Masks are off in New Haven and deals are on for restaurant week.
On Friday, city leaders announced it will run for two weeks from March 27 to April 9.
“It’s time to show that New Haven is open for business by coming out and supporting your restaurants,” said Mayor Justin Elicker.
Restaurants were hit hard by the pandemic and the squeeze lasted through this winter’s Omicron wave of COVID-19.
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Franco Iachello is a dedicated customer at Café Bravo, and he said he’s glad to see the city’s support of the celebration of food.
“I think it’s very important because otherwise the restaurants won’t be able to survive,” Iachello said.
Many see it as a way to support the continued push to get New Haven’s service industry back on track.
“Sixteen percent of the jobs, 34,000 pre-pandemic, were in hospitality,” said Michael Piscitelli, the city’s economic development administrator. “This is a sector that we need to support and provide an opportunity for everyone to recover together.”
They’re expanding the number of restaurants on the list this year to 53. There are options for prix-fixed meals at restaurants like Café Bravo, or if you’d like something quick and tasty – places like Ricky D.’s Rib Shack are offering discounts on orders.
“One of the things I’m doing is offering 10 percent for takeout and dine-in orders, so hopefully that can be a little incentive,” said owner Ricky Evans. “This program is a great opportunity to get the community, to get people to come down to the local restaurants.”
They also announced outdoor dining will return downtown, with road closures once again on certain streets. Piscitelli said it’s become part of the New Haven food scene.
“People are adapting to an outdoor experience. It doesn’t have to be the warmest weather to eat outside, so you actually have some early starts [outdoors] already this year,” Piscitelli said.
Stacey Porrello is a partner at Café Bravo. She’s hopeful this restaurant week is a sign that things will start returning to normal, and also a return of familiar faces like Iachello’s.
“We’re really seeing our old customers come back in and some new faces, and I think we’re finally getting there,” she said. "Good energy, people enjoying themselves and let’s get back to normalcy.”