While students enjoyed home-cooked meals over winter vacation, New Haven got its own taste of home-style cooking with the openings of Basta and Soul de Cuba, two new local restaurants in downtown New Haven.

With affordable prices aimed toward college students, both eateries have been drawing steady crowds since their openings, owners said.

Originally scheduled to open in late November, Basta officially opened for dinner on Dec. 31. The restaurant has been packed with customers every night since then, said owners Frank and Claire Criscuolo, who also own Claire’s Corner Copia, a vegan organic restaurant located next door to Basta on Chapel Street.

Basta’s menu features Southern Italian fare, including pizzas from its wood-burning oven and a variety of fresh seafood, which Frank Criscuolo said have been some of the most popular items on the menu.

“It’s great having Claire’s next door because everyone who knows us there wants to try our new restaurant,” Criscuolo said. “And most of our Claire’s customers aren’t vegetarians, they just like good food, so they are naturally enjoying our meat and fish dishes.”

Open until 10 p.m. on weekdays and later on weekends, Basta has quickly become a popular late-night dining spot for graduate students who live in the area. Crisculo said four members of the restaurant’s wait staff are former Yale students.

“We were aiming to create a great hangout for graduate students, and so far our hopes are being fulfilled,” Criscuolo said. “We are all about hospitality at this restaurant, making people feel comfortable and at home.”

The official ribbon cutting ceremony for the grand opening of Basta will be held today at 11 a.m. in front of the restaurant. U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Mayor John DeStefano, Jr., Director of New Haven and State Affairs Bruce Alexander and owners Frank and Claire Criscuolo will all attend the ceremony.

Although the grand opening of Soul de Cuba is not scheduled until February, the restaurant on the corner of Crown and High streets has been open for dinner since last week. Owners said they were overwhelmed by business in the first few nights and plan to take the next few days to regroup and re-evaluate how to best serve their customers.

Run by brothers Jesus and Robert Puerto and colleague Yoon Kim, Soul de Cuba serves traditional home-style Cuban food, along with a few South American dishes. Robert Puerto will also serve as the restaurant’s head chef.

Although the restaurant has not yet obtained its liquor license, Kim said they have applied for one and would like to host evening functions to attract a late-night crowd. Thus far, their customers have been a mix of local retailers and Yale students.

“Crown Street is a great location with all the clubs and bars in the area, so we are already getting a lot of that foot traffic,” Kim said. “So we are just hoping to get more people who will stay later.”

The festively colored and decorated walls express the culture of the restaurant as well as the food. Jesus Puerto said he thinks bringing a Cuban restaurant to ethnically-diverse New Haven will contribute to the culture of the area.

“We feel that our culture has a lot to offer, and we are going to display this through our artwork and photos on the wall as well as through our food,” Puerto said.

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