New Haven’s two newest eateries serve the basic needs of any New Englander in the dead of winter: to eat well and stay warm.
Come February, Pacifico will be the latest upscale seafood restaurant to open in New Haven while Moka will be added to the extensive list of specialty coffee shops around the city.
Owned by renowned New York chef Rafael Palomino, Pacifico will serve Nuevo Latino cuisine similar to the menu in his Zagat-rated New York restaurant, also called Pacifico. Palomino began to consider opening a restaurant in New Haven after the head chef at Ibiza, a Spanish restaurant on High Street, told him New Haven could benefit from a restaurant like Pacifico.
“As soon as I visited the area, I saw that New Haven had a lot of flavor,” Palomino said. “In a culinary sense, the space we chose for the restaurant had a good vibe for cooking, and in a business sense, nothing could be more ideal than being located a block away from Yale University.”
Occupying the space that used to be Tibwin’s American Bistro on the corner of College and Crown streets, Pacifico has undergone a colorful renovation that lends the space a seaside atmosphere. Although similar to the decor of his New York restaurant, the New Haven spot has an open kitchen that Palomino said will bring more fun and energy to the restaurant.
In anticipation of Pacifico’s opening night on Feb. 7, Palomino ate at a number of expensive restaurants in the area, including Zinc, Roomba and Ibiza, to get a sense of what he had to compete with. He said the unique message Pacifico will send to its customers is “humble service, good food, and great value.”
Although Pacifico will bring added competition to the pool of pricey restaurants geared primarily toward businesspeople and students on very special occasions, University Properties Director David Newton said he thinks the head chefs at these restaurants do not feel threatened but have great respect for Palomino’s culinary achievements.
“New Haven residents seem to have an insatiable appetite for good food, so there is always room for more,” Newton said. “But this raises the stakes for Palomino because people will be expecting a lot, and I assume he will deliver.”
A few blocks away, Duncan Goodall ’95 hopes there is also always room for more coffee shops in New Haven, with the recent opening of his third, Moka. With the continued popularity of Kafe on Grand Avenue and Koffee on Audobon Street. Goodall opened Moka on Orange Street last Monday.
Moka offers specialty coffee, tea and hot chocolate drinks as well as a full breakfast and lunch menu. Occupying what used to be a small office building, the addition of leather chairs, skylights, wireless internet access and an outdoor courtyard has transformed the space into an inviting lounge.
Store manager Jon Navarro said he thinks the space on Orange Street is ideal for a coffee shop because the whole area is being revitalized. Because the new shop will not be advertised until after its grand opening on Feb. 14, it has received business primarily from foot traffic in the financial district so far, Navarro said.
“We are hoping to eventually attract a wider variety of customers,” Navarro said. “It is a cool space in a fun neighborhood that I think a lot of people would enjoy.”