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Grand Burger gives the hamburger a new role
Beyond the bun: Chef at Stamford's Grand Burger goes gourmet with specialty ingredients, menu
Stamford Advocate
Richard Lee, Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Nick Billelo, center, flanked by Steve Montello, left, and Robbie Cooper, co-owners of Grand Burger, along with Billy Calyanus, is the genius behind the burgers he creates at the Bank Street restaurant in Stamford, Conn. Photo: Rich Lee / Stamford Advocate

There's lot more to the humble hamburger than you might think. The owners of the new Grand Burger on Bank Street in Stamford believe that Nick Bilello, their new executive chef, can turn even a simple burger into a masterpiece.

Steve Montello, Robbie Cooper and Billy Calyanus, owners of the Grand Restaurant and Bar, joined forces with Bilello, creator of South Norwalk's Burger Bar & Bistro, to transform their restaurant into Grand Burger at 15 Bank St.

Bilello, whom the men also named as executive chef at their other Stamford location, the Saltwater Grill, opened the Burger Bar in 2006, and it earned him consumer raves and best burger accolades from the local media and foodie blogs. He also ran Tenero, an Italian trattoria that was Burger Bar's predecessor.

Montello, Cooper and Calyanus were impressed by Bilello's success, and decided to make a similar change on Bank Street.

"Burgers are becoming very popular again," Montello said, crediting Bilello with educating him and his partners about selecting the right beef and crafting it into a mouth-watering entree. "He took us to Mister Meat in New Jersey. That was our field trip into the hamburger world."

While the restaurant bills itself as a specialty burger destination, its menu offers a variety of selections like Wellfleet oysters, barbequed chicken, flat iron grilled steak and quesadillas.

"We don't want to be known as a hamburger joint," Montello said.

But under Bilello's guidance, that shouldn't be a problem.

"I cater to a lot of different senses. It's a lot of fun. It's not often that you can go out and have a burger with peanut butter and bacon on it," Bilello said.

The 7-ounce grass-fed beef and turkey burgers are served on sesame rolls or in a lettuce wrap. Creative concoctions include: the "Slow & Low Burger" with robiola cheese, braised short ribs, and barbeque sauce; "Italian Job" with parmesan frico, tomato jam and arugula mayonnaise; and a "Brunch Burger" with a fried egg, ham and truffle hollandaise.

"It's been great. Our customers come in and try it and love it," Cooper said.
The restaurant has joined a trend that is spreading across the country, said Nicole Griffin, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association.

"Now you can get a gourmet burger exactly as you want. I've seen lobster burgers and shrimp burgers," she said. "I think it's going to stick around. Hamburgers are as American as apple pie."

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