Despite pandemic, women work to open new local eateries
By Ted Glanzer
SIMSBURY – Given the state of the restaurant business during the pandemic, it would seem antithetical for two eateries to schedule their full openings in Simsbury this spring.
But Stephanie Civitillo and Amy Sheehan are shedding their corporate jobs to fully open Roux Cajun Eatery and The Coffee Spot, respectively, by March 2021.
Roux Cajun Eatery
Civitillo, a Louisiana transplant (with an accent that occasionally presents itself) who worked in the insurance business for 24 years, has big plans for Roux Cajun Eatery, a 3,700-square-foot cajun restaurant at 10 Wilcox St. that will also have a general store featuring grab-and-go meals as well as wares from local businesses.
The restaurant (named Roux because it’s Civitillo’s grandmother’s maiden name) will feature authentic cajun cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner, including, but not limited to, po boys, gumbo, jambalaya, chicken fingers, beignet with cafe au lait, king cake, as well as other desserts that sound so delicious and decadent, you might gain weight just by reading their descriptions.
Her transition from the corporate world to the restaurant business isn’t all that daunting, as she’s cooked many meals for large gatherings in the past.
“I did a lot of catering,” she said, adding she has a large crawfish boil every year. “I love, love, love having large parties and feeding people. … It’s just who we are. I taught husband how to make beignet (a Louisiana doughnut with powdered sugar on top).”
And it’s not like there’s a ton of authentic cajun restaurants in the area and, if there is one, it likely focuses on seafood.
One misconception about cajun cooking is it doesn’t feature as much heat as people think.
“Most people think it’s burn-your-mouth hot, but the true experience is, yes, you have heat but there is also a much deeper flavor profile.”
The restaurant will feature art by George Rodrigue, whose Blue Dog Art featuring the cajun legend loup-garou, earned him worldwide recognition.
In addition, the general store will offer items including soaps, leather notebooks, maple syrups and other goods.
As for the timing of opening a restaurant, Civitello said she’s in a better place than others who have been open for a while.
“They’re into leases and equipment and product at a time when [they can’t be open at full capacity],” she said. “Now they’re hurting and shutting down. My husband jokes we only have to buy half the tables and chairs.”
Still she plans on opening the general store this winter as a sort of extended soft opening, with the full restaurant opening in the early spring.
To give the public a taste of what’s to come, Roux is opened a pop-up shop earlier this week that will run through Dec. 23. The shop is open from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It will feature Roux merchandise as well as items from Wahl Creative, Robert Oliver Woodworks, Boyle’s Naturals and Le Banh Patisserie.
Roux is also featuring virtual catering classes (as mentioned above, Civitello has big plans for Roux) once a week with different levels of memberships. The classes helps with menu items, provides a list of ingredients and offers company and laughter while you cook dinner.
“What I’m doing is answering the biggest question on social media: What’s for dinner?” she said. “We send a menu every week, we hold the class at Sunday at 5 p.m. and everyone can do it with their families and have company while they cook.
“Social distancing stinks and I miss having people in kitchen with me.”
For more information on Roux, visit rouxct.com
The Coffee Spot
Sheehan is planning on opening The Coffee Spot in the former location of The Storyteller’s Cottage at 750 Hopmeadow St. on March 1.
She’s initially bringing, yes, a coffee shop to the 2,000-square-foot first floor of the house with the hopes of expanding to the second floor if and when demand rises.
Like Civitillo, Sheehan is leaving the corporate world - she is winding down her banking consulting business, to open her The Coffee Spot, which will feature fair trade artisan coffee, loose-leaf teas and in-house baked goods, including gluten-free items. Sheehand said she is also contemplating coffee flights for people to try different coffees.
“I love what I do, I’ve loved it for a long time but there comes a point when I need something different to do,” she said.
The shop will also feature reading rooms, cozy oversized chairs and inviting tables to give patrons a spot and sit and linger - when they can, of course, pandemic permitting.
Sheehan said she saw a need in Simsbury for a larger coffee shop, noting that Starbucks is a great business, but the location in town can be a bit cramped.
“I was sitting home during COVID, and I had a lot of time to think,” she said. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel. This is not going to last forever. … The real estate prices were right, and this building became available, and I’ve loved it forever. It’s absolutely gorgeous. The time seemed right. It has big rooms and a lot of space so we can spread out. We’re social distancing while even just being in here. It’ll be a nice way to ease back into normal life.”
So far the feedback from the community has been terrific and the final plans for the shop are before the Simsbury Planning Commission.
Sheehan said she has gotten to know Civitillo based on their prospective openings.
“We stop by each other’s location, bouncing ideas off each other,” she said. “We’re already talking about what can we do together, how we can help each other out. … It’ll be fun to do some community stuff together.”
Both businesses are part of the Fiddler’s Green retail complex at the corner of Hopmeadow and Wilcox streets. The property is also the home of Joe Pizza, McLadden’s Irish Pub, and a variety of shops and offices.
For updates on both businesses, visit https://www.fiddlers-green-simsbury.com/restaurants