When John and Dorothy Papp drifted into the quiet town of Stonington, Connecticut in the bright early spring of 1979, they knew their long awaited search to settle had been answered. After four and a half years of backpacking, hitchhiking, working and living in regions of Europe, Africa and Asia, the Papps were ready to find a place to reside and extend their adventurous spirit into the framework of a restaurant. On the corner of Church and Water Street sat a building with a charming lineage; in the sixties, it had been a deli christened Ernie’s.
By 1977, Bruno and Mary Dicecco bought it and transformed the deli into The Port Side, where they served distinctive home recipes by candlelight. With the arrival of the Papps, the building became their restaurant as well as a home in August of 1979. Braving their first cold Connecticut winter, the spring of 1980 brought good friend and former employer Stanley Schwartz to Stonington. Schwartz, a fourth generation baker whose family owned the coal oven Alter’s Bakery in Tarrytown, New York, joined Papp in co-ownership of the restaurant.
Between Schwartz’s extensive knowledge of baking and Papp’s desire to establish a restaurant on basic real cooking, Noah’s Restaurant emerged. The name reflects a blend of hard work, steady faith and a new beginning drawn from the fresh waters of the Atlantic.
THE SUCCESS OF “SCRATCH COOKING”
The secret success of Noah’s Restaurant, which has blessed the residents and tourists of Stonington for the past 32 years, is simple. Their scratch menu is an idea that Papp says was sparked from his years in Europe, where it is taken for granted that good food is made with fresh, whole ingredients. Papp, who has no formal culinary training, harbored the vision to cook with basic, fresh and local ingredients. Their philosophy hasn’t changed over the decades; Papp explains that Noah’s is based on “an absolute passion for finding the best fresh ingredients whether fish, meat or produce and a commitment to scratch cooking.”
Another key to Noah’s superior menu is that the food is made on the premises, in the little kitchen that is continually a bustle of activity and sending out an array of delicious plates. The menu is impressively unique and expansive, beginning with the dawn of morning and serving deep into the night with offerings such as French toast, omelets, made to order guacamole with warm chips, New England clam chowder, Korean green onion pancakes, Stonington scallops, Mexican spice grilled salmon, steamed mussels of the moment, and sesame crusted broiled scallops, just to name a few.
While Papp explains that dining in the United States has grown in the past quarter century, Noah’s finds that “our breads, pastas, desserts, seafood and meat dishes have evolved as well.” Schwartz typically keeps a stock of around ten different flours for his diverse breads, which range from French baguette loaves to Pumpernickel Raisin to even a St. Patrick’s Day treat of Irish Soda Bread. The desserts at Noah’s are also famously homespun, and include recipes such as the Kentucky Butter Cake and the Brown Derby which were passed down from Bruno and Mary.
In addition to the restaurant, Papp and Schwartz installed a bar ten years ago which is shaped as a horse shoe to encourage a lively and friendly atmosphere. Papp notes that the bar enjoys a mix of young and old, couples and singles; all in all, the guests of Noah’s have savored “the combination of light to hearty fare and the opportunity to create a fun and delicious dining experience by mixing and matching smaller portions of interesting fish, meat, and appetizer items.” While the food is nourishing, the atmosphere bespeaks of a town built upon the sea; the tin ceiling, paddle fans, cherry booths and rotating artwork not only exude a warm and inviting air, but creates an experience for each and every customer who decides to walk in the door.
Cougar Mountain Software & NOAH’S
Noah’s is a small casual fine dining restaurant that can seat up to seventy-five guests at a time, and fluctuates between thirty to forty employees depending on the seasons. Being one of the oldest restaurants in Stonington Papp and Schwartz understand the inner workings of making a business succeed. In order to provide the absolute best scratch cooking for their customers, Papp knows that he needs to take care of the books. Since 1988, Noah’s has used Cougar Mountain Software’s general ledger, accounts payable and payroll services.
The software works so fluidly that keeping the book almost feels “like an afterthought,” Papp explains. “In general, it’s saving me more money because I don’t have to hire a bookkeeper; it’s something I can do myself.” Additionally, Papp notes that it enables him to be more efficient, and leverages his time, which is vital in the restaurant industry. “I spend maybe two or three hours on books a week. It’s extremely economical and convenient for a busy business.”
And while Noah’s is not seeking to become a chain restaurant, Papp’s extra time has enabled him to grow his skills as a photographer. His pictures adorn the walls throughout Noah’s, and have even made it to grace the walls of the Empire State Building. The potential of another future business rests in his hands, and furthermore, CMS has aided him in managing the sales of his photographs. From homemade meals to warm up even the chilliest days of New England to resting the eyes upon a beautiful panorama, Papp has experienced the heights of success.
What began as a vision of a scratch cooking restaurant was supported by a lifelong friendship with Schwartz, and together they created the best kept secret of Stonington. Their philosophy has proven to withstand years of change and hard times; it only embraces the idea that almost anything made from scratch is sure to become a legend.