When two friends waxed rhapsodic about the same tiny Indian restaurant, that was enough to lure me to Swagat, just over the town line in West Haven.
John Nanneti grew up in India and studied culinary arts in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. At the time there was little chance to work in Indian restaurants, so he learned Italian and French and got work in cruise ship kitchens.
In 1992, while working for the cruise lines, Nanneti’s career in cooking took an unplanned 10-year-hiatus when he discovered he was allergic to seafood. He came to the U.S. and found work in gas stations, liquor stores and the like, every now and then testing himself to see if his allergy had abated.
Finally in 2001 he could touch shrimp with no ill effects. Nanneti put his culinary career back on the front burner and the next year he opened Swagat, which in Hindi means “Welcome.” It’s a tiny restaurant in a short strip of shops just off the Boston Post Road in West Haven, near the University of New Haven.
Swagat’s lunch location is decidedly more airy than the one-room in Allingtown for dinner. Nanneti brings his lunch truck to Cedar Street in New Haven to join the small army of ethnically diverse food trucks that are a destination for lunchtime diners of every stripe. The lunch-truck menu offers fewer choices than the restaurant’s dinner menu. If you’re looking for his specialty – goat curry – you’ll find that only at Allingtown. Another treasure at the sit-down location is a vegetable that’s under-appreciated by many but prized by epicures: okra, here cooked with onions in a dish called Bhindi Do Piaza.
Whether enjoying your food in the cozy Allingtown restaurant or en plein air in New Haven, Nanneti wants you to feel “Welcome/Swagat” when you enjoy his food.
Restaurant Website: http://www.swagatct.com/
• The Detes: 8 Cellini Place, West Haven • 203-931-0108 • Open Monday – Saturday, 5 – 9 p.m. Lunch truck hours are 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at Cedar Street near York Street in New Haven.
• Price Range: Appetizers run $4-8, main courses are $10-12.
• Style of Food: Traditional Indian
• Most Popular Dishes: Goat Curry, Chicken Biryani, Chicken 65.
• Drinks: BYOB
• Seating: The restaurant is tiny, the decor is, well, spare, but hey, you’re not there for the ambience.
• Lunchtime/Dinnertime: Catch the lunch truck where Cedar and York meet at Yale/New Haven Hospital in New Haven. Go to Allingtown, West Haven, for dinner at the restaurant.