Batali proposes new restaurant

Celebrity Chef Mario Batali could open his first restaurant in New Haven, if the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals approves a new restaurant’s plans.

Tarry Lodge Enoteca and Pizzeria, Batali’s “family-friendly pizzeria,” hopes to move into the empty building at 278 Park St. The property is owned by the St. Thomas More Corporation, but Yale has a long-term lease. Executive Chef Andy Nusser first approached Yale in November about renting the space, which was approved for a 54-seat restaurant back in 2005, but has stood unoccupied since then.

Managing Partner Nancy Selzer said that Tarry Lodge was attracted to the Elm City for a number of reasons.

“First, the space is great — it’s essentially brand new and provides great infrastructure for the restaurant,” Selzer said. “And then the other enticing thing was the potential relationship we could build with the University and New Haven at large.”

Tarry Lodge currently has two locations — one in Westport, Conn. and one in Port Chester, N.Y. Selzer said that the Westport location is a smaller space with a more casual atmosphere than the original restaurant in Port Chester, and the Westport location would be the model for the New Haven restaurant. While Selzer and Nusser would operate the restaurant on a daily basis, Batali would visit the restaurant on occasion and play a significant role in business and menu decisions.

Selzer added that they decided to try to come to the Park Street location after hearing positive reviews of the city from the Danny Meyer Group, which owns Shake Shack, and favorable reviews of Yale as a landlord.

“We were excited by the idea of going into a densely populated, vibrant city after having done the small-town experience of Westport,” Selzer said. “Having such a built-in clientele [in the form of the Yale community] across the street is very attractive to us.”

Selzer said that the timeline for the zoning approvals is unknown. While the restaurant could know whether it is approved in the next month, it might not be certain until the summer.

Joshua Cohen, a lawyer representing the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, has asked the board for five additional parking spots in order to open a restaurant that can accommodate 74 people. The board is expected to vote on the proposal next month.

Assistant Director for New Haven and State Affairs Lauren Zucker said in an email that if the city approves the proposals, the restaurant could open by the start of the fall semester.

“We think Tarry Lodge will be a terrific addition to the New Haven dining scene,” Zucker said, noting that there are currently only a few sit-down restaurants in the Broadway shopping district. “We are delighted with the level of interest we are seeing from terrific chefs who want to tap into New Haven’s strong ‘foodie’ environment.”

The restaurant features entrees ranging from $15–$30, and Selzer said that she hopes the restaurant could appeal to the student population, parents, and faculty — in addition to those beyond Yale and into the New Haven community at large.

But Batali’s restaurant could increase competition amongst the several pizzerias already established in the Elm City.

Pepe’s — whose clam pizza was voted the best pizza in America last year in the Daily Meal — is not worried that the newcomer will affect its business.

“We are very well-known in the area, and we are pretty confident in our status,” said Assistant Manager of Pepe’s Cheryl Grubier. “We always welcome competition, and we wish them luck.”

Selzer also said that Tarry Lodge has no intention of coming into what she calls the “world capital of pizza” to become the prime pizza destination. She also mentioned she hopes that the restaurant would offer delivery for pizza and pasta.

Tarry Lodge opened its first location in Port Chester in 2008.

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