Authentic Italian cuisine, indigenous to the small towns where owners Dino and Maria Sforza grew up, have attracted a loyal following to their restaurant since its opening five years ago. However, whenever Via Sforza Trattoria hosts its popular opera nights, featuring Fairfield County's own lyric spinto soprano Jodi Keogan and guest artist Mark Watson, the restaurant is filled to capacity.

On Monday, Dec. 6, Via Sforza Trattoria invites the community to enjoy an evening filled with scrumptious regional Italian dishes and a sample of classic Neapolitan opera. There will be two seatings for dinner at 6 and 8 p.m. Reservations are strongly suggested.

"It's a wonderful night," said daughter Anna Sforza. A family-owned and operated business, Dino is the restaurant's head chef and his son Joseph is its general manager. Both Anna and Maria assist daily wherever needed, they said.

For more than 10 years, Keogan has performed at the Post Road restaurant, which was formerly named Cantina Sforza because the family was also, at the time, operating an Italian restaurant in Norwalk called Via Sforza. When the lease wasn't renewed, they merged the two businesses and changed the name of its Westport location.

"We have a very loyal clientele that follow us," Maria said.

People especially like listening to Keogan's powerful arias as they leisurely dine on meals selected from Via Sforza's comprehensive menu. Anna explained that there is not a pre-fixe menu on opera night and no additional entertainment fees are charged. "It's just a regular night for us, but our guests get the opportunity to hear some great music," she said.

The idea for opera night at Via Sforza originated more than a decade ago when one of the restaurant's waiters, Michael DeVito, an aspiring opera singer, asked if he could perform at the upscale eatery. He brought in Keogan as a partner for duets and solo work.

Although they initially offered opera nights six times a year, Maria said that the recession forced them to cut back to three or four performances. However, Dino confirmed that starting in 2011, Via Sforza will return to its original schedule.

Although Keogan primarily sings locally at private functions and benefits, she has won critical acclaim for tackling challenging operatic leading roles produced at Italian opera houses. Chuckling, Keogan said that if she's not at her Trumbull home, she is definitely in Italy. Some of the roles in her extensive repertoire include Adina in Donizetti's "L'Elisir d'Amore," Donna Anna in "Don Giovanni" and Pamina in "The Magic Flute." Most recently, Keogan played the role of Mimi in Puccini's "La Boheme." In fact, she will sing selections from well-known operas, "La Boheme" and "Madame Butterfly" Monday night.

"We are both classically trained, however Mark and I are what's called `crossover' musicians," Keogan explained. "We also sing musical theater songs and at Via Sforza we will most likely also sing selections from `Phantom of the Opera' and `A West Side Story' medley."

In keeping with the festive season, Keogan also promised to include favorite holiday tunes on their playlist. "What I love about singing at Via Sforza is that we can stroll among the people as they eat dinner and really sing to them," Keogan said. "You can't do that when you're on a stage."

Keogan performed at last year's First Night Celebration in Westport. Accompanied by a three-piece orchestra, she and Watson are also scheduled to sing at the Westport Senior Center on March 13.

Via Sforza Trattoria is located at 243 Post Road West. For more information about opera night, call 203-454-4444.