NEWS&VIEWS by Jacqueline Bennett

“Mums” the Word at Iconic Bart’s – Three Windsor CT Events to Help Animals

Posted on September 15, 2017

By Jacqueline Bennett

It’s true love for Windsor, Ct.’s first couple as Mayor Don Trinks’ wife Barbara joined him behind the counter. File photo by Jacqueline Bennett.


“Mums” the word Saturday, September 16 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m at Windsor, Connecticut’s iconic Bart’s Drive-In Restaurant on 55 Palisado Avenue (a.k.a. BartsBeanery.) For those who have yet to stop by Bart’s or those such as myself who stop by often, tomorrow may be the perfect chance to enjoy a chili dog from the Magic Grill while at the same time helping the Windsor Pet Food Pantry. 


It took the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to raise awareness about the powerful bond between people and their pets. As the country currently deals with Hurricanes Harvey and Irma – once again the importance of pets is being seen.


Of course, pets need food. The Friends of Windsor Animal Care & Control is hosting two fundraisers to benefit the Windsor Pet Pantry. At Bart’s ~ who knows ~ you might bump into Windsor’s first couple ~ owner and Windsor Mayor Don Trinks, and his wife Barbara.


In memory of Windsor, Connecticut police K-9s ~ Iko (shown here) and Jag, Kane, Valor, Tanner, Gobbi & Sampson. (Courtesy photo).

Throughout September, at the popular Jim’s Pizza on Poquonock Avenue, the Nikolis Family will be holding a drive to benefit the Windsor Pet Food Pantry.


Sandwiched between the fundraisers will be the Grand Opening of Windsor’s new dog pound. Resident Ed Cutler is slated to donate a hand refurbished bench in memory of the town’s heroic police K-9s who served Windsor courageouly and have passed away. Check out the tweet below to read more about Mr. Cutler, in a synopsis provided by the Friends of Windsor Animal Care & Control. The dog pound’s tentative opening date is October 7 with a raindate of Oct. 8, but check the town website for confirmation.


A bit later in the month on Saturday October 21 from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m stop by Dom’s Broad Street Eatery, another of Windsor’s fine, family-owned and operated dining establishments. Proceeds from breakfast and lunch will also benefit the Windsor Pet Food Pantry. There will be a raffle table from 9 a.m – 1 p.m.


Delightfully – A Concurrent Celebration of Reading & Coffee Ice Cream

Posted on September 6, 2017

By Jacqueline Bennett


Delightfully, September 6 is a day to celebrate two of my favorite things ~ reading a book and coffee ice cream. Upon opening my daily e-mail from National Day Calendar this morning I was pleasantly reminded of the concurrent celebrations.


At an early age I learned the joy of reading. My parents and my sister read to me from the time I can remember. Holding a book in my hands became as natural to me as breathing, and soon enough I was reading to myself. Reading aloud to youngsters not only sparks their interest in reading but enables them to learn the proper expression intended by the writer.


Shady Glen in Manchester, CT mixes up Coffee Milk Shake perfection!

As a child I was especially fond of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale “Rapunzel.” “Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your golden hair..” In elementary school, I looked forward to time in the library and began gravitating towards biographies. My love of libraries and being surrounded by books continued when I was a student at the University of Connecticut.


Along the way, I discovered Agatha Christie novels. Today I love many genres of reading. As I have mentioned in previous posts, there is nothing quite like sitting quietly at home curled up by the ‘wood stove’ with a good book, or relaxing out & about at a special coffee spot – a fresh cup of Joe in one hand and a new book in the other!


As for coffee ice cream, quite simply ~ it is a New England tradition. In Yankee Magazine’s “New England Today” Aimee Tucker wrote, “Here in New England (& especially Rhode Island) we take our coffee love seriously, that includes in ice cream form.”Friendly’s restaurants, a New England original puts out a great tasting coffee ice cream.


Coffee milk shakes flavored with coffee syrup noted Tucker, may be the only way to improve the flavor of coffee ice cream. True. If you are visiting Connecticut’s Greater Hartford Region ~ don’t miss a chance to savor coffee milk shake perfection at Shady Glen at 840 East Middle Turnpike in Manchester. It’s wicked good!

A Red Sox Fan & Connecticut Resident

Posted on August 19, 2017

My sisters, Mom, Mike, and me (standing in back row, right) at Fenway Park.

By Jacqueline Bennett


As much as I enjoyed watching last night’s 9-6 Boston Red Sox win over the New York Yankees, a “broad brush” comment in the commentator’s booth requires clarification. It was an off-the-cuff remark by a guest in the booth – introduced I believe as a Burlington,Vermont broadcaster and former football player – there to promote the upcoming college football events at Fenway.


Sporting Red Sox gear at Cheers in Boston.

Describing most of Vermont as Red Sox fans, he added that since Burlington was a college town it attracted kids who are Yankees fans from New York and Connecticut. While it may be that the lower portion of Connecticut leans towards the pin stripes, please do not lump all of us into this characterization. Drive north along the 91 corridor in Connecticut and as the late September crispness in the air becomes sharper and the autumn leaves of October turn a deeper hue, make no mistake about it – you are in Red Sox country.



Born and reared in Connecticut, I and many of my family are lifelong Red Sox fans. My mother was a lifelong Red Sox fan. Her father, my grandfather – a semi-pro catcher – was a lifelong Red Sox fan who dreamt of playing for the Sox. My dad was such a devoted Red Sox fan that he sat watching the games -quite literally- with a crying towel in hand back when winning seasons seemed to elude our beloved team.


Dad’s favorite spot at Fenway Park was behind first base. Mine is on the Bud Deck. No matter where one is seated, however, there is nothing quite like being at Fenway Park to join with other Red Sox fans in singing along with a resounding chorus of  “Sweet Caroline” during the 7th inning stretch.


So, thank you very much – like many – this Connecticut resident is a proud New Englander and loyal Red Sox fan.

Destination : Castello of Niantic at the Connecticut Shoreline

Posted on July 25, 2017

Castello in Niantic, Connecticut, is off the beaten path not far from Rocky Neck State Park.

Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett


Set on a knoll just off West Main Street close to Rocky Neck State Park, Castello is “Niantic’s newest Italian restaurant.” It is one of those little gems waiting to be discovered as word-of-mouth spreads.

Stanley Martone checks on Stonington Scallops in the kitchen.


Opened a year ago, Castello is owned by an ambitious young man Stanley Martone, his father Dino Martone and his aunt Marianeve Picone. At 25, Stanley Martone, a graduate of Quinnipiac University, has his bachelors and masters degrees. Out of college, Stanley Martone landed a position with the prestigious Deloitte accounting firm. But the restaurant business is in his blood – from his days as a boy helping his godfather at his banquet hall to being part of his family’s original Castello restaurant- translated it means castle – in Meriden.


“It’s been an awesome adventure this past year,” Martone said during a recent interview at Castello of Niantic.


Martone has hired a young kitchen staff. If people are willing to work hard he says, “I don’t mind training.” In fact, one applicant arrived with no experience but had walked to the interview which prompted Martone to give him a chance. A good move, Martone adds, because he has turned out to be a dedicated worker, always asking questions and interested in learning as much as he can.


For Martone good business is about treating his employees and customers with respect, something he learned from his parents – Italian immigrants. Martone said he pays his employees more than minimum wage, recently set up a 401(k) plan for them, plans to give additional time off for each year of employment, and is working on instituting a benefits plan.


“In a small business it can be hard to keep employees,” he explained, noting he wants to make it appealing for good workers to stay at Castello of Niantic.


When it comes to customers, Martone said his family wants feedback. He considers Castello of Niantic a work in progress.


“I read all the comments, ” he said, “I want to learn and grow.”


Another chef is a great source of pride to Martone, his 18-year-old brother Nick Martone who is a state wrestling champion out of Platt High School and works at the Niantic restaurant part-time. Read a terrific piece about Nick in the Record Journal …


The family expanded their restaurant business from Meriden after becoming familiar with Niantic thanks to a cottage Martone’s parents have at Black Point. Catering is a big part of Castello; and they have an online ordering option. Stanley Martone is active in the advertising and marketing aspects, and recently participated in East Lyme Day where he handed out free appetizer cards. In addition, last autumn he initiated what he calls a “No Peeking” give-away, whereby customers received a “No-Peeking” card for a free menu item if they returned during the typically slower restaurant months of January and February. The catch – the card could only be turned in for a free give-away without having been peeked at, ahead of time. He expects to bring “no-peeking” back this coming autumn.


On the menu at Castello of Niantic is an array of traditional Italian entree’s, appetizers, grinders, New Haven -style thin crust pizza and calzones. Some items give a nod to the nearby Connecticut shore, such as Stonington Scallops – pan seared, topped with crispy bacon, asparagus, and creamy sundried tomato risotto, or Crescent Beach Calamari – lightly fried rings and  tentacles mixed with red onions, cherry peppers and served with Castello homemade marinara sauce. The restaurant offers soups, including Pasta e Fagioli and Shrimp & Corn Chowder, and salads, those focused on greens and more unusual ones like Caprese – homemade mozzarella cheese with tomatoes and roasted peppers dressed with basil, or Strawberry & Spinach or Crispy Sausage & Burrata.


One of the most popular dishes is one Martone named himself – Torre Pendente di Melanzane – meaning Leaning Tower of Eggplant.

Baked Macaroni with Bacon.

Hot Lobster Roll

Shrimp & Corn Chowder


Wow! Check out the size of this House Salad.


















And there are daily specials to try! On this day two specials were selected – Baked Macaroni & Cheese with Bacon and a Hot Lobster Roll, with a side salad substituted for French Fries. Picked from the regular menu were Shrimp & Corn Chowder with a House Salad (served very large.) Everything got great reviews. As well, Castello of Niantic offers desserts and a Kid’s Menu.




From customer to friend, Dan Nolan says he appreciates the restaurant’s commitment to charitable endeavors close to his heart.

The latter is no surprise because this is a place all about creating a welcoming family atmosphere and making new friends, said Martone. Some “thirteen to fourteen” family members help out at the restaurant. They include Nick, sister Michelle and her husband David, Martone’s dad and aunt, and his mother Rosa who decorated Castello of Niantic. Martone counts among his new friends, Dan Nolan, with whom he became acquainted first as a satisfied customer. (Now a friend, I first became acquainted with Dan Nolan as a newspaper reporter.)


“I heard about Castello from a mutual friend,” said Nolan.


He noted he was impressed too with Castello’s willingness to assist with fundraising for a charitable cause close to Nolan’s heart, Lea’s Foundation for Leukemia Research, Inc.


It is that kind of positive word-of-mouth that has been increasing the customer base and promises to make Castello one of Niantic’s destination restaurants.


Castello of Niantic, 11 East Pattagansett Road, Niantic, CT  860-451-8880

Oh Those ~ Wicked Good ~ Fenway Franks !

Posted on July 23, 2017

Wicked Good Fenway Franks


Fenway Park.

Write-up & Photos By Jacqueline Bennett


Wicked good. In New England that may be the ultimate compliment ~ underscoring the notion that sometimes a little wicked can be oh so good. That sentiment is aptly applied to Fenway Franks. Although most would agree hot dogs are not the healthiest choice ~ a little wicked ~ they surely are a ~ good ~ ole’ American favorite. Arguably, none more so than the hotdogs enjoyed at Fenway Park.


“The culinary icon of New England baseball got a fresh start in 2009, and now thanks in part to a bold, new recipe, Fenway Franks are more popular than ever,” Chris Burnett wrote for Yankee Magazine’s New England Living in May 2017.


Marking its 100th anniversary the most storied ballpark in Major League Baseball, Fenway was spruced up ~ to say the least. The ballpark underwent major renovations, improvements which have kept its sacrosanct history in tact. Concurrently, changes were made to the Fenway Franks ~ an alluring alliteration (pardon the pun) ~ and one which early on, surfaced and stuck.


According to Burnett, it was during the 2009 Fenway Park “facelift” that management sought out a new hotdog supplier, selecting Chelsea-based Kayem Foods. So important are Fenway Franks to the mystique of this ballpark that, as Burnett reported, Kayem did taste tests on the frankfurters thus perfecting a “bolder” flavor. Agreed.


Anyone who has been to Fenway and has made a “wicked good” choice knows, Fenway Franks arrive grilled, tucked inside a traditional New England-style split roll. What may be less widely known is that Fenway Franks are boiled first, resulting in both a juicy and snappy outcome, noted Burnett. Agreed.


He adds that during the World Series some 15,000 Fenway Franks were sold per game. And in 2014, more than 800,000 were consumed.


(What may also be less widely known is that they taste even better up on the Bud Deck.)


So ~while the Boys of Summer slug it out, should your travels bring you to Fenway, don’t pass up a chance to be a little ~ wicked good.


For Many First Red-Headed Miss America Was Example of American Spirit

Posted on July 2, 2017

Photo from Pinterest – Venus Ramey Murphy, the first red-headed Miss America.

By Jacqueline Bennett


The passing of Venus Ramey Murphy, the first red-headed Miss America, last month on June 17 has been written up in numerous newspapers throughout the country. For some, hers is a timely passing coming so close to the Fourth of July when Americans celebrate not only having won the American Revolution but also celebrate the American spirit.


On July 4, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was issued, thus that date is seen as the official beginning of “nationhood” for the United States, note online sources. Much is made of what constitutes the American spirit. It is a spirit rooted in the American Revolution and considered a critical component to the success of American Patriots from the Thirteen Colonies, who battled from 1775 to 1783 to gain self-determination and individual liberty from the British Crown.


Look up a definition of American spirit and a recurring theme is “independent.” However, it is a special kind of independence that defines Americans – arguably it embodies directness, cockiness and sacredly held beliefs that America is on the side of right, justice and fairness – principles deemed time and time again as worthy of the good fight.


Beyond her fiery red hair, what made Ramey Murphy stand out? Why would she be considered an example of the American spirit? Named Miss America 1944 she had singing, dancing and comedic talent that she brought to vaudeville. Reportedly, she got noticed by Hollywood but rather than accepting a movie deal, she is said to have used her notoriety to continue to help the World War II war effort selling war bonds. Her image even ended up on a B-17 Flying Fortress, reports the Lexington Herald Leader.


“She was strong in her beliefs about things …” the Leader quoted a former deputy sheriff who knew Ramey Murphy as saying.


Originally from Kentucky, Ramey Murphy had moved to Washington work for the war effort. She represented the district in the pageant at age 19. An activist, years later she worked to gain voting rights for D.C. residents. Eventually she moved back to a Kentucky farm. She was married and brought up two sons. In 2007, still sporting her trademark red hair, Ramey Murphy landed on the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” after what might be described as her firecracker spirit, led her use a .38-caliber pistol to shoot at the tires of a vehicle driven by an intruder who had come on to her property. She took aim while steadying herself with her walker. Ramey Murphy was 92 when she passed away.


Look up the American spirit. Core principles and values are cited. Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, equality, democracy, self-government, citizen participation, combat of abuse of power, freedom – freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press. All of these are mere words without individuals who turn their meaning into action. On this Fourth of July take a moment to think of people who embody the American spirit – a spirit that ideally is also cradled by decency, grace and dignity.

Dad & Niagara Falls

Posted on June 18, 2017

 Niagara Falls –  Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side.

Story & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett


Niagara Falls was one of my father’s favorite places. Although we (the seven Bennett children of John’s & Cecelia’s) were reared in Connecticut, my dad’s youth was spent in upstate New York and as often as possible he enjoyed returning to spots he had gone to as a boy.


As if it were yesterday, I can recall my first summer vacation to Niagara Falls. Dad, Mom, my sister Candy and I visited both the American and Canadian sides. Already, I travelled camera- in-hand, and am glad that was the case because I have some great memories captured on film. Others are in my heart.




Dad & Mom shown on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.



One such heartfelt memory is of Dad standing close to the falls, seemingly mesmerized by its beauty and awe. It was mid-summer, the sun was intense and the heat was sweltering which brings to mind another Dad memory. After awhile, he opened his black umbrella and held it as a shield from the rays. Mom would have no part of using an umbrella on a sunny day but she did get a laugh from Dad doing so.


Photo taken by Dad or Mom – Candy and I riding across Niagara Falls.

Among the joyful moments on this trip was Candy and I riding a tram cart across the falls. It was exciting and fun. Even at that height a light splash of water could be felt and the air was distinctively cooler than on the ground. I must add that to this day it is bewildering to realize OUR parents agreed to let us ride across Niagara Falls. I am certain Dad must have convinced Mom. Whatever it was that made this ride come about, I surely am happy for the adventure.


The Maid of the Mist is an attraction at Niagara Falls which is still going strong today. Folks who follow General Hospital are aware of the storyline about little Charlotte’s desire to ride the Maid of the Mist. A ferry type boat that navigates towards the falls – passengers can don rain gear as protection from the “mist” coming off the powerful, gushing water.


A sensory delight –the obvious visual magnificence of Niagara, being touched by its mist and a tremendous, near thundering sound of the falls. Unforgettable.  


Niagara includes three falls on the border of the United States and Canada – the American Falls, Bridal Falls and Horseshoe Falls. It was fascinating to learn about daredevils who had gone over the falls in a barrel and to see those barrels firsthand. On the left hand side of the photo of my parents, take note of a couple of the barrels.


This vacation preceded my growing into an interest in shopping. So as Mom and Candy went off to do their shopping thing, Dad and I went exploring downtown Buffalo which is where our hotel was located. Dad and I came across a soda shop with a counter. We sat down and he ordered hot fudge sundaes, one for me and one for himself. The latter was unusual because Dad rarely had a sweet tooth. In retrospect, it was probably just a dad being a dad and joining in to make the treat more special.


As was typical of Dad, he took time to converse with a guard at Niagara’s Horseshoe Falls.


What was typical of my father though, was striking up a conversation with the soda server. Dad could converse with anyone. The key I think was that he was truly interested in what they had to say. Dad’s family had owned and operated a hotel, I believe that experience combined with his nature made him at ease with people. Years later, he remained cognizant of what it took to provide guests with good service and on any given vacation enjoyed engaging in conversations with hotel staff.


Bringing this piece full circle I return to Niagara Falls for another example of Dad’s gregarious personality. There he spent time conversing with one of the guards at Horseshoe Falls. Perhaps foreshawdowing my future in journalism, I snapped a photo!


  On this Father’s Day here’s to all the great dads who create wonderful memories for their families.