WATERTOWN — The Sunset Grille in Watertown has several advantages: It is a two-story restaurant overlooking Merriman Pond, perfectly sited to enjoy a summer sundown, and an 18-hole golf club ranked third highest in Connecticut, both on a beautifully landscaped 236-acre park.
Owner Stephen Martino took over the restaurant in 2016, formerly known as the popular Cavallo’s Crestbrook Inn for 20 years. “My partner Joe Romano and I have the greatest respect for Mike Cavallo, who was much loved by the local community for many years,” Martino said. “We wanted to build on what he had created, and we focused on bringing it to the next level. For the main dining room, we built a new, larger bar, since patrons enjoy sitting at the bar, and a floor-to-ceiling stone surround for the existing fireplace, creating a rustic vibe. We now have a tiki bar on the lower level which will soon be up and running.”
Both Martino and Romano were born and raised in Watertown and shared stories about Crestbrook Park and Golf Club. Originally a 9-hole private golf club, it was purchased by the town of Watertown in 1975, which added a second 9 holes in 1980 for the now public golf course. The entire facility is self-supporting and is currently operated as an enterprise fund at no expense to the town.
Martino said, “I remember my mother dropping us kids off during summer break. We would play nine holes of golf, then spend the rest of the day playing in the huge swimming pool just behind the restaurant.” Since he and Romano both had a personal connection, they decided to team up to “polish the jewel” of Crestbrook Park and the restaurant there. They were joined by Fran Phelan, who is in charge of the kitchen.
“We are also focusing on outdoor music,” Martino said. “People can bring a blanket and sit on the expansive lawn. Friday nights feature acoustic music from 5 to 9 p.m., and Saturday nights feature a live band from 5 to 9 p.m.”
The Sunset Grille formerly had an 85-seat dining room (now reduced in number to accommodate social distancing) and the wraparound outdoor deck was recently upgraded with a wooden staircase connecting both levels. There is also an intimate 55-seat private dining room on the lower level with an outdoor patio. Martino said the weather has been so accommodating that most patrons prefer to sit outdoors, even those who made reservations for inside dining. There is a large tent for those who prefer some shade, and several tables with umbrellas and picnic tables can be easily reconfigured for groups.
The gazebo on the lawn has been the venue for many weddings over the years, and there are four planned for this summer. Recent events include a bereavement gathering and a bridal shower. Martino said the entire facility can be booked for a party with sufficient notice.
The menu features Italian inspired choices and several fresh seafood specialties. As an appetizer, the house-made meatballs with spicy tomato sauce and house-made ricotta and parmesan cheeses are a favorite, Martino said, and the most popular cocktail is the Strawberry Sunset, a mix of strawberry purée, raspberry vodka, Malibu Rum, and splash of pineapple and lemonade. Another unusual and well-liked appetizer is the loaded shrimp baked potato made with broccoli, cheddar cheese, sour cream and shrimp. Entrées include boneless braised short ribs with mushroom risotto, chicken Française, and pan-seared scallops or salmon served with jasmine rice and vegetables. Prices are rated at $$-$$$ by Yelp, Trip Advisor, MapQuest and Facebook.
Patrons may call ahead at 860-417-6688 for takeout or to make a reservation and visit www.sunsetatcrestbrook.com for menus. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and dinner from 4 to 8 p.m. Crestbrook Park with The Sunset Grille is located at 834 Northfield Road in Watertown.