New Haven's Caseus To Close July 21; New Concept Planned For September

From www.courant.com by Leeanne Griffin
New Haven's Caseus To Close July 21; New Concept Planned For September

Caseus Fromagerie & Bistro, celebrated for its cheese-heavy, decadent fare, will host its last service July 21 after more than 10 years in New Haven.

But in September, a new vision will take its place, led by two Caseus chefs who’ve been working toward their goal of restaurant ownership for several years.

Caseus owner Jason Sobocinski announced the closing on Facebook Thursday, citing a desire to spend more time with his wife and three children and devote energy to his other businesses, including Black Hog Brewing in Oxford and Ordinary, a New Haven cocktail bar.

“I’m looking to spread myself a little less thin, and put the ownership on a couple of people who have been wanting it for quite some time and have been working their butts off,” he said by phone Friday. “I’m looking into the future.”

Sobocinski has partnered with his chefs Craig Hutchinson and Alex Lishchynsky to launch a new restaurant in the Caseus space, at the corner of Whitney Avenue and Trumbull Street.

The venture, with a targeted mid-September opening, will have a new name (which Sobocinski is keeping under wraps), a redesign and renovation of the space and expanded service hours, with plans for breakfast and weekend brunch. Current Caseus staff will stay on board, he says.

The restaurant’s associated cheese shop will continue to offer cheese and charcuterie, he says, but as the new project debuts, it will also become a destination for grab-and-go prepared foods like salads and sandwiches. Plans for morning breakfast also include housemade bagels.

Longtime friends Hutchinson and Lishchynsky bring Boston and New York fine-dining experience to the new project, and share a common interest in contemporary Italian cuisine. In Connecticut, they partnered to create [oink], a pop-up concept, and hosted special events throughout the state, including a brunch series at Caseus in early 2016.

“[oink] was a great testing ground for us to get to know the Connecticut clientele a little bit better,” Hutchinson says. “We have had our ears open to what people want the food scene to be.”

Sobocinski says he’ll be taking on a “chief culture officer” role with the new project, to maintain the laid-back, welcoming culture that made Caseus successful.

The partners plan a focus on vegetables, to highlight strong relationships with local farmers, and will dedicate a room to the preparation of fresh pastas and housemade breads, although there will be gluten-free options as well.

“We are going to be embracing cheese, but it’s not going be the focus of the entire restaurant anymore. It deters some people,” Hutchinson says.

Sobocinski said Caseus’ affiliated food truck, which specializes in grilled cheese, will continue to operate as normal. The new restaurant will also be able to handle more catering services, and both Sobocinski and Hutchinson say they’re happy to be able to offer takeout food options, which Caseus was not equipped to do.

“If you don’t have an hour to sit down for lunch, you can come by and grab a really great sandwich on housemade bread, an awesome salad. That’s where it’s going … people want to take food out,” Sobocinski says.

“We truly feel that we understand the New Haven guest; we’ve heard them, we’ve listened to them and we’re here to make them happy, and cater toward their schedule with more hours, more services,” Hutchinson says. “Hopefully a slightly faster menu, and a healthier menu, so they can eat here as many times as possible.”