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One Eyed Willy’s co-owner plans Shrimpin’ Ain’t Easy venture at Meriden Mall

MERIDEN — “There’s, uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp …

“Anyway, like I was sayin,’ shrimp is the fruit of the sea.”

The famous quote from Bubba Blue on “Forrest Gump” is how Mike Mingolello describes his upcoming venture Shrimpin’ Ain’t Easy in the food court at the Meriden Mall. Mingolello, the co-owner of the popular One Eyed Willy’s Seafood Shack on East Main Street, is opening another eatery featuring shrimp dishes and other favorites in October. Shrimpin’ Ain’t Easy plans to occupy space at the former Frankie’s spot at the front corner of the food court.

“It’ll be a nice break from what’s there,” Mingolello said Tuesday while serving up shrimp in a sweet red chili sauce. “People were so positive.”

One Eyed Willy’s is owned by Mingolello and his wife, Lisa Marie Augustine, and operated in a former Domino’s Pizza spot. Since opening in April, One Eyed Willy’s has received rave reviews on social media sites, especially for its loaded lobster garlic knots. Mingolello previously owned and operated Wise Guys Pizza for two to three years before opening Fireside on Main, a wood-fire restaurant in Plantsville, in 2022. Fireside on Main closed after the pandemic.

He had considered opening a sit-down restaurant in a vacant space at 24 Colony St., doing business as the 24 Colony Restaurant Group. The group had applied to the city’s Meriden Big Program for $300,000 for a new business to finish the space to code and add restaurant equipment such as range hoods. The 24 Colony Restaurant Group was pre-approved for program funding, but Mingolello opted for the smaller venue in the mall.

The Meriden Big Program utilized $5 million in federal America Rescue Plan Act funding to the city for economic development needs that meets city and federal guidelines. The money is held in three buckets, one for projects involving code improvements, another for “vanilla box” renovations for landlords or tenants, and the third is for new businesses. The program is administered through the city’s Economic Development Department, the Meriden Economic Development Corp. and the Midstate Chamber of Commerce.

“Under the code improvements, (Mingolello) was coming in for interior work,” said Economic Development Director Joseph Feest. “Now under the new business category, he’s eligible for up to $50,000, not anywhere near the $300,000. That’s gone.”

The former Frankie’s hot dog site was a brand new eatery and needs fewer improvements, Feest said. But Shrimpin’ Ain’t Easy will make a welcome addition to the current mix of restaurants in the food court.

Mall representatives confirmed a signed lease is expected soon.

Frankie’s, based in Waterbury, opened in the mall in 2014 and closed not long afterwards. It has since opened a restaurant on Route 5 in Wallingford.

One of the draws of One Eyed Willy’s is the menu variety that allows seafood lovers to order lobster rolls and other dishes, while other diners can order off its barbecue menu for smoked dishes and sandwiches.

Mingolello plans to offer shrimp chowder and other favorites to prove that shrimping may not be easy, but it’s tasty.

mgodin@record-journal.com203-317-2255Twitter: @Cconnbiz


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