SOUTHINGTON – The owner of Nataz restaurant on North Main Street is shifting its dining room to the former Serafino’s Pharmacy building next door.
Rick Mclain, founder and CEO of Nataz, said the move will give him a dining room all on one floor. His current location seats guests on two floors.
“It’s not upstairs downstairs. We can do more party events,” he said of the Serafino building. “Logistically, it works.”
Mclain will keep both locations. The current one will become a bistro, an experiment for Mclain. He’s working to build out the former pharmacy and add a kitchen, transforming the space into the new Nataz home. Mclain hopes to open before Valentine’s Day.
While Nataz offers 30 different menu items, Mclain said the bistro will offer just a half-dozen dishes such as veal shank and Italian sea bass. The bistro will be “offerings from a genre, not a prix fixe” as at Nataz.
Mclain runs additional Nataz locations in North Branford and Clinton. He runs kitchens at the various locations, sometimes by himself, and plans to cook at the bistro.
“I’m just as fired up as I was 26 years ago,” said the restaurant founder.Liquor permits
Mclain received a liquor sales permit for his current restaurant at 28 N. Main St. last month. This week he’s looking for town approval for liquor sales at the former pharmacy, 36 N. Main St.
Nataz has been bring-your-own-bottle. That’ll remain the case, Mclain said, but he also wants to give people the option of buying a drink at the restaurant and bistro.
“Some people would like to be able to have a cocktail, a decent bottle of wine for a decent price,” he said.Serafino’s Pharmacy
Mclain grew up in town and is friends with the Serafino family. The local pharmacy owners closed their store last year after 65 years in downtown Southington. Mclain was among their customers and remembers going there as a child.
“I used to sit in the bar and have milkshakes,” he said.
Ron Serafino, the former pharmacy owner, owns the pharmacy building as well as Nataz’s current location. He was pleased that Mclain was taking over the vacant space.
“I’d no sooner closed my pharmacy than he came up to me and said, ‘Please don’t sign a lease, I want to talk to you,’” Serafino said. “Rick is very excited about it, so am I.”
Work on the space hasn’t yet begun. Serafino said it will be an attractive interior that’ll be a great addition to the downtown. He’s refreshed the front of the building which includes other tenants as well.Local reputation
Nataz has a reputation in town for quality food, Serafino said.
“He’s very, very fussy about being good. The quality of his food speaks for itself,” he said.
Mclain owns 400 head of cattle in Colorado which produces the Black Angus beef that’s served in his restaurant.
“Not too many restaurants can say they grow their own beef,” Mclain said.
He’s also particular about what items get added to the menu. When his sous chef suggested meatloaf, he was initially opposed to the idea but was won over later.
“Guess what the most popular thing on my menu is (now)?” Mclain said.
He’ll be holding a job fair to hire more help. Despite a labor shortage, Mclain wasn’t concerned about finding workers.
“We’ve got some great people who work for us. Everybody struggles except for us. We start people at $17 an hour, even our dishwashers,” he said.