The Elm City is welcoming another Italian eatery, and Wooster Square will soon be known for more than just its pizza.
Ventured by Naples native and former head chef at Anthony’s Ocean View, Giulio Laurentino hopes to provide city residents with fresh, homemade pasta and Neapolitan delicacies. The restaurant — called Pasta EATaliana — opened last Wednesday on 121 Wooster St., just down the block from New Haven staples Sally’s and Pepe’s.
“If you taste the food in Naples, that’s the food I am bringing here,” Laurentino said. “I cook the same way that my mother and my entire family does, very simple. I hope to bring that here through fresh pasta, it’s unbelievable.”
The space, which once belonged to two earlier Italian restaurants Tony and Lucille’s and Anastasio’s is part of a larger building at the corner with Chestnut Street owned by Societa Santa Maria Maddalena in Little Italy. Laurentino had offers from various locations to start his business, but stumbled upon the building randomly and “couldn’t believe it was vacant.” After communicating with the owner and undergoing a series of renovations done by him and his wife, Laurentino told the News that he had found a perfect space to bring part of his history to New Haven.
For Laurentino, Pasta EATaliana reflects more than just authentic Italian food in a city with a strong Italian American heritage. Originally from Naples, Laurentino came to America 11 years ago with no expectation to stay. He came here to meet a friend but immediately met his wife and began working in a banquet facility. After Laurentino was promoted to head chef, he and his wife settled on the East Shore with their two children. He attributed his departure from his post at Anthony’s Ocean View largely to a hope to return to the “artistry” and “care” of preparing his native cuisine.
“Every week, every day, it was always the same menu,” said Laurentino. “When I was in Italy, I always used to draw. Now with work and kids, it’s hard to still do that, but when I see a dish, there’s always a different way to decorate it. Besides, the food is really good.”
In a town famous for its pies, Laurentino told the News that opening a new Italian restaurant would be no easy task. Laurentino hopes his focus on pasta, as well as the authenticity and quality of his food, will set his restaurant apart from neighboring competitors. Mario Russo, a waiter and Italian native, believes the difference between Pasta EATaliana and neighboring competitors comes down to the specialty of Laurentino’s food. Menu items such as the Genovese ragu, which is meat that is prepared for five to six hours, can’t be found in other Italian restaurants, said Russo. Additional specialties include calzones, saltimbocca and Neapolitan specialties, as well as wood-fired pizza.
While being located in the middle of Little Italy sets the bar high, Pasta EATaliana is also working to live up to Wooster Street’s legacy. Within a week of opening and minimal advertising, Pasta EATaliana has already had two fully booked nights — a success that Laurentino says he is surprised by. Alan Belchak, a New Haven resident and customer, told the News that he enjoyed the food tremendously, giving it “five stars.” Gilrose Amando, another Elm City native and frequent restaurant-goer, said the food was excellent.
When asked about what it means to have a restaurant on Wooster Street, Laurentino quickly got emotional.
“Like I always say, it makes me feel at home, and I don’t want to cry,” said Laurentino. “It’s a historic street full of Italian stories. I wouldn’t choose to have a restaurant anywhere else.”
Pasta EATaliana is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on weekdays, and 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Noel Rockwell | firstname.lastname@example.org