Longtime New Haven Scarpellino restaurant aims to reopen after fire

NEW HAVEN – Its restaurant, a city staple for decades, will likely reopen in the near future after being damaged by fire last week. Until then, Danny Scarpellino will be thinking about his clients.

Scarpellino said the fire, which broke out last Tuesday at the Scarpellino restaurant and catering, was a blow – he was struck by the thought of having to shut down because it was burning. But the restaurant is insured and there is a process to go through to get it ready to reopen.

“God has to take over. What can I do? Some things you can’t control, ”said Scarpellino.

Scarpellino said he had just arrived home last Tuesday when his wife received a call from a friend, who informed them of the presence of fire apparatus at the 257 Forbes Ave restaurant.

He ran back; to his dismay, he saw the fire go out and the firefighters dig a hole in the roof.

The flames apparently started in debris outside, Scarpellino said – there is an alley between the restaurant and a nearby building that forms a wind tunnel, collecting leaves and other clutter, he said.

Despite his efforts to clean it up, a lit cigarette could have started a fire there, as happened about five years ago, he said. The last time, the fire did not finally reach the building; this time it “burned through the wall”, leaving a hole in it.

A bathroom was damaged in the blaze, Scarpellino said, and firefighters ripped out sinks and cabinets in an upstairs apartment, looking to determine if there were flames in the walls.

Scarpellino said he was still assessing exactly what it would take to repair the damage, noting he was due to meet with a contractor on Wednesday.

He estimated it could reopen in two to three weeks, once the hole in the bathroom wall is fixed. The restaurant remains open for catering, he noted.

Scarpellino said he was thinking of his regular customers, many of them men who drive trucks at nearby docks. The restaurant, which opens at 5:30 a.m., is an integral part of many of their lives, he said.

“They’re just great guys. They love us; we love them, ”said Scarpellino. “I feel bad that I’m not there to take care of them.”

Scarpellino said he opened the restaurant on Park Street in New Haven in 1981 and then moved to Forbes Avenue about ten years ago.

Cooking was in his blood, he said – his father worked in the restaurant business and cooked for the family. As he grew older he realized he appreciated her; at 12 or 13, he knew he wanted to have a little restaurant, “nothing serious”.

His clientele had changed over the years, Scarpellino said – when he was downtown, his clients consisted mostly of office workers, nurses and people affiliated with Yale. Now he was near the docks, serving the workers there.

The work has been a pleasure in both places, said Scarpellino. He enjoys cooking and having the chance to interact with customers, he said, noting that he has built up a steady following in his current location. He enjoys seeing familiar faces and knowing their preferred order.

“It’s kind of like a little family affair that we have going on,” said Scarpellino. “They say you don’t work when you’re doing something you love. “

Scarpellino asked people to be careful of cigarettes and flammable items, noting the risks, and thanked residents for their response to the fire. People had offered to help and shared their appreciation for the place.

“It’s been a real wave of support,” said Scarpellino.

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About Walter Bartholomew

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