Windsor’s La Notte Restaurant Plans to Expand This Summer | Food and drink
WINDSOR – Two years ago, when Savas Karagiannis bought the vacant restaurant on the Blue Hills Avenue extension to open his new restaurant, La Notte Waterside Grille, he had no idea that when he remodeled the space and open, the world would be in the middle of a pandemic.
“In 2019, I looked at this property,” he says. “I liked it. I took it over and made a deal. By the time I got the architectural designs, we were hit with COVID. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the best time. there have been a lot of sleepless nights.
Karagiannis has been working in the restaurant and catering industry for a total of 40 years; 25 years ago, he opened La Notte Weddings and Special Events at 17 Thompson Road in East Windsor.
When the pandemic struck, Karagiannis had to face the crisis and decide whether to go ahead with opening the restaurant or abandon everything.
“I spent 12 hours on the road one day, driving, calling people, trying to figure out what to do and what this virus is,” he said. “(I) had different opinions from different friends. They said it wouldn’t be the end of the world and if it does, we are all going to fight.
La Notte opened in September, primarily serving customers outside, as many were reluctant to eat inside, Karagiannis said.
“We did very well the first two months,” he said, following CDC and state guidelines to protect customers and staff.
After the outbreak of COVID cases in November, many people stayed away, Karagiannis said, not only by decreasing business at the restaurant, but also by closing the banquet space in East Windsor.
“During the holidays I normally do 50 to 60 events in East Windsor,” he said. “Zero events. It was a difficult time.
With most of his staff already vaccinated, he said, he hopes as more get vaccinated people will come back and eat.
The Notte Waterside Grille not only offers fine dining, he said, but also has space for weddings, corporate meetings and other events.
“Anything you dream of,” he says. “This one understood it. It has a wonderful view.
La Notte’s menu, he says, is rooted in his upbringing in South Hartford and its many Italian restaurants, bringing his childhood friend, chef Vinnie Esposito, with him to start his catering business. Esposito died in 1999, Karagiannis said, and since then he had had the same chef, Joseph Alameda, with him, cooking for both La Notte locations.
The restaurant offers separate menus for lunch and dinner, with smaller portions and sub and flatbread options on the lunch menu. The dinner menu has more steak and seafood options.
Some of the highlights of the dinner menu include the Neapolitan pasta with fresh ground sausages, prosciutto, peas, garlic, and chopped basil sautéed in a sauce; Chicken or veal saltimbocca sautéed with mushrooms in a half sage and sherry glaze, topped with prosciutto and provolone; the 28-ounce bone-in rib eye; La Notte seafood classico with shrimp, scallops, salmon, sundried tomatoes and spinach sautéed in a sherry cream sauce; and San Francisco cioppino with shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams, squid and the catch of the day, all sautéed in a spicy simmered tomato sauce.
Karagiannis said the atmosphere and success of his businesses was partly due to the fact that most of his kitchen staff had been with him for at least 15 years.
“We work together as a family,” he said. “I was very lucky.”
He said that by the end of the pandemic, the restaurant will be able to fill up to its capacity of 350 people in summer with outdoor seating. Capacity restrictions at Connecticut restaurants are scheduled to end on May 19.
Karagiannis is also hoping to expand the outdoor seating both on the patio and by building a two-level deck.
Customers said they were delighted to learn that La Notte had survived during the pandemic.
“I think it’s good for them,” said Ellington’s Judy Gauthier, who was with several friends to celebrate their friend Karen Whitesell’s birthday.
It was their first time visiting the restaurant and they said they were looking forward to their lunch orders.