Joseph’s celebrates decade well-done –

Makayla Silva, Correspondent
In a city seemingly unable to escape its post-industrial hardscrabble image, Joseph’s Steakhouse in Bridgeport has been thriving by serving its juicy Porterhouse steaks, signature thick-cut bacon appetizers and “Joseph’s classic martinis” for 10 years this month.

The upscale steakhouse has received several awards for its selection of steaks, with Connecticut Magazine ranking the Porterhouse-for-Two as No. 14 out of the 50 foods in the state you must eat before you die.

Owner Joseph Kustra, who has worked in many fine establishments, including Peter Luger Steakhouse in Brooklyn, N.Y., opened his restaurant in December 2000 at 360 Fairfield Ave., in the Park City. He recently signed a 20-year lease extension.

“I signed it because I believe in Bridgeport,” he said. “I feel tomorrow will be brighter for Bridgeport and for the whole country.”

But when he started out, there were naysayers.

“Everybody was asking me why should I have a first-class steakhouse in a town that’s sort of looked down on and is dying,” he said. “Because I’m a constant lover of people who are from the other side of the tracks, I wanted to prove that a first-class steakhouse could be successful in Bridgeport.”

Bridgeport still gets verbally attacked a decade later, despite Joseph’s success and the city’s improvements.

“Joseph spares no expense on anything, we dry age on the premises — approximately 28 days give or take a day,” said Michael Musto, Joseph’s general manager. “When you buy the best, you age it properly, you trim it properly and you cook it properly–I’d put our steak up against anyone’s in the country.”

Musto said in addition to dishing up their signature steaks, most diners order the bacon appetizer, which is hand-cut and grilled extra-thick, at Joseph’s. The restaurant uses about 120 to 140 six-pound slabs of bacon in a month, he said.

Kustra plans to build a beer garden in the spring “for anyone wishing to have a cigar or a brandy before or after diner” during the warmer months.

After working in several French restaurants in New York, Kustra said it was the simplicity of the steakhouse that attracted him.

“The casual service, nothing phony or formal– it’s just the personal touch that attracted me to the steakhouse,” he said.