A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.
By Ronni Newton
I’ve spent quite a few hours in the past week watching baseball – and not just because my son is playing on a summer team.
I’ve been covering some of the activities of the USA-Cuba Goodwill Tour, and when I haven’t been in attendance, I’ve been following them through the stories that Jimmy Altman on FOX 61 has done, or through the photos that the parents of Team USA and host families have posted on Facebook.
It was pretty cool to interview Luis Tiant and Bill “Spaceman” Lee, too.
I’m sad to say that I don’t know more than a few words of Spanish, but I have managed to befriend several of the group who speak English. I have especially enjoyed getting to know Cuban translator Reynaldo Cruz Diaz – who works at as a journalist, photographer, and webmaster in Holguin. His website (Universo Béisbol) is focused on baseball, but other than that we have pretty similar jobs.
I’ve spoken with many of the families who are hosting the Cuban kids, and from what I have heard the trip has been a resounding success from a cultural exchange perspective. It will be interesting to hear their final reflections, but from some of what I have been told the Cuban teens have been surprised at some American habits (for example driving rather than walking to the grocery store when it’s a half mile away), have embraced video games, have little need for air conditioning, and most don’t like pasta.
Kudos to Tim Brennan and everyone else who has been involved in making the goodwill tour a reality. This is big. It has been a first for U.S.-Cuban diplomacy, and it’s been happening right here in West Hartford.
If you have tips about businesses opening or closing, or doing something worth sharing, please provide that information in the comments or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].
Here’s this week’s Buzz:
- Savoy Pizzeria Napoletana will probably not be ready to open its doors at 32 LaSalle Rd. until September, but residents can get a taste of their menu courtesy of the Savoy Road Show. Chef Dante Cistulli will prepare his specially-crafted pizzas in the pizza trailer – a giant wood- burning, copper-clad (and gorgeous, if you can use that word to describe an oven!) pizza oven on a trailer. The road show is available for hire, and will also appear in a special sneak peek event – Max Chef to Farm’s “Tomato Celebration” at Rosedale Farms on Friday, Aug. 5. Click here for information about the event. For more information about the road show, including the a available menu, click here.
- The Blue Back Square space which will soon be home to Cook and the Bear may not look like much yet, but construction is moving along, co-owner Tyler Anderson said. “We were shooting for mid-August but now we’re shooting for September,” he said about the opening, delayed somewhat because of some changes in plans to equip the kitchen and the wait for a wood-burning oven that’s coming from Spain. Chef Ed Jones III has started working at the Monday Cook and the Bear BBQ event at Millwright’s and is finalizing the menu for the restaurant. “We’re testing out items for the opening menu,” Anderson said, and some of that work will be done in a test kitchen in Miami that has the same type of equipment from Spain that will be installed in the West Hartford restaurant. Cook and the Bear will also be one of the participating restaurants at Taste of Blue Back Square and The Center, and will be serving some highlights from the future menu. “We’re getting very excited. I’m very antsy to get it open,” Anderson said. He also said that once it opens, the Cook and the Bear will have a “mug club.” Patrons will be able to purchase a special beer mug which they can bring back to be filled at a discount. Mug club members will also be able to learn which beers are on tap for the night two hours before the opening.
- There’s even more restaurant news to share! Hot Oven Pizza & Panini officially opened Friday in the space formerly occupied by East West Bistro (and Pho Vietnam Restaurant before that) at 264 Park Rd. The restaurant is owned by Alex Saleem and managed by Amen Nassir, two West Hartford residents who also own New York Deli & More on Trumbull Street in Hartford. Nassir said that he and Saleem are going out of their way to become part of the Park Road community, and on Thursday, before they were officially open, they went up and down the street handing out slices of pizza to their neighbors. Anyone who came in got a free slice as well. Hot Oven Pizza & Panini serves thin-crust pizza with a wide variety of topping options, salads, grinders/wraps, and, of course, panini. Nassir said they had been looking for the right space to open up in West Hartford for a while, and are really excited about the location which offers free parking – including at a lot diagonally across the street. Delivery will be up and running in a month or so. Nassir said they also look forward to getting involved with community fundraisers.
- Cookshop Plus announced in a press release that they have started a “Support Local Producers Initiative,” which allows them to partner with local vendors in the community who sell and sample their wares at the Cookshop Plus retail location at 977 Farmington Ave. Current partners include Hillhome Country Food Products, Fresh Wraps Eco Friendly Storage Solutions, and Pure Love Granola. Several more vendors will be added as well. Local vendors may be found onsite most Saturdays, with a roster of events schedule every month.Contact Samantha Hines at [email protected] for more information, or follow Cookshop Plus on Facebook.
- Visual hotel update! Progress on the Delamar West Hartford Hotel is definitely being made now and is clearly visible in the photo!
- There was a rumor going around that D’Angelos in Bishops Corner was closing. Absolutely not true according to the manager.
- GNC in Blue Back Square has closed. There is still a GNC location in Bishops Corner (345 North Main St.) as well as one at Westfarms.
- The Jean Machine will be making an appearance at Taste of Blue Back and The Center on July 27! The flier with details (a pair of jeans for a $10 donation!!) is at the end of the column. The Jean Machine is just one of the specialty merchants that will be participating in the event along with local restaurants. Don’t miss out on the chance to purchase tickets. Click here for details about the overall event and here to purchase tickets.
- Here’s your reminder to vote for Best of West Hartford from among the more than 275 finalists selected in nearly 50 categories – all determined by nominations from the community. The winners which will be honored at a gala awards show on Sept. 8. A list of all of the finalists and the link to voting can be found by clicking here. Some area businesses are doing a great job making their customers aware of the competition, so don’t forget to support your own favorites. Voting is easy, and you can even do it from your phone while sitting on a sunny beach somewhere!
- Last but not least, in the ICYMI department, 616 New Park, a mixed-used development planned for the New Park Avenue corridor which should be a spark to really ignite transit-oriented development in the neighborhood, received its $5 million appropriation from the State Bond Commission last week. Look for construction to begin in early October. Click here to read the complete story.
Remember, if you have any business news to share, remember to add it in the comments section below or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].
Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford!