Stephen Fries: Chili adds some spice to life

FOUND: Felecia Rodnick of Groton wrote, “ I work in New Haven but live in Groton and commute daily and have enjoyed a few favorite area foods and would love these recipes: Zoi’s chili and Greater Mt. Carmel Pentacostal Church in Hamden, corn bread served at the church dinners.

Felecia, with the cold weather, it is perfect timing for the chili recipe you requested. So, get out a big pot because Pete Maniatis, owner of Zoi’s, that recently moved to 63 Grove St., New Haven, 203-777-6736 was delighted to share the recipe. I will still attempt to sleuth out your other recipe request.

Pete said the restaurant is named after his wife, Zoi. The Greek origin of the name is “life.” He left the banking world in 2003 and started a new work life — Zoi’s — and home life. It has become a community hangout and refuge from the daily grind, and a place to catch up with friends. This New Haven treasure is known for their 27 specialty sandwiches, heart-healthful salads, vegetarian and gluten-free offerings and catering. Always looking to keep the restaurant fresh, Pete began a “lite bite” small plate daily creation and soon to be introduced, prepared meals to- go for the busy professional.

Walking into the new location for the first time made me think of a column I wrote in 2009 featuring a reader’s recipe request for their cheese chicken pasta (find it at It was inspiring to see how much Zoi’s has grown. It seems as if it was only yesterday that I walked into the small eatery then located on Orange Street, with just a few tables. If you haven’t been to Zoi’s, check it out. I have a feeling it will become one of your favorites for breakfast and lunch.

In a large stock pot heat oil and sauté onions and peppers until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ground beef. Cook until beef is browned and then add ketchup, BBQ sauce and tomatoes. Stir and let cook for ½ hour on low-medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add salt, pepper, Cajun spice, bay leaves, cumin and cinnamon. Stir well, add beans and continue to cook over low-medium heat for ½ hour, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasoning as desired. Remove bay leaves before serving. Serves 6-8.

Optional: after placing in serving bowls, top with scallions, cheddar cheese and sour cream.

Patricia Ludington of North Haven wrote, “I would like to request a recipe from LoMonaco’s Restaurant in Branford. We were t a communion dinner for my granddaughter Sofia. Five of us ordered Gamberoni Monachina—shrimp with mushrooms, wine, topped with mozzarella. All five of us thought it was delicious. We would love to have this recipe. We love your column and look forward to it every Wednesday in the New Haven Register.”

Send us your requests: Which restaurant recipes or other recipes would you like to have? Which food products are you having difficulty finding? Do you have cooking questions? Send them to me.