ROIA courts Yalies

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Photo by Brianna Loo.

Thanks to a new partnership between downtown French and Italian restaurant ROIA and the Yale Epicurean, Yalies could find a new way to celebrate the start of the weekend.

Last Thursday, ROIA officially launched a partnership with the Yale Epicurean, an undergraduate magazine dedicated to food, to offer a weekly prix fixe secret menu designed specifically for Yalies. ROIA first opened at 261 College St. in late March 2013, but has not attracted a large number of undergraduates in its first 11 months, according to owner and chef Avi Szapiro, so he reached out to Lucas Sin ’15, the co-editor-in-chief of the Epicurean, in hopes of finding a menu that would appeal to students.

If Yale students provide their student ID any Thursday, they receive a special three-course prix fixe menu at the reduced price of $35 per person. Epicurean co-Editor-in-Chief Earl Lee ’15 said the magazine partnered with the restaurant to promote fine dining and support the local restaurant industry.

“The idea is to try to get New Haven restaurants more involved with the Yale community and get more Yalies exposed to fine dining and better cuisine,” Lee said.

Lee said Yale Dining connected the Epicurean with ROIA’s owner. He added that ROIA is the first restaurant the magazine has partnered with, but that they are interested in partnering with more restaurants in the future.

The Epicurean also co-hosted a pasta-making workshop with ROIA two weeks ago to heighten students’ awareness of the restaurant. Of 20 students interviewed, only four had heard of ROIA.

“I think the events will help attract more Yale students, because not many people have heard of ROIA before this,” Lee said. “It’s not one of those really staple restaurants in New Haven, like Barcelona or Union League — it’s relatively new.”

Szapiro, a native of Bogota, Colombia, said he was attracted to New Haven because of the “good sense of community,” adding that he believes a “renaissance” is taking place in the Elm City.

While he said he has appreciated receiving guidance from other restaurateurs while he was starting his business, specifically mentioning Caseus owner Jason Sobocinski, Miya’s Sushi owner Bun Lai and New Haven farms, he has not been able to attract Yale students. The owner hopes to create a relaxed, comfortable environment that will appeal to college students. The waiters sport jeans and he chose not to cover the tables with tablecloths to “keep it casual” at the restaurant, Szapiro said.

“Avi likes to describe ROIA as fun, light, casual dining,” ROIA Consultant Danyel Aversenti said.

“Some restaurants offer students a 10 percent discount, but we didn’t think that would create long-lasting customers,” Szapiro said. “We did not think that many businesses were working closely with Yale, and we think that we can offer students certain items they can’t find in the dining hall.”
Thai Pan Asian, Barnes and Noble Café and Zaroka are among the restaurants offering 10 percent student discounts.

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