MERIDEN — Commercial builder and renowned gardener Joseph La Rosa is ready to cook up something new in the restaurant business.
La Rosa, owner of La Rosa Construction Co., recently paid $400,000 to Konover Development Co. for several parcels along Chamberlain Highway and plans to build a rustic Tuscan-style pizza restaurant with bar and dance floor.
“It’s a new challenge,” La Rosa said.
The eatery will be at 480 Chamberlain Highway, the former home of Lettuce Please You and Roma Di Notte. Konover had razed the building, but the parcel was too small for anyone on Konover’s list of national clients, said John Gustafson, operations manager for La Rosa.
“Mr. La Rosa is a very personable guy, he’s involved socially and in the garden club,” Gustafson said. “It’s always been a dream of his to have a restaurant.”
La Rosa said the spot was ideal for a restaurant and Gustafson and his three children John, Joseph Jr. and Jenine La Rosa Monthei will play a part in its operation.
According to Gustafson, recent traffic studies show about 1,200 to 1,300 cars pass the corner spot every day. The restaurant would be next to Target, and across from the road leading to Westfield Meriden mall.
“It has plenty of curbside appeal,” Gustafson said. “We’ll have a sit-in lounge for employees getting out of work and shoppers looking for something to eat. The few restaurants Meriden has are excellent, but they are all on the East Side.”
La Rosa has hired a surveyor and site engineer Indo Land Design LLC to help put together a site plan application to present to the city’s Planning Depart¬ment. The Old Lyme architectur¬al firm Point One is designing the building.
Gustafson said the interior and exterior will be rustic and inspired by buildings found in the Italian region of Tuscany. It will have a brick oven and serve pizza and light appetizers, desserts and salads. It will also have a lounge and bar area and maybe a small dance floor.
“It sounds very exciting. I remember Lettuce Please You from before,” said Mayor Mark D. Be¬nigni. “Whenever I’m out at events, I hear over and over again that the West Side needs more restaurants. This will be an exciting addition to Westfield Meriden mall and the entire West Side shopping area.”
La Rosa owns many properties in the city, including a strip of commercial properties on Broad Street, in South Meriden and numerous residential properties. His son, John La Rosa, owns 21-23 Colony St. downtown.
Gustafson will manage the construction and hopes to get through the approval process and begin building by summer’s end.
“Meriden has so many great things happening now in the retail, brownfields remediation, business development areas, but the one thing we need more of is restaurants,” said Trudy Magnolia who works in the city’s Economic Development Department.
“Hopefully, more restaurants will follow.