Italian food, shoes join Broadway shops

Broadway area shoppers will have two new locations to visit this spring with the openings of Yale University Properties businesses La Piazza, an Italian bistro, and Paul Richard’s, a shoe retailer.

After three months of construction, La Piazza, located across from the Yale Bookstore at 65 Broadway, opened its doors to the public last week. A grand opening ceremony will be held on March 26 at noon, with Mayor John DeStefano Jr. scheduled to attend. Paul Richard’s signed a lease with University Properties on March 12 and will occupy the old Barrie Ltd. Store at 268 York St.

University Properties Director David Newton said the openings of La Piazza and Paul Richard’s will complete the commercial offerings of Broadway.

“Right now I think we have a really great mix of retail — a range of fashion, cosmetics, food, books, and clothes,” Newton said. “Broadway is booming.”

Newton said La Piazza would provide a new dimension to the Broadway area, by serving reasonably priced dishes within a more upscale atmosphere. The bulk of the menu’s entrees are under ten dollars.

“It’s a place that you and your friends might go, where you can walk out having spent less than $15 and have a really good experience,” Newton said.

The restaurant will offer a variety of Italian appetizers and entrees including pastas, seafood, and veal, as well as omelettes, panini sandwiches, and burgers.

La Piazza owner Gideon Ghebreyesus, who also owns the Ethiopian restaurant Caffe Adulis, said the restaurant is unique to the area for its “reasonable price position” and “clean, consistent atmosphere.”

“It’s going to add value to what exists here. We are here because there is a need and a demand for this type of setting in that space,” he said.

Ghebreyesus said he has additional plans to create an outdoor seating area later in the spring. Currently the restaurant seats about 150 people.

Ghebreysus said he has no plans to offer flex dollars for students at the moment, but will consider the possibility in the future.

The restaurant’s original name, Bistro La Mensa, was changed to La Piazza because of copyright issues with Mensa, an international intellectual society. Ghebreyesus said La Piazza, which means “square” in Italian, was an appropriate name because Broadway is a common meeting place for New Haven residents.

The second Broadway newcomer, Paul Richard’s, plans on opening its doors in the first week of April. In addition to men’s and women’s dress and casual footwear, Paul Richard’s will also sell leather accessories such as wallets and briefcases, and possibly sportswear in the future. Unlike nearby retailer Thom Brown as well as next-door neighbor Sound Runner, Paul Richard’s will specialize in brands such as Sperry, Clark’s, Birkenstock, and the store’s own private label.

Owners Paul Cuticello, a former manager at Barrie Ltd., and Jim Fitzgerald, manager at J. Press, have both been involved in Broadway district retail for over 20 years. Fitzgerald will continue to work as the manager at J. Press, while Cuticello will manage Paul Richard’s. Cuticello and Fitzgerald combined their first and middle names, respectively, to create the name of the new store.

Cuticello said the closing of Barrie Ltd. last fall left a void in the area because many people depended on purchasing quality footwear from that location. He said the decision to open another shoe store on the corner of York and Broadway was a “no-brainer.”

“We wanted to carry things people couldn’t get anywhere else,” Cuticello said.

Paul Richard’s will be the sixth independent University Properties merchant to open in the Broadway district in the past two years.

Paul Richard’s will be open from 10 to 9 Monday through Saturday, and from 12 to 5 on Sundays. La Piazza will be open seven days a week until midnight for lunch and dinner and will also serve brunch on the weekends.

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