NORTH HAVEN — Amici Tavern was open for the first time in close to a year Tuesday after a kitchen fire forced the bar and restaurant to close in May.
“The stress level of rebuilding the place is over and we’re happy to get back to doing what we love,” said Stephen Barraco, general manager and co-owner.
The May 3 fire occurred in a wall near the kitchen and restrooms. Although the fire started while customers were inside, the restaurant was evacuated safely and no injuries were reported.
“The fire alarm went off as we were calling 9-1-1,” said co-owner and executive chef Michael Migliaro. “Luckily no one got hurt, so that’s all that’s really important.”
Fire Chief Paul Januszewski said the kitchen had “extensive” damage.
“Originally we thought we’d be open by the end of May, but we probably didn’t realize how bad it was until sometime in the beginning of June,” Migliaro said. “We were a little naive about how much damage smoke and water does to stuff.”
About a week after the fire, a tornado and microburst brought down trees onto the building, damaging another section of the restaurant. Owners were also forced to replace the roof and make repairs to an apartment above the restaurant.
Everything from the floors and ceilings to sheetrock and signage was replaced.
“The restaurant’s brand new at this point,” Barraco said.
Patrons may notice the bar area is more open and the ceiling is vaulted. The decor and color scheme have changed slightly. One thing owners were happy to do was move the kitchen door out of the dining room area, which provides better flow for staff.
“As far as the menu, we kept a lot of their favorite items on the menu, while I tweaked and came up with some new dishes, to get new people in and to keep the regulars excited and happy to come back,” Migliaro said.
New items include an ahi tuna appetizer and a new version of burgers with two patties. Favorites like the Life Changing Nachos and meatloaf will still be available.
“We were anxiously awaiting to get back to this, as well as our staff, so I think it was good for everybody, we’re ready to go,” Migliaro said.
On Wednesday, customers lined the bar, some with drinks and most having a mid-afternoon meal. Kristie DeBridgita had brought her boss, Alex Steppacher, to the restaurant for the first time. DeBridgita, who lives down the road and works with the restaurant selling Stoli Vodka, said she used to come weekly and she and her husband were anxiously awaiting the reopening.
“It definitely looks like it's opened up a little bit more,” DeBridgita said of the bar room. “The decor is a little bit different, so that's nice. I like the new lights.”
Amici Tavern first opened in November 2015, at 43 Broadway. It is run by longtime friends, Migliaro and Barraco, who also own Cafe Amici in Hamden.