NEW HAVEN — A new brewery and restaurant that showcases local talent and a unique twist on Italian and American pub food quickly is building a clientele after a soft opening.
Nolo, the latest restaurant to come on the scene in New Haven, is located at 687 State St. near the intersection with Grove Street in the space that for decades housed Jet Cleaners.
Justin Maturo, owner of Erector Brewing, partnered with Derek Bacon — who came up with the design concept for Nolo, which means “freight” in Italian.
Maturo, 42, said it refers to the delivery of the brewing equipment across the country on an 18-wheeler from Kettleworks in Portland, Ore., and the two Stefano pizza ovens that arrived directly from Italy. The restaurant also features a Grillworks wood-fired grill, on which most of its menu items are cooked.
The industrial theme is carried through with a mural of a train and steel I-beams throughout.
Besides the personnel, the new restaurant has many local connections, particularly the businesses hired to flesh out the interior. They include: flooring by Reclamation Lumber; steel installation by American Iron Works; the furniture was built by New England Seating.
The sister restaurant to Nolo is Da Legna, which means “from wood,” and is located farther down State at the corner of Clark Street. Bacon is a partner with Dan Perrillo at Da Legna. Perrillo created the pizzas at both Nolo and Da Legna.
The executive chef is Josh Ulmer, who has worked in Savannah, Ga., and New York City. Maturo said the Southern flare can be seen with the Italian dishes in such menu items as pimento grilled cheese and braised collard greens with pork.
Maturo said the pizza is Roman-style, which is thinner and more crisp than the sourdough version.
Some popular menu items so far are the wild boar ragout, Italian ramen, burnt honey lamb ribs and the Nolo burger.
“The whole concept of this place is really unique for Connecticut with all the breweries popping up. You really don’t have many breweries in the state where you could sit down and have a flight of beer and a bone-in steak or lamb ribs,” he said.
Nolo seats 189 in booths on the first floor and in the mezzanine, as well as at the bar.
Maturo brews larger batches of beer and does his packaging at The Beeracks, which is at Overshores Brewing in East Haven. He said Overshores has transitioned to a collaborative brew space with 10 breweries located there.
The craft beer at Nolo itself “has more of a culinary aspect, where I will be working with Josh grilling anything from peaches and plums and marshmallows ... to herbs and spices,” which can be added during the brewing process.
“We want to infuse his high-end cooking with the brewing to create something new,” Maturo said.
He considers the beer created at Nolo closer to an experimental lab, he said. The equipment at the restaurant is a five-barrel system, compared to the 15-barrel equipment at The Beeracks.
On Thursday, at Nolo, he was brewing a milk stout with organic cacao nibs, cereal with toasted coconut and lactose sugar.
Maturo said a number of the independent brewers at The Beeracks, hope to follow Maturo’s lead and some day open their own small brewery and restaurant in New Haven.
“We are hoping eventually to have our own little brew tour,” he said of three other breweries. Hoax Brewing Co. already has plans to locate in Westville. His other brewery friends include: Hulls Brewing Co. and Armada Brewing,
Maturo started in 2012 with small batches at Erector Square in the Fair Haven section of New Haven where his screenprinting shop was located.
“It has been a long time coming,” he said of opening this business in prime location.