MERIDEN — Wooster Street Pizza, which took over the former Chef’s Hat Pizza location, had a rocky start but is officially open for business.
“I’m really glad that someone has purchased that property and is doing business there in such a quick turnaround time since Chef’s Hat closed,” said Rosanne Ford, president of Midstate Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a great thing because we never want to see vacancies, so it is nice when someone is able to move in rather quickly.”
Chef’s Hat Pizza closed on June 29, and Wilson Orellana and Edison Heredia, owners of Wooster Street Pizza, closed on the property on June 30.
“We did not need to do much remodeling,” Orellanna said. “We’re just decorating to mirror the car theme in our other location, putting up a new sign and redoing the parking lot.”
They planned on holding their grand opening on July 1, but it didn’t work out that way.
“We ended up having to close completely for two weeks due to permits,” said Thelma Orellanna, Wilson’s wife and manager of Wooster Street Pizza.
Mayor Kevin Scarpati caught wind of this from posts on Facebook and reached out to Thelma to help.
“We want to see every business thrive and be successful,” Scarpati said. “And I think it’s important to eat local, shop local, stay local and support local businesses. So we hope the patrons that enjoyed Chef’s Hat will carry on their patronage and enjoy Wooster Street Pizza as well.”
Thelma Orellanna said she was very thankful for Scarpati’s help, and Wooster Street Pizza officially opened its doors on July 11.
“Since it was almost the weekend, we were really busy, and there was an extremely long wait. A lot of people were looking to try us out,” she said. “And we were working without a computer, just a credit card machine, so it was hectic, but it worked out in the end.”
Wilson Orellana said things have been going well so far.
“I am very excited to finally be open and see everyone come in and try our food,” he added. “It’s a pleasure to serve people here in town.”
That is one of the main reasons Wilson and Edison opened the second location at 482 Cook Ave., to bring the business to Wilson’s neighborhood.
His family “lived in Meriden for seven years and a lot of people from here go to our location in Cromwell and would ask, ‘When are you going to open here?’” Wilson said. “I always told them some day and the day finally came and the people are happy now.”
The Orellana family often ate at Chef’s Hat, formerly owned by Maritza Torres, and what started out as lighthearted banter turned into reality.
“I’m friends with Maritza,” Thelma said. “One day we were all talking and as a joke, my husband and I said, ‘Do you ever think about selling?’ And she said, ‘Probably in the future, not too soon. But we’ll talk to our accountant and let you know.’ So when they were deciding to sell, she sent me a text and asked if we were interested.”
Since the location in Cromwell was doing well, Wilson and Edison decided this was the right time.
“I worked at Wooster Street Pizza in Wallingford on Route 6 back in the 90s as the pizza maker. When they sold that one, I went to the one in Cromwell and have been there for 28 years,” Wilson said. “Edison was looking for another job, but there weren’t any positions open at the time. Then after the pandemic, my boss asked if I wanted to buy it. I said let me talk to my partner and we bought it.”
The two have owned Wooster Street Pizza for three years as of this month.
“We have a good partnership,” Wilson said. “We work well together and have good communication.”
Wooster Street Pizza offers Italian-American food and New Haven-style pizza. The menu includes appetizers like pasta fagioli soup and stuffed shrimp; calzones; stuffed bread; entrees such as stuffed shells and chicken parmesan; burgers; salads; grinders like Buffalo chicken and cheesesteak; wraps like tuna and chicken Caesar; regular hard rolls or platter; design your own pizza options; and desserts like New York cheesecake.
“Our Wooster sticks are popular at the Cromwell location so we brought them here,” Thelma said. “They’re breadsticks made with fried dough, garlic, parmesan cheese and parsley flakes.”
The wings are also a big hit.
“We changed the way we cook our wings. A lot of places fry them twice and that’s how we used to do it too, but we noticed the wings were coming out too dry,” Thelma said. “So now we bake them in the oven first, so then when we fry them, they come out a little juicier and they’re not as dry as they used to be.”
The antipasto, which contains lettuce, tomato, onions, banana peppers, red peppers, olives, pepperoni, artichokes, ham, salami and provolone cheese, is also a big ticket item.
“Somebody posted about it on Facebook and Google and we’ve been going through antipasto like no tomorrow,” Thelma said. “The customer that posted it said that it was the perfect size; it didn’t have too much lettuce to overwhelm everything else. But we make items to order the way the customer wants it. We want our customers to be happy.”
Wilson Orellana and Edison Heredia are both from Ecuador. Orellana has been in the United States for almost 30 years and spent most of that time in the restaurant industry. His first job was at Anthony’s Garden in Meriden, then John Carvers in Wallingford. He is not only a proud business owner, but a proud husband and father.
“I just want to provide a good life for my family,” Orellana said. “It’s not easy, you have to suffer a little in the beginning, but it will all pay off. We’re growing and we’re enjoying the American Dream.”
The restaurant’s hours are Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; and Sunday, 12-9 p.m. It is closed Tuesdays. Takeout and delivery are available. They can be reached at 203-235-1177 or 203-235-1173
The other Wooster Street Pizza is at 77 Berlin Road, Suite 6, Cromwell.