Some restaurants close, and everyone notices. That’s what happened to Cru, late last month. The Dressing Room‘s demise had everyone talking; earlier, so did V’s.
Others quietly shut their doors. That’s the story with La Villa, the longtime Bay Street spot with a steady, seemingly loyal clientele.
I included them in a list of nearby restaurants — along with Post 154, Finalmente and Blue Lemon — in a story about Westport Pizzeria moving in around the corner. They were already closed. One reader commented that she “thought” it was gone; no one responded.
La Villa was one of the 1st Westport restaurants to have pop-up seating 2 years ago. It seemed kind of weird, dining on Bay Street. But they added 5 more tables, in front of the indoor space.
La Villa, in its sunnier days.
No restaurant is forever. The Clam Box, Manero’s, Allen’s — all met their end. And who knows what will happen to Mario’s, when the next phase of the Saugatuck Center development begins on Railroad Place?
So, “06880” readers: Let’s hear from you. Knowing the run will end eventually, what can a Westport restaurateur do to maximize his or her chances of success? What works in this town? What restaurants consistently do it right?
Play nice. Don’t dis. Use full names (yours, as well as restaurants’). And dig in!
The good news: The day after it happens — later this month — the legendary, much-loved restaurant will re-open around the corner.
The new location — 143 Post Road East — was most recently the site of EATalia. It’s got great Italian bones: Before that, it was Joe’s Pizza. Even earlier, it was the bizarrely named S&M Pizza.
Westport Pizzeria owner Mel Mioli. His shirt says, “Serving generations with kindness and love since 1968!”
Owner Mel Mioli says his landlord — Malkin Property — sent him a non-renewal notice around January 1. Earlier, Mel says, Malkin offered him a 5-year lease if Kate Spade — 2 doors down — did not rent the entire building. But that didn’t happen, Mel says. Then the landlord stopped answering letters, emails and phone calls.
Now Mel is out. So is Kate Spade. And — in between them — Francois DuPont Jewelers.
At first, Mel says, he was sad. After nearly half a century on Main Street, the pizzeria he and his brother Joe founded has become a Westport institution. Customers became friends — and he’s watched their children, and now grandchildren, grow up.
But a couple of years ago, Mel bought the 143 Post Road East property — just in case something like this happened.
Now, that’s a hot location. Just a few steps away are a host of restaurants: Post 154. Finalmente. La Villa. Blue Lemon.
A familiar scene, for 45 years. The backs of the shirts say “A true slice of Westport.”
Westport Pizzeria’s new space is a lot larger than the beloved — but very narrow — Main Street site. Mel is renovating the Post Road property, making it bright and welcoming.
He’ll add a few dishes to the menu. Plus — grazie! — beer and wine.
Mel’s initial sadness has turned to excitement.
“I’m very, very happy,” he says. “We’ll take care of old customers better than before, and I know we’ll make new ones.”
The other day, he walked past his new Westport Pizzeria. The sidewalk was packed with pedestrians. “I can’t wait to open,” Mel says.
So will he stay another 45 years on Post Road East?
“At least!” Mel promises.
At the end of the month, this will be just another Main Street memory.
Bunnies (and a carrot) by the banks of the Saugatuck.
Hah! This weekend — for the 1st time in 39 years — there are new categories: digital art, wood, jewelry, glass, ceramics and fiber.
So you not only have the usual art show — 140 booths featuring original drawing, mixed media, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture and watercolor — but you can take care of all your fiber needs too.
Take that, New York street fairs!
Several years ago, the Downtown Merchants moved Westport’s show from an actual street (Main) to a parking lot (Parker Harding) and island (Gorham). The move was controversial — some store owners thought they lost business — but we’ve still got “street” performers (everyone’s talking about the mime).
Children’s activities include a balloon artist and face painter.
Art — or a human being? You decide.
Music ranges from a steel band, jazz and local hotshot Dylan Connor to a sneak preview of the Staples Players’ summer production “Willy Wonka, the Musical.”
Refreshments are provided by Blue Lemon, Oscar’s Du Soleil Catering, Rita’s Italian Ice, Everybody Scream Ice Cream, and J&D Kettle Corn.
There’s also ice cold beer — and, new this year, wine.
If wine doesn’t say “Westport Downtown Arts Festival” — well, every party has its pooper.
(Added bonus: The Westport Library‘s annual book sale takes places a few yards away. The highest-priced item ever is on sale — a signed Andy Warhol volume, for $1,000 — but most books, CDs, etc. are $1 to $5. )
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