Leon’s Restaurant, a fixture on New Haven’s Long Wharf for six years—and a family-owned business since 1938—plans to open a restaurant in North Haven in mid-to-late July.
Edward Varipapa, who owns Leon’s, confirmed that he will open a restaurant in what was formerly the Hollywood Video store at 344 Washington Ave across the street from the .
Varipapa, who lauded the parking and waterfront views at the restaurant’s New Haven site, acknowledged, “We love New Haven. It’s a wonderful location.”
But he said he has also observed that once people leave the city where they work and travel home they want to go out to eat at a place that is close to where they live.
Hence his decision to open another Leon’s in North Haven--a location, he said, that would open up the restaurant to persons in the suburbs, not only North Haven but also North Branford, Hamden, Wallingford and other nearby areas.
He said that the proximity of the Washington Avenue location to I-91 was another factor in his decision.
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The restaurant will seat about 135 customers, and Varipapa expects to hire a total of 20 to 25 employees to staff it.
Varipapa said that all planning as well as the permitting for the new restaurant is complete.
He added that, although the space at the former video store requires a complete build-out, whatever work can take place off-premise for the new Leon’s is underway.
When asked how restaurants thrive in a weak economy, Varipapa mentioned the hands-on attention to detail that some restaurants—Leon’s among them—provide.
“An absentee owner, even in a good economy, will not be successful,” he said. “I’m present here on a daily basis.”
Varipapa is the fourth generation of his family to run Leon’s. His great-grandfather founded the restaurant, which serves a mix of Italian and international cuisine, in 1938. He credits his grandfather, who took the helm of the restaurant after he returned from the second world war, with building the brand.
Leon's in North Haven will offer wedding packages and corporate dining and catering, just as it continues to do in New Haven.