NEWS&VIEWS by Jacqueline Bennett

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.

Head for Hammonasset’s East Beach – Any Beach -With A Walk In Mind

Posted on June 5, 2017

Write-Up & Photos By Jacqueline Bennett



Beach walking? Besides cute shorts remember sunscreen, lip salve, etc.

It is that time of year when thoughts turn to the shoreline, sandy beaches, rolling waves, the sweet fragrance of tanning lotion and … a quest for the perfect swimsuit. Beaches, however, are more than a place to sunbath and swim, they are terrific for walking.



This may be the summer for a mindset change. Replace the angst of finding the perfect swimsuit with picking out cute pairs of shorts, then head for Hammonasset’s East Beach with a walk in mind. Even if one is not laying out on a beach towel soaking up the rays, it is still important to wear sunscreen and lip salve for beach walking. Don’t forget sunglasses to protect those baby blues or browns. A cap is also a good idea.



Looking out over Long Island Sound.



Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Connecticut offers hiking/walking trails and a boardwalk, both are great walking venues. Nevertheless, there is appeal to the feel of sand between the toes, and the tide lightly swirling around one’s ankles while walking a stretch at East Beach – one of a number of Hammonasset beach areas that span two miles on Long Island Sound. 


Near the entrance to East Beach.




Make walking the idea behind a trip to the sandy shores and enjoy an abundance of benefits. Not limited to Hammonasset, a beach walk is a chance to breath in the salt air. It is a chance to collect a treasure trove of shells. It is a chance to trade in a hum drum treadmill and drink in some of the the most gorgeous scenery on heaven and earth. As well, beach walks are good cardiovasular workouts that do not feel like exercise.




According to

  • Beach walking requires more effort than walking on hard surfaces
  • At the same time, sand provides a natural cushion for the feet and joints
  • Slower walking as feet sink into the sand requires more effort than fast walking or jogging on hard surfaces
  • Beach walking is so relaxing that people tend to walk longer distances
  • It is an opportunity to take in natural vitamin D
  • It can be emotionally grounding – a connection to nature
  • Calorie burn is 20-50 percent more than on hard surfaces
  • It is okay to walk barefoot for a certain distance notes but proper walking gear should be used for lenghty walks


Consider a couple more pluses to beach walking. There is no need for a forecast of bright sunshine and temperatures of 80 degrees or higher, to make the trip to the shoreline worthwhile. Another plus, pull on a sweatshirt and let beach walks be more than just a summer fling – they can become late spring and early autumn adventures.


(Look for more stories about walkable beaches to come.)

Colchester, CT 2017 Memorial Day Parade

Posted on May 29, 2017



By Jacqueline Bennett Write-Up & Photos



The Colchester, Connecticut 2017 Memorial Day Parade was dedicated to the town’s former Army National Guard Unit, Company B 143rd Heavy Tank Battalion. Held Sunday, May 28, the parade and accompanying ceremonies were among many across the state and throughout the country. Memorial Day honors those who died in service to the nation.

Company B 143rd Heavy Tank Battalion was deployed out of Colchester to Germany during the Korean War, according to the Norwich Bulletin. Parade Marshal Ray Ryan is said to be the last surviving member of that battalion.












Grand Marshal Ray Ryan, 88, the last surviving member of Co.B 143rd Heavy Tank Battalion, which was deployed out of Colchester, CT to Germany to serve during the Korean War.



Colchester Community Theatre Float









The parade stepped off at 12:30 p.m. proceeding down Norwich Ave. rounding the corner onto Main Street and concluding at the town green.

Bacon Academy

Colchester Continentals Fife & Drum Corps













Thank you for your service… 




Saying Good-Bye To K-9 Iko

Posted on May 24, 2017

Saying good-bye to K-9 Iko – Windsor, Connecticut Police Officer Steve Vesco is surrounded by other Windsor emergency responders May 22, 2017.

Story by Jacqueline Bennett  Photos courtesy of Ofr. Steven Vesco

Ofr. Steve Vesco and K-9 Iko.


Don’t Grieve for Me I served you well. I loved you more than you could ever tell. I am now an angel in blue. I laid my life on the line for you. I wore my badge with honor everyday to keep citizens safe and out of harm’s way. So when you see a badge worn with pride, remember their comrades and friends that have died. – author unknown



Officer Steven Vesco was joined Monday morning, May 22, by fellow first responders in Windsor, Connecticut to say good-bye to retired police K-9 Iko. It was just a few months ago that Vesco was optimistic about Iko’s prognosis for recovery following surgery for a herniated disc, and anticipated the 9-year-old German Shepard would live at least two more years. Having served Windsor together as partners for eight years making arrests, drug seizures and community appearances, Vesco wanted a happy, peaceful retirement for Iko.


Things took an unexpected turn this past weekend.


“He was a fighter. I knew he would keep fighting. But for who? Me. I couldn’t be that selfish,” Vesco said Tuesday.


Before departing on an annual fishing trip with his father and a couple of buddies last Thursday, Vesco had boarded Iko at the New England Veterinary Center (NEVC) in Windsor, not wanting his wife Heidi, step-son Sage and daughter Sadie to have to care for Iko while he was away. Vesco felt confident the canine would be well tended at the NEVC, which has veterinary services immediately available.


Before word came about Iko, Ofr. Vesco enjoying an annual fishing trip with his dad and friends.


Two days into the fishing trip word came that Iko was having a hard time standing on his own. Vesco cut the fishing trip short and returned. Even with Vesco present, Iko could not stand. Another surgery was a consideration. Iko had been diagnosed too with a urinary tract infection and needed to be moved to intensive care.


On Sunday Vesco attended his niece’s graduation from Quinnipiac University but left early from a family gathering held afterward to think the situation over. His wife and children stayed, then on the drive back home they stopped to see Iko at the hospital.


“When Heidi got home she said – ‘you have to decide,’ ” recalled Vesco.



On Sunday night, Vesco returned to the NEVC. There he made the very difficult decision to have Iko put down.


“I spent time with Iko, petting him,” Vesco said, “When I looked into his eyes – I knew. I left his badge with him.”


Iko was never quite the same after the two were in their cruiser and hit by a drunk driver three years ago, said Vesco.


It was in 2008 that Vesco had to say farewell to his first K-9 partner, his beloved Jag passed away not long after retirement. On the day of Jag’s passing, he was visiting the Windsor Public Safety Complex and on-duty officers formed an honor guard when the K-9 was carried out of the building. However, Vesco went alone with Jag to the veterinarian.


“There I was with Jag, all alone in my uniform. I knew I couldn’t go through that again,” Vesco said.


So, on Monday morning he called over to the police station to let them know Iko was going to be put down. With gratitude apparent in his voice, Vesco added, “Fifteen emergency responders came.”



Iko was brought outside NEVC on a stretcher. Among those joining Vesco Monday morning to say good-bye was Sgt. John Simon, a fellow K-9 handler who lost his longtime K-9 partner Kane in 2015. Kane was 16-years-old and had been retired for three years when Simon had to have him euthanized. It remains uncertain whether or not a memorial service will be held for Iko. There had been discussion of holding one for Kane which has not yet materialized, so Vesco said, any memorial would be a remembrance of both K-9 Kane and K-9 Iko. He said it may be left at the good-byes already exchanged.



New England Veterinary Center.



Vesco emphasized he is extremely appreciative for the calls of condolences that have been coming in, and added he simply cannot put into words how much it meant to have the big turnout from the Windsor community for a fundraiser in February 2017 held to pay towards the medical costs that had accrued for Iko. It was earlier in February that Iko was retired. As well, Vesco expressed appreciation to his bosses at the Windsor Police Department for their understanding. He said his family and friends have been supportive. Having gone through such a loss with him not once, but now twice – it has been an especially emotional experience for his wife, step-son and daughter, noted Vesco.


Last but far from least, Vesco praised the medical staff at NEVC for the care they gave Iko, their professionalism and compassion.