Trumbull restaurants opening amidst COVID surge

TRUMBULL — Dan Camporeale had hoped his new Italian restaurant, Ecco, would be open by now.

The eatery — one of several local dining establishments in which Camporeale is a partner — was supposed to open in the Long Hill Market around Christmas time. But then the latest COVID-19 surge hit and threw everything into chaos.

“COVID hit a bunch of people,” connected with the project, Camporeale said. The illnesses, combined with some supply chain problems he had been facing, pushed the project back. But his hope is that the restaurant will finally open later this month.

“For the most part, everyone is healthy again, and, barring any large hurdles, we’re planning to open (next week),” he said.

But he acknowledged this is a tough time to open a new restaurant. Camporeale is a partner in other local eateries, including Molto in Fairfield and Spiga in New Canaan. He said all of his spots have been having a difficult time lately.

“Restaurants usually do quiet down in January, but this is different,” he said.

Though he’s excited about the prospect of opening, there is some anxiety attached to opening a restaurant during a surge. Throughout the state, restaurants have reported closing temporarily due to COVID-related staffing shortages and health worries.

“Our concern is that we are opening at a time that’s uncertain,” Camporeale said. “This is new. A surge like this is very new.”

However, this isn’t the first time a restaurant has opened in Trumbull during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Rina Bakalar, Trumbull’s director of economic and community development. She pointed to at least one other, Marianna’s Pantry on Main Street, which opened earlier this year.

Ecco also isn’t the only restaurant planned to open in Trumbull in January. The Mexican restaurant Guacamole’s was tentatively slated to open this month in the former Wahlburger’s space in the Westfield Trumbull mall.

Bakalar said she’s confident that both Ecco and Guacamole’s will find success even in these unusual times.

“These two restaurants are owned by highly experienced restaurateurs,” she said. “They each own multiple restaurants and have been navigating restaurant protocols as well as openings in other places during this time, so I am sure they will be prepared for staff and customers. Without a doubt it is a challenge, but I believe they will effectively work through it.”

Camporeale is trying to stay optimistic. He pointed to a recent opening of a friend’s restaurant that he attended, which was packed with customers.

“He had his opening, and you’d think word ‘COVID’ had never been invented,” he said.