Masks are being removed in New Haven and deals are in for restaurant week.
On Friday, city leaders announced it would run for two weeks from March 27 to April 9.
“It’s time to show New Haven is open for business by getting out there and supporting your restaurants,” Mayor Justin Elicker said.
Restaurants have been hit hard by the pandemic and the pressure has been going on throughout this winter’s Omicron wave of COVID-19.
Franco Iachello is a dedicated Café Bravo customer, and he said he was happy to see the city’s support for the celebration of food.
“I think it’s very important because otherwise restaurants won’t be able to survive,” Iachello said.
Many see it as a way to support ongoing efforts to get New Haven’s service industry back on track.
“Sixteen percent of jobs, 34,000 before the pandemic, were in hospitality,” said Michael Piscitelli, the city’s economic development administrator. “This is an area that we need to support and provide everyone with the opportunity to recover together.”
They are increasing the number of restaurants on the list this year to 53. There are options for prix fixe meals at restaurants like Café Bravo, or if you want something quick and tasty – places like Ricky D.’ s Rib Shack offer discounts on orders.
“One of the things I’m doing is offering 10% off for takeout and restaurant orders, so hopefully that can be a bit of an incentive,” owner Ricky Evans said. “This program is a great opportunity to bring the community, to bring people to come to local restaurants.”
They also announced that outdoor dining would return to downtown, again with road closures on some streets. Piscitelli said it has become part of New Haven’s dining scene.
“People adapt to an outdoor experience. It doesn’t have to be the hottest weather to eat out, so you start early [outdoors] already this year,” said Piscitelli.
Stacey Porrello is associated with Café Bravo. She hopes this restaurant week is a sign that things are starting to get back to normal, and also a return of familiar faces like Iachello’s.
“We’re definitely seeing our old customers coming back and new faces, and I think we’re finally getting there,” she said. “Good energy, people having fun and let’s get back to normal.”