WALLINGFORD — The former J. Carvers Steakhouse has a new restaurant taking over, La Piazza Restaurant.
“We certainly welcome La Piazza and the great Italian food they’ll be offering to town,” said Liz Davis, executive director of Wallingford Center Inc.
“We are super excited to be opening up in Wallingford,” said Kristjan Lulaj, owner of La Piazza Restaurant. “I am from Wallingford and I live there also, so my goal is to do something good for the community and bring good food to the people.”
La Piazza, 179 Center St., will be offering items like steak, veal, chicken, fish, pasta and pizza.
“Our menu will include special dishes as well as specials,” Lulaj said. “And everything will be fresh and made to order.” Background in Italian food
Lulaj also owns Antonio’s Route 5 in North Haven, a tiny pizzeria that also offers a variety of Italian specialties.
“My goal was always to open another restaurant,” he said. “I like Wallingford and I saw that this space was for lease on the Wallingford Community Page, so I found the contact for the landlord and I asked if the space was available. He said ‘yes’ and was more than happy to give it to me. He has been a customer of ours for years and he knows we do good business and we’re going to do a great job.”
The space was formerly J. Carvers Steakhouse, which opened in March of 2021. It closed its doors at the end of June of this year due to circumstances beyond their control. Prior to that, the space housed Jake’s Tavern.
“It’s always disappointing and saddening when a business closes, but I think it’s fantastic that another restaurant is moving in so quickly and continuing business in that area,” said Mayor William Dickinson Jr.
Dickinson shared that the town has been devoting a lot of time and energy into making downtown a vibrant, very energized and pleasant place to be.
“It's nice to see those things being recognized and people wanting to be a part of that,” he added. “It’s a nice surprise for the people that frequent the restaurants and are looking for a new place to eat and new cuisine.”
Lulaj signed the lease about two months ago and thought La Piazza Restaurant was the perfect name for the space.
“La Piazza means the center in Italian and we’re in the center,” he said. “I don't think there’s a better name to describe that.”
Lulaj started construction on the 7,564-square-foot space about a month ago.
“We’re doing everything brand new,” he said. “Brand new kitchen, bathroom, chairs, tables, countertops, a beautiful bar.”
There will be a small outdoor space with a few seats for dining, and a couple parking spaces in the back of the building for customers.
“Everything is going well. I have a good crew I’m working with,” Lulaj said. “All the equipment and stuff has already been ordered, we're just waiting for them to come in.”
He is looking to open the restaurant in late October to early November.
“Things take time, we want to do the best we can for the town,” Lulaj said. “Our customers will always come first because without them we have nothing. We want to make sure they walk out happy and not hungry.”
Lulaj is looking to have at least 10-15 employees to ensure this.
“I wish the new owner much success and I look forward to the opening,” Dickinson said.
Kristjan Lulaj is from Albania and graduated from high school and college overseas. He has been cooking since he was 14 years old and always had a passion for working in the restaurant industry.
“My family had a restaurant in Albania that specialized in seafood,” Lulaj said.
“Then my family moved to Italy and have been there for 30 years and I worked in restaurants there.”
Lulaj came to the United States nine years ago. He worked at Adriana's, owned by his cousins, as well as at Antonio’s making pizzas.
La Piazza Restaurant is currently hiring and can be reached at 646-647-9384.