At Fest Faves, customers can enjoy carnival eats and festival treats year-round
Inspired by a life-long passion for cooking and love of festivals, husband-wife duo Victoria Streeto and Eric Balcerzak opened this carnival-themed eatery in September.
Molly Reinmann, Contributing Photographer
As they make their way up Whitney Avenue, New Haveners can now make a pit-stop at Fest Faves, the Elm City’s first year-round carnival-inspired restaurant.
New Haven natives and self-proclaimed “foodies” Victoria Streeto and Eric Balcerzak opened Fest Faves at 15 Whitney Ave. in September of this year. Inside the decorated eatery, customers are offered carnival classics like jumbo corn dogs and funnel cake as well as more innovative fusion options, like a mac and cheese pretzel burger.
“Fest Faves is the all-year fair,” Streeto explained. “We are your carnival that is here all year, serving specialties that you can only get at a carnival like fried dough pizza, deep fried oreos, cotton candy and deep fried nutter butters.”
Upon entering Fest Faves, customers are greeted by bright red-and-white striped walls, vibrant hanging LED signs and playful carnival inspired posters, as festival music plays.
“It’s like walking into a big circus,” said Daniel Weston, the manager at Fest Faves.
In addition to classic carnival treats, Streeto explained that the Fest Faves menu also offers original creative treats known as “festival fusions.” Examples of such creations include the maple bacon donut burger and the buffalo chicken egg roll.
Weston explained that the best part of the eatery’s unique offerings is that they are available all year round.
“It’s great,” Weston said. “Especially living in New England, where you can’t really get this kind of food during the winter months.”
Streeto said that cooking has been an important part of her life since childhood. Italian cooking, she explained, was a cornerstone of her relationship with her father growing up. Streeto’s father is a chef like her and has worked in numerous restaurants around New Haven.
“I didn’t get to see him a lot as a child because he was always cooking,” Streeto said. “So the way we would bond was cooking together. So as early as I can remember, probably at three or four years old, I was being taught how to cook things like a professional chef would. We didn’t watch sports together. We watched Julia Child.”
Prior to opening Fest Faves, Streeto worked in the New Haven restaurant industry for 15 years. She explained that the unique menu and carnival-inspired feel of Fest Faves makes the business successful in the city’s bustling food scene.
“New Haven is so well-known for its Italian food, and there’s a lot of great Latin restaurants around here as well,” Streeto said. “So I think our food really complements the other restaurants that have been keeping the city so strong all these years. I’m glad that we can bring our little piece of culture to that party as well.”
While Streeto brings her culinary and hospitality background to Fest Faves, her co-owner and husband Eric Balcerzack brings a background in business. He handles operational duties, and she is in charge of the creative aspects of the eatery.
Streeto was first exposed to festival eats when she and Balcerzak began annually attending the Big E fair about a decade ago. The Big E fair is an yearly festival hosted by the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Mass. during the month of September.
“We were huge patrons of the Big E and all different carnivals,” Streeto explained. “Eventually, we just decided that we were obsessed with the food. It came to the point where we would have to bring to-go bags to the fairs, because I would want a bite of everything, and you can only eat so much of that super-decadent food at once.”
Driven by their love of festivals, Streeto and Balcerzak were inspired to open Fest Faves, where they could offer the joy of carnival food all year round.
Chris Melillo, first-time customer at Fast Faves and employee at the Yale School of Music, said the restaurant’s options were a great way to connect with fond childhood memories.
“I grew up doing the state fairs in Connecticut with my family business,” Melillo said. “Growing up, we’d always go to Durham and the North Stonington Fair. But I haven’t been to the Big E since it was a school trip back in grade school, and I love this kind of food.”
Fest Faves held its ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday, Oct. 31.