Limo owners, state take precautions

As printed in The Norwalk Hour, CT Post by By Michael P. Mayko

Santo Silvestro says he doesn’t believe in leaving anything to chance.

Every day, Silvestro said, he or his fleet manager inspect the vehicles that have gone out from his Hoyt Livery or Crosstown Limousine, both in New Canaan.

“I’m here seven days a week,” Silvestro said last week. “I’m out looking for dents, checking the tire pressure. … If I see a something wrong, even it it’s a tail light out, that car does not go out until it’s repaired.”

The Silvestro family, which has owned Hoyt Livery, also known as Hoyt Limousine, since 1987, maintain their own body and repair shops — New Canaan Auto Body and New Canaan Auto Repair, on the same Cross Street site.

Photos by Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media

The deadly crash of a re-manufactured Ford Excursion — a so-called “super stretch” limo — in upstate New York that killed 20 on Oct. 6 has sounded warning bells in the heads of brides and grooms scheduling parties and receptions, parents preparing for proms and others, including state. Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, who sits on the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee.

“They have to pass (inspection) before they can do business.”
Kevin Nursick, Department of Transportation spokesman

“That crash has left questions about the vehicle and the driver,” Boucher said. “We need to determine if our laws are well-written as to the qualifications of drivers and the inspection of these vehicles.”

In Connecticut, limousine services using vehicles carrying fewer than eight passengers are only required to be inspected once by the Department of Transportation, and that’s when the company is applying for a license. “If they don’t pass inspection, they are not licensed,” said Kevin Nursick, a DOT spokesman. “They have to pass before they can do business.”

He said the majority of vehicles inspected are “sedans and SUVs, not stretch limousines.” And he added vehicles operating under services like Uber and Lyft are not inspected at all.

That’s another problem Boucher said the Transportation Committee needs to look at.

Stretched out

Vehicles carrying eight or more passengers in the state must be inspected every six months by Connecticut’s Department of Motor Vehicles. “Stretch Limousines operating in Connecticut can only do so if they are specifically certified by the factory manufacturer to be altered in such a way, and only if the modifications are or were performed by a factory-approved establishment,” Nursick explained. “These vehicles would also be inspected by CTDOT prior to service. Vehicles not meeting this criteria are immediately rejected, and cannot be registered for livery use in Connecticut.”

But DOT’s requirements only extend to vehicles garaged in Connecticut and transporting passengers within the state. Additional requirements for commercial motor vehicles traveling into and out of Connecticut fall under the regulations of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The Silvestros said they never operated with any super stretch limos. They sold their two conventional stretch limousines two years ago because there wasn’t much call for them.

“A reputable company really needs to be careful,” Silvestro said. “Any time you take a car, chop it in half and add a piece — how safe can it be?

Federal and state investigators in New York are attempting to determine the cause of the catastrophic upstate crash. Published reports claim the 2001 Ford Excursion, modified into a stretch limousine, ran a stop sign, struck a parked sport utility vehicle and rolled down an embankment. The 17 passengers and driver were killed, along with two pedestrians.

Safety measures

Nationally, there were 28 fatal crashes — and 39 total deaths — involving large limousines from 2008 through 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That compares with nearly 318,000 fatal crashes and nearly 347,000 total fatalities in crashes involving all types of vehicles during that period. Of the 39 fatalities, 24 were occupants of large limousines, while 15 of those killed were pedestrians or in other involved vehicles.

The administration, through its Fatality Analysis Reporting System, defines large limousines as as automobiles with more than four side doors or a stretched chassis with sections added within its wheelbase to increase length and passenger/cargo carrying capacity.

The term does not refer to regular-sized automobiles that might be chauffeuring passengers like a town car. It also does not refer to utility-truck-based limousines, such as the Cadillac Escalade, Hummer, or Suburban limousines.Silvestro said each of his cars is equipped with a hammer to break glass and seat belt cutters. His vehicles also have fire extinguishers and flares. Newer vans have push-out glass on the sides and the roof, Silvestro said. “Our drivers have been trained in safety procedures,” he said.

“I personally hire them. They have been with us anywhere from five to 23 years. He said his insurance company requires periodic safety inspections of his vehicles, more than the state requires. “If I’m told by a driver that something doesn’t sound right in a vehicle, its coming off the road,” said Linda Silvestro, of their family owned businesses. “We’re in the business of transporting people — that’s precious cargo; I want to be able to put my head on the pillow every night and go to sleep knowing we did the right thing.”

“Any time you take a car, chop it in half and add a piece — how safe can it be?”
Santo Silvestro, owner, Hoyt Livery, New Canaan

Best Restaurants in Connecticut 2016

Connecticut is known as “The Land of Steady Habits,” and one of those habits is going out to eat! But with all of the great restaurants in the “Constitution State,” which ones are considered the best? To find out, we turn again to’s Best Restaurants in Connecticut 2016: Readers’ Choice Awards.

To arrive at this year’s winners, reached out to their readers; the people out there frequenting their favorites and trying new places. Without further ado, here are 2016’s best restaurants and runner-ups in Connecticut.

Best Overall Restaurant

Winner: Goodfellas Restaurant, New Haven
Runner-Up: Sal e Pepe, Newtown

Best New Restaurant

Winner:  Roots Down, Woodstock
Runner-Up: Frank’s Gourmet Grille, Mystic

Best American Restaurant

Winner: The Spinning Wheel, Redding
Runner-Up: Match, South Norwalk

Best French Restaurant

Winner: Union League Café, New Haven
Runner-Up: Ondine, Danbury

Best Italian Restaurant

Winner: Sal e Pepe, Newtown
Runner-Up: Goodfellas Restaurant, New Haven

Best Asian Restaurant

Winner: Toro, Newtown
Runners-Up: Mecha Noodle Bar, Fairfield; Kawa Ni, Westport

Best Mexican Restaurant

Winner: Puerto Vallarta, Middletown
Runner-Up: Cuckoo’s Nest, Old Saybrook

Best Latin American Restaurant

Winner: Valencia Luncheria, Norwalk
Runner-Up: Mezon Tapas Bar, Danbury

Best Indian Restaurant

Winner: Thali, New Haven
Runner-Up: Coromandel, Darien

Best Middle Eastern Restaurant

Winner: The Pita Spot, Mystic
Runner-Up: Mamoun’s, New Haven

Best Seafood Restaurant

Winner: Westbrook Lobster, Clinton
Runner-Up: Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale, Westbrook

Best Sushi Restaurant

Winner: Kotobuki, Stamford
Runner-Up: Toro, Newtown

Best Vegetarian Restaurant

Winner: Bloodroot, Bridgeport
Runner-Up: Claire’s Corner Copia, New Haven

Best Pub Grub Restaurant

Winner: Little Pub, Ridgefield
Runner-Up: Chip’s Pub, Clinton

Best Road Food Restaurant

Winner: Super Duper Weenie, Fairfield
Runner-Up: Denmo’s, Southbury

Best Food Truck Restaurant

Winner: The Brunch Box, Stamford
Runner-Up: The Caseus Cheese Truck, New Haven

Best Bistro Restaurant

Winner: Bistro Mediterranean & Tapas Bar, Westbrook
Runner-Up: Bar Bouchée, Madison

Best Steak Restaurant

Winner: La Foresta, Killingworth
Runner-Up: Washington Prime, Norwalk

Best Prime Rib Restaurant

Winner: The White Horse Pub, Washington
Runner-Up: La Foresta, Killingworth

Best Gourmet Burgers Restaurant

Winner: Plan B Burger Bar, Glastonbury
Runner-Up: The White Horse Pub, Washington

Best Barbecue Restaurant

Winner: Chester’s Barbecue, Groton
Runner-Up: The Bayou Smokehouse, Groton

Best Romantic Restaurant

Winner: Goodfellas Restaurant, New Haven
Runner-Up: La Foresta, Killingworth

Best Family Dining Restaurant

Winner: Roberto’s Ristorante, Monroe
Runner-Up: La Foresta, Killingworth

Best Breakfast Restaurant

Winner: Chip’s Family Restaurant, Orange
Runner-Up: Cristy’s Madison, Madison

Best Brunch Restaurant

Winner: The White Horse Pub, Washington
Runner-Up:  Roots Down, Woodstock

Best Lunch Restaurant

Winner: La Foresta, Killingworth
Runner-Up:  Sal e Pepe, Newtown

Best Deli

Winner: Rein’s Deli, Vernon
Runner-Up: Butcher’s Best Country Market, Newtown

Best Appetizers Restaurant

Winner: Tazza Osteria & Bar, Fairfield
Runner-Up: La Foresta, Killingworth

Best Desserts Restaurant

Winner: La Foresta, Killingworth
Runner-Up:  Sal e Pepe, Newtown

Best Outdoor Dining Restaurant

Winner: The White Horse Pub, Washington
Runner-Up: S & P Oyster Club, Mystic

Best Service Restaurant

Winner: Goodfellas Restaurant, New Haven
Runner-Up: Tazza Osteria & Bar, Fairfield

Best Cocktails Restaurant

Winner: La Foresta, Killingworth
Runner-Up: Tazza Osteria & Bar, Fairfield

Best Wine Selection Restaurant

Winner: La Foresta, Killingworth
Runner-Up: Tazza Osteria & Bar, Fairfield

Best Hotel Dining Restaurant

Winner: Harbour House, Mystic
Runner-Up: Artisan, Southport

Best Value Restaurant

Winner: La Foresta, Killingworth
Runner-Up: The White Horse Pub, Washington

Best Hidden Gem Restaurant

Winner:  Roots Down, Woodstock
Runner-Up: The Sitting Duck Tavern, Stratford