Pumpkin, it’s not just for dessert. This time of year it can be found in everything from beer to vodka. But for those who want the real thing and not just a squirt of pumpkin flavoring, there are restaurants who use this queen of the genus Cucurbita and princess of the family Cucurbitaceae and her poorer relations in soups, appetizers and entrees. Here are five places to go in Connecticut to have your pumpkin and squash for starters and main courses – before finishing up an all-gourd feast with a piece of pumpkin pie.
88 Main St. S.
Southbury, CT 06488
While the restaurant spells it “pumkin” on its menu, the Rathskeller’s ravioli stuffed with pumpkin, squash, walnuts and ricotta in a sage sauce is everything a pumpkin lover could want. It is plump, firm, nutty and hearty, with just that touch of sweetness that comes not from sugar but courtesy of the ricotta. This German-named but New York-style “American” bistro in Southbury serves many wonderful meat, fish and vegetarian dishes. While it only has one pumpkin dish, for those who want something else from the pumpkin and squash family, it also features squash (along with spinach and red peppers) in its pressed veggie sandwich.
46 S. Main St.
West Hartford, CT 06107
Besito means “little kiss” in Spanish, and there is a loving besito of pumpkin in this restaurant’s pescado con pipian y atole – a pan-seared blue corn and crab crusted grouper filet with pumpkin seed pipian and sweet corn atole. Fans of Mexican cuisine and pumpkins often look for pipian on menus. Sometimes known as “green mole” (that’s mole with an accent on the e, as in sauce, not as in garden rodent), pipian is a piquant pumpkin-seed sauce frequently used in preparing chicken dishes. At Besito in West Hartford, the pipian is so tangy that it puts this dish on the “Platos Fuertes” (meaning strong, robust, i.e. spicy) section of the menu.
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529 Farmington Ave.
Hartford, CT 06105
The princess of pumpkin sauces, pipian, is usually green, but there is a special red variety that the chefs at Monte Alban in Hartford’s Parkville neighborhood use with meat. Monte’s costillos en pipian rojo is as powerful and as potent a beef short ribs dish as any BBQ aficionado could ever hope for. What this red pumpkin sauce does for beef, the chefs make sure it also does for pork chops in their puerco en pipian dish. This neighborhood favorite may not have its own website, but that may be because it doesn’t need to – for it is featured on many top dining guides and food blogging sites from Allmenus to Zagat.
860 State St.
New Haven, CT 06511
Pumpkin is not the only member of the squash family to appear in ravioli. At Christopher Martins, one of the favorite seasonal appetizers for the fall and winter is the butternut squash ravioli. It can be ordered on its own or as one of the starter choices in the three-course lunch ($18) or four-course dinner ($32), and is made with candied pecans and served in a fresh sage cream sauce with shaven parmesan. The squash, like everything else at this New Haven landmark, is fresh and local, quite fitting for a restaurant whose motto is “local – before local was cool.” As the staff proudly notes, Christopher Martins has been supporting local growers for more than a quarter of a century, long before that practice became “cool.”
25 Powers Court
Westport, CT 06880
Roasted pumpkin and squash soup is the favored and most famous “seasonal-inspired soup” at Dressing Room in the fall and winter. At this Westport restaurant, founded by legendary actor and activist Paul Newman, Executive Chef Jon Vaast uses pumpkin, butternut squash, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, Spanish onions and a whole lot of cream in this vegetarian stock-based soup. He then tops it off with leeks, honey crisp apples, cinnamon and brown sugar – and then completes his homage to the majestic queen of the genus Cucurbita with sprinkles of toasted pumpkin seeds.
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