January 18, 2019

Former dry cleaner aspires to Elm City's pizza pantheon

Photo | Contributed
Photo | Contributed
Exterior of former Jet Cleaners at 687 State Street — now a restaurant, pizzeria and microbrewery.

Its 687 State St. location — next to an I-91 on-ramp and with ample surface parking — is killer. But will its building's provenance and decades-long history as a neighborhood dry cleaner be an unsightly stain on a gleaming new reclamation project-cum-upscale eatery?

The proprietors of NoLo, which opened for business Dec. 7, aren't running away from their site's long history as the home of Jet Cleaners — indeed, they proclaim it as a point of pride.

Designed in 1956 by architect Vincent Amore, the bold concrete-and-glass structure stood as an urban-renewal landmark for decades, notwithstanding its rather prosaic function. Amore's descendants operated the business before moving down the street to 762 State St. in 2016, following a dry-cleaning industry slowdown reflecting Americans' changing wardrobes and lifestyles.

After Jet's move two years ago, landlord Paul Kaplan planned a brew pub for the site, but what has emerged two years and some $2 million later is something far more expansive — a 4,500-square-foot, full-service restaurant/urban oasis that boasts gourmet pizza offerings from wood-fired Stefano Ferrara brick ovens, plus a roaring live-fired Grillworks Inferno 96 open rage.

Created by former De Legna proprietor Derek Bacon, NoLo isn't just a pizza joint — its ambitious menu features Italian dishes and other creative fare that reflect its owners' commitment to "seasonal offerings sourced sustainably from local purveyors and farms."

The brewery is there, too. Brewer Justin Maturo's Erector Brewing Collective has collaborated with local brewhouses to create small-batch craft beer from NoLo's Portland Kettle Works five-barrel system.

At Thursday's ribbon-cutting, city deputy economic development administrator Steve Fontana called NoLo "the latest and greatest New Haven brewery" and creator of locally produced pizza "that belongs in the holy Trinity of Sally's, Pepe's and Modern [Apizza]."

Mayor Toni N. Harp called NoLo "another delicious pizza restaurant to launch in the pizza capital of the world."

Contact Michael C. Bingham at mbingham@newhavenbiz.com

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