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Tim Zagat Talks Local Food, Latest Guide

If you could ask anyone where to find the best restaurants in the state of Connecticut -- or anywhere in the world, for that matter -- Tim Zagat, co-founder with his wife, Nina, of the Zagat , the undisputed foodie Bible, would likely be at the top of your list. He is certainly at the top of mine. Earlier this week, he graciously granted me some time to talk about great food near and far, and the just released 2011/12 edition of Zagat for Connecticut.

“If I asked you to come up with the top ten best restaurants in New York City, you could probably do it,” Zagat challenged me, his tell-it-like-it-is attitude accented by his gravelly, almost Pacino-esque voice. I gave it my best shot, listing Jean-Georges , Le Bernardin , and Babbo as my top three.

“You’re three for three,” he told me. “My point is that, for anyone who cares about this stuff, finding out where ‘the best’ restaurants are, isn’t that hard. That’s not what we do. What we want is to ask people, ‘What is the experience you want to have? Are you looking for the best Italian place? The best place in Brooklyn? A romantic restaurant? A place to impress your client? A place to meet your friend who’s on a budget? What’s the point of the occasion?’ These are the things a good restaurant guide should tell you.”

For Zagat, the Connecticut edition has a special importance. “I grew up on Newfield Avenue in Stamford,” he said. “I went to Yale Law School . I have a real affinity for Connecticut.”

With that kind of history in the state, and such an epicurean pedigree, I had to ask: “Do you have a favorite restaurant in Connecticut?”

“Yes.”

I laughed at the silence that followed, remembering something he’d said at the beginning of our conversation: “When you’re running the election, you probably shouldn’t have a candidate in the race.”

But then, he surprised me. “Alright, I’ll tell you," he conceded. " Frank Pepe’s in New Haven. There’s nothing like it, not even in New York. If I were going to travel for a pizza, I would go there.”

You heard it here, Connecticut. Tim Zagat loves Frank Pepe’s. Look for my review soon. Because if Tim Zagat says it’s worth trying, you kind of just have to try it.

In the meantime, you can pick up your copy of Zagat’s Connecticut Restaurant Guide here .

What’s your favorite Connecticut restaurant, and how does it measure up in Zagat?

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