head and waited off to the side. The group was promptly seated.

Our turn.

"Table for two," said Joe.

"It'll be a few minutes," she said, without looking up.

Strange how we were made to wait, briefly though it was, as the dinning room was only about two-thirds full.

What could have been a blemish on the evening, Kody, our sweet waiter, remedied. He quickly chipped away at our Eastern block reception.

He saved the night.

As did the food. And the drinks.

Joe started with what he described as a "simple yet delicious" Mount Gay rum and tonic. I drank a house Merlot. (I struggled with whether to order one of the classic summer drinks--Malibu & Pineapple, Hurricane, or a Twisted Cosmopolitan--but when I'm presented with too many options, I choke.)

The dining room is lined with comfy booths around the perimeter and groupings of tables and chairs in the middle. Calming shades of taupe walls are adorned with serene artwork. Nothing is intrusive or garish. Nothing overpowers the glorious panoramic views.

The highest of honors goes to a special appetizer of calamari, stuffed clams and stuffed mushrooms. Glory, glory hallelujah. Calamari was dusted with cinnamon; stuffed mushrooms were small and filled with a moist mixture, as were the steamers.

No sauce came with the calamari--none was needed. It was like breakfast cereal seafood. Unlike anything we've tasted.

For an entree, I tried the shrimp and scallop veneziana ($16.50), a massive piping-hot pile of angel hair pasta, asparagus, garlic, oil and a hint of white wine. It was understated, refined, not showy.

Joe's zuppa de pesce ($20.95), a gargantuan amalgamation of shellfish, scallops and cod, piled atop a horse-choking quantity of fettuccine and smothered in a seemingly homemade red sauce, was a revelation. Kody, so nice, offered, "One guy, not very big, finished it." What he didn't say was this diner was rushed to Yale-New Haven for an emergency zuppa de pesce-ectomy.

While its size was virtuous, its flavor was impeccable. The mussels, clams and shrimp, along with the aforementioned scallops and cod, were perfectly done and fresh as a soldier abroad in a sea of WACs. The sauce actually tasted like tomatoes, rather than a gooey heap of dissolved sugar. It's hard to imagine doing much better, especially considering the price.

We finished, foregoing the homemade key lime pie, and made haste to the bar to meet our friend Rich for an after-dinner drink. We were happy to see that our greeter cheered up and was cordial. Perhaps it was the rainbow that appeared in the sky after the rain.

Rainbows, and good food, have that effect on people.

Colleen Van Tassell can be reached at: cvt@newhavenadvocate.com