OLD SAYBROOK – A mural of wheat by local artist Jaime La Jones wraps around the walls of Gargano’s Pasta and Italian Market, set for its grand opening today, July 28.
“This is a chef-driven company,” said co-owner Lani Gargano, who said the mural is a reminder of the Gargano family’s passion for food, especially pasta.
Lani and her husband, chef Joel Gargano, own Grano Arso – translated as “burnt wheat” — in Chester, a well-known, award-winning restaurant. Their new venture is a market and café where customers purchase food at counters to eat in-house or to go.
“Joel and I were like, ‘if we decide to do another business, it’s going to be food driven. But it cannot be another refined restaurant like Grano. It has to be something else,’” Lani told CT Examiner.
On the menu is a variety of salads, antipasti, and sandwiches. Recommended to CT Examiner was the toasted rye pappardelle, served with braised lamb shank ragu, rosemary, kale and a smoked ricotta sauce — described as “reminiscent of a beef stroganoff,” by general manager Ed Jones, a chef of nearly 20 years.
After ordering, customers can head to the “pasta lab” at the far end of the market and watch as the chefs make pasta from scratch.
Lattes, espresso and cappuccinos are offered at the coffee bar. The market includes provisions like olive oils and jars of honey along with Italian specialty products like formaggi, salumi, and candied orange peel.
Joel’s father, another Gargano, a baker for 30 years, will be making all of the bread and pastries.
Lani also hired her uncle as the restaurant’s contractor.
“Everything that you see from the detailed finishes to the foundation, it was thoughtfully put together and it’s all coming from the Gargano family,” she said.
The couple’s landlord recommended they rent the space in Old Saybrook and they’ve been working on it for two years, slowed down by the pandemic, and, on a happier note, the birth of their first child.
“It’s 1,000 square feet of love and hard work,” Lani said.
Gargano Pasta & Italian Market will celebrate its grand opening on July 28. Hours of operation are 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. from Tuesday through Sunday.