As “Grand Openings” of restaurants go, this one was as grand as they come. A crowd of lucky invitees, including members of the press, city officials, business, university leaders, tastemakers, foodies, area restaurateurs, friends and family gathered around Executive Chef Avi Szapiro, to watch him cut the ceremonial ribbon. At promptly 5:00 pm on Wednesday, March 27th, in New Haven ROÌA Restaurant officially opened its doors.
After several months of research, demolition plus an additional six months of meticulous renovation, this venerated-but neglected 101 year old space, which once housed the dining room of the Taft Hotel was finally reborn.
ROÌA, named after a river that flows between France and Italy, has been buffed, primed, renovated into a glistening Beaux-Arts jewel of a restaurant with a decidedly modern tilt by Szapiro and his lovely wife, Meera. The couple, who moved here in 2011 from Brooklyn (where else?) have truly left no stone unturned in their mission to revamp this historic landmark: uncovering original mosaic-tile marble flooring, reclaiming white oak walls, buffing woodwork, installing red leather banquettes, restoring flourishes and medallions on the ornate plaster ceiling and moving (yes, moving!) the soaring dramatic staircase. While descending up or down these “storied” treds, patrons can reenact their very own “Hello Dolly!” moment. (At least I did.)