SOUTHINGTON — Without fanfare, Nataz Restaurant moved from its 28 N. Main St. location in June to the renovated space next door that for decades was the home of Serafino Pharmacy.
Owner Rick McLain said it takes customers just one meal at Nataz to want to come back over and over again. He prefers word-of-mouth to other forms of marketing and only grudgingly put a restaurant sign over the new space.
“You come out to my restaurant, you will never go anywhere else,” McLain said. Even his enemies, the chef said, go to his restaurant. “They say, ‘I hate this guy but I love his food.’”
The new space is better laid out, McLain explained, and also lets him turn 28 N. Main St. into Nataz Bistro, a reservation-only eatery. McLain himself will be the only cook there, creating chef-driven or chef-inspired dishes for customers.
The bistro is his opportunity to cook for a small group of people, many of whom are locals he’s known for years.
“That’s me and my home town,” McLain said. “You come out, I feed you, guaranteed you’re going to be happy.”Better space in former pharmacy
The 28 Main St. location is a former doctor’s office and had seating upstairs and downstairs. That was hard on wait staff, McLain said, who are much happier with the single-level dining in the pharmacy location.
Renovations to the pharmacy started in January and completed at the end of March. Ron Serafino, long-time owner of the pharmacy who retired two years ago, still owns the building as well as the one next door that will house Nataz Bistro.
“It’s gorgeous inside. Top to bottom, everything is new inside,” Serafino said.
He’s still nostalgic going into the space that he and his father called their pharmacy for more than 60 years. While eating, Serafino and his wife Nancy Serafino have had former employees and customers come up to greet them.
“It’s heartwarming. The nostalgia is there. The mark has been left,” he said.
In addition to a better layout, McLain also has a liquor license for the new space at 36 N. Main St. He’s able to offer drinks there while the bistro will remain BYOB.Nataz Bistro
McLain will offer two types of dining experiences at the bistro, which he plans to open in September. One will be chef-driven where he’ll make a dish for the evening. The other is chef-inspired, which comes with a consultation with patrons.
“We’ll sit down, we’ll talk about what you want,” McLain said.
Since he’s doing all the cooking and needs to prep ahead of dinner, only reservations will be taken.
He’ll be open Thursday through Sunday from 5 p.m. until close.
Just like with Nataz Restaurant, there’ll be an emphasis on high-quality ingredients and excellent service. McLain goes weekly to New York for his seafood to make sure it’s recently caught. He also has his own beef cows to provide meat.
In addition to Southington, Nataz has locations in Clinton and North Branford.
Theresa Malloy, owner of Paul Gregory’s in Factory Square, said she’s heard good things about Nataz and said the expansion showed McLain’s business was doing well.
“I think it’s good. I want to get there and try it out,” she said. “It says something too that he was able to expand.”
Paul Gregory’s is a breakfast and lunch restaurant while Nataz is open for dinner. Even though their hours don’t correspond, Malloy said it’s good to have more restaurants in the downtown and is glad to see vacant storefronts fill up.
“Having more business downtown is great,” Malloy said.