SOUTHINGTON — Named for a small town in Sicily, Noto Americano opened this week to serve freshly made Italian food by an award-winning chef.
Nick LaRosa, a Phoenix-based chef and a “Chopped” grand prize winner in 2019, and his cousin Frank LaRosa, owner of Alliant Restaurant Brokers and a Southington resident, opened Noto Americano on Monday at 83 W. Main St. after months of anticipation in town.
The cousins made some interior improvements to the former Zingarella’s Pizzeria, which had been vacant for about a year. Noto features a new layout and new furniture, lighting, kitchen and paint to recreate the drama of Sicilian dining.
“It’s iconic,” Nick LaRosa said of the building. “It’s been an Italian restaurant for over 30 years. This location is amazing. Southington deserves an upscale Italian restaurant and we’re hoping to fit that bill.”
Noto has a full bar with specialty seasonal and craft cocktails, a wine list and beverages from local breweries and distilleries, Frank LaRosa said.
Both men have spent their lives in the restaurant industry. With Nick LaRosa in Arizona, the chance to open a restaurant together didn’t arise until Frank LaRosa told his cousin about the Zingarella’s location. Nick LaRosa moved his family back to Connecticut.
“We’ve been talking about opening a business for years and Nick left Phoenix,” Frank LaRosa said. “Noto Americano will be modern in approach on classic dishes but Sicilian in spirit.”
The cousins are grateful they opened on a Monday to allow them to train the roughly 30 employees before the weekend.
After opening for only two days, Nick described the response as “fantastic” with new customers coming in to try the popular Arancini risotto balls, and swordfish.
All the food is made fresh, including the pasta, and pizzas, he said. The menu offers appetizers, from octopus to prosciutto, and beef, chicken, seafood and pasta entries ranging from $17 to $42 for a porcini-rubbed eight-ounce filet with two side dishes.
Frank LaRosa opened Quinn’s Tavern at 28 W. Main St. in the late 1990s. He’s also been a previous partner or owner in other local restaurants such as The Fire Place and Brix.
Nick LaRosa worked with restaurant partners in Arizona prior to learning about the Zingarella’s Pizzeria opportunity.
“The whole revitalization is awesome,” Nick LaRosa said. “We saw the opportunity to get in here and it was great for us to be able to be a part of that.”
Town Economic Development Coordintor Louis Perillo hasn’t been in the new restaurant yet, but plans to visit soon.
“He’s experienced,” Perillo said about Frank LaRosa. “I’m very happy to see someone with experience go in there and take over the operation. It’s hard when a business goes out, especially with so much turnover across the streets. We think changing the appearance of an existing business and getting it filled and active benefits the area. Activity breeds activity.”
The town made some improvements in the streetscape, including a 37-space parking lot to keep cars from parking on the street. The change has made the area safer, Perillo said, and the business owners waited patiently to see it.
Private property owners have also improved their spaces in the village.
“We’re starting to see some investment,” Perillo said. “There is some serious money being spent to improve Plantsville and Noto coming in is fantastic.”
Nick LaRosa said the restaurant is open for dinners only now, but he hopes to open a patio in the spring and possibly offer lunch on the weekends.
Potential diners can peruse the full Noto menu, order takeout, and make reservations at the Noto website https://notoamericano.com/.