Tag Archives: Romanacci

Restaurant Follow-up: Railroad Place Redo?

As Westport restaurant owners get ready to reopen — outdoors only, with tables 6 feet apart and no bar service — one resident has an idea to help them succeed.

The other day, David Basich and his wife Vanessa took a walk by the train station. A daily New York commuter before COVID-19, this was his first time there in nearly 10 weeks.

That got him thinking. David says:

As I looked at the restaurants on Railroad Place — Tarantino, Harvest, Romamacci — I reflected on how tough it’s been for them (and all other restaurants around town).

I started thinking about what would put them in a position to best optimize the situation when they are able to reopen, and what would make patrons comfortable coming back. I know outdoor dining is one possible solution.

I thought it would be great if we could close down entirely the street that runs past them, and open it up entirely for outdoor seating.

Railroad Place has been closed before — for the annual Slice of Saugatuck festival.

We talked with Graziano, the owner of Romanacci, about the idea. They are the only one thus far that had carved out some small space.

Closing down the entire street would open it up even more. Restaurant-goers would feel more comfortable overall if some capacity could move outside, social distancing could be maintained more easily, and of course this would create a pretty unique al fresco dining row for Westport.

Regarding the impact on commuters, I don’t think closing this street would be too great of a hardship (at least for a while). I imagine Metro-North numbers will be down for the foreseeable future.

However, to alleviate some of the hassle, the one-way portion of Railroad Place that runs north past the parking lot off Charles Street, could be opened up to two-way traffic.

We could try this for a while — maybe through Labor Day — and readjust as things evolve.

I don’t know exactly what this would entail and how much of a hassle it would be. But I do know Westporters love our town, love dining out, and want to see these business given the best chance to survive.

“06880” readers: What do you think? Is this a good idea? Are there other places in town that could benefit from something similar? Click “Comments” below!

The Basich family (from left): Vanessa, Greens Farms Academy senior David, David Sr., Staples High School junior Lucas, Bedford Middle School 7th grader Michael. Though the photo shows them at home, they look forward to dining outside soon — perhaps on Railroad Place?

Restaurant Reopenings: What’s On The Menu For Westport?

This Wednesday — May 20 — marks the day Connecticut restaurants can reopen for more than curbside takeout and delivery .

There are restrictions: For example, outdoor dining only is permitted; there is no bar service. Tables must be 6 feet apart.

That should be good news for owners, employees and diners. The restaurant industry has been one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus.

Le Penguin’s mascots are making it through the pandemic. Like restaurant owners all over town, their owners are figuring out how to adapt to new state reopening regulations. (Photo/Marcy Sansolo)

But don’t expect a rush of al fresco options 2 days from now. Several steps — beyond simply configuring space (and ordering single-use menus) — must be taken first.

Westport Planning & Zoning chair Danielle Dobin notes that Governor Lamont has temporarily suspended municipal laws regulating outdoor dining. So instead of the traditional permitting process, restaurateurs here must submit a simple application to P&Z director Mary Young.

Westport Police and Fire Department officials, along with the Westport Weston Health District, must sign off on each application. Restaurants that already have outdoor dining must apply too, ensuring they comply with revised health regulations.

Romanacci already has an outdoor dining permit. Under new regulations, tables — shown here last year — now must be 6 feet apart. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Lamont’s executive order “provides tremendous flexibility to restaurants looking to create an outdoor dining space,” Dobin says.

“Normal requirements for parking and setbacks have been waived. Restaurants can even explore using neighboring properties or parking lots, so long as the owners of those properties approve of the plan.

“Residents should expect restaurants all over the state to create larger outdoor dining areas than in the past. Our outdoor restaurant spaces will often look and feel a bit different.”

Sherwood Diner prepares for outdoor dining. (Photo/Dan Woog)

You won’t hear a lot of live music, however. Previous noise regulations remain in effect.

Dobin says that the board of selectmen are also looking at “the creative use of certain town roads to facilitate outdoor dining and outdoor shopping.”

Matthew Mandell, executive director of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, is the restaurant liaison for the ReOpen Westport Advisory Team. On Friday he led a Zoom call, with over 3 dozen restaurant owners.

Restaurant owners and town officials joined a conference call on Friday.

“Our restaurant owners are committed to providing a safe environment for their guests,” Dobin says.

“There is no rush to reopen. Many owners will take their time. I hope that all of our residents are supportive and patient with our fabulous Westport restaurants, as they find their way in this new world.”

“This is not a race,” Mandell agrees. “Slow and steady will win this one. The goal of ensuring health and safety for customers, staff and owners will ultimately lead to everyone’s success.”

As restaurants announce openings, lists compiled by the Chamber of Commerce and OneWestport will be updated regularly.

The owners of Harvest, Tarantino and Romanacci met on Friday, to discuss the best use of Railroad Place.

Unsung Heroes: Special Edition

After digging themselves out — and getting power back on — “06880” readers were eager to offer up a few Unsung Heroes. Usually we wait until Wednesday, but it’s nice to strike while the iron (if not the weather) is hot.

Gil Ghitelman — who must have gotten his power back quickly — writes: “I suggest a hat tip to Eversource. Consummate professionals.”

Chip Stephens nominates the baristas at Starbucks. Despite the snow, they were there bright and early with his morning Joe.

But the greatest Unsung Hero — so far, anyway — works at a different coffee shop. JP Vellotti tells this tale:

“Like a lot of people this snowy morning, I was shoveling since 5 a.m. Like a lot of people, I needed my coffee before the train.

“The new Mystic Market was closed. Winfield Street just closed too, and Desi’s is out.

“But Romanacci — which is just taking over from Winfield — had a makeshift counter, and one pot going. The line was long, but it went fast.”

Here’s the best part: The credit card machine isn’t set up yet. So Venlich Aguilar — who is staying on after Winfield Street leaves — asked people to pay cash, if they could. Round numbers, please — too many people, so no change.

And if you had no cash — no problem. Just come back later and pay!