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A CT Couple Loved a Restaurant that Closed. They’re Bringing a New One to a ‘Famous’ Location.

June 11, 2024 Hartford Courant

If only that site could talk.

It likely would tell quite a bunch of tales of rock concerts and sporting events of the past.

Now there is a new story being told at the former site of the New Haven Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which was demolished in 2007 and used as a parking lot since.

A new apartment building is growing at the site, and so is a new restaurant: A year after Darien’s Melting Pot closed, a new one is coming to New Haven later this year.

Fairfield couple Daina Senatore and Jonathan Reeve have broken ground for it at 20 George St. – on the former coliseum site.

Melting Pot, a fondue restaurant franchise, was founded in 1975 and has 92 restaurants in 31 U.S. states and Canada. Known for offering a variety of fondue cooking styles and unique entrées, Melting Pot’s menu also features cheese fondues, salads, fine wines, spirits and chocolate fondue desserts.

Senatore and Reeve married last August and describe their family as blended with five children. The family would always go to the Darien location for birthdays and big events.

A year ago, the family and everyone else in the state found out the Darien location, which was opened from 2005 to March 2023, was closing and Senatore inquired about what happened.

“We had one Connecticut location in Darien, and it closed due to landlord issues, and we left a lot of loyal customers behind,” said Collin Benyo, The Melting Pot’s franchise growth specialist. “Daina and Jonathan came to me and wanted to open a location. It was a meeting place for their blended family. They came together and used the Melting Pot as their meeting place.”

Daina Senatore emailed inquires about opening her own franchise and mentioned it to Jonathan.

“I didn’t think anyone would get back to me and Collin got back to me, and we had an introductory meeting and got the ball rolling from there,” Daina Senatore said. “I loved everything about it and the brand. Collin was excited about the idea too. I liked that we didn’t need a restaurant background to run it.”

“I came back to the family, and they thought I was crazy, but we decided to do it,” she said.

The couple had worked together before on Wall Street and met in the business world 14 years ago.

Senatore , 49, is a lifelong Connecticut resident, grew up in East Lyme, is a UConn graduate, and has mainly worked in the business world in New York City.

Reeve, 56, was born in England, grew up in Canada and moved to the U.S. 20 years ago. He’s worked in financial services and data information.

Josh, 26, one of the five children, will be running operations of the kitchen and dining room at the New Haven location. He’s been training for the last six months in Sarasota and Fort Myers locations after earning a degree in culinary and restaurant management at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island.

Also in the family are: Megan, Mia, Emma and Reese, ranging from 15 to 27 in age.

“We are now a big happy family,” Senatore said.

Senatore has been collaborating with the architect and the building end and Reeve has been overseeing the finances among other duties.

“We were all Melting Pot fanatics,” Reeve said. “It’s a special kind of dining. It’s more of an event. You have everything at your table and can cook your own food.

It’s a four-course meal. A fondue pot with cheese is placed on the table where patrons can dip bread or fruit into it. Salad follows and then the entrée which includes meats, fish, chicken and seafood for fondue. Chocolate fondue desserts finish the interactive dining experience.

“It’s all about the experience,” Senatore said. “The service is really key every time you dine.”

“Melting pot takes a lot of care in who they let become a franchise,” she said. “Each location is hand selected. They have a strong support system that guides you throughout the process. There is a lot of hand holding.”

New Haven stood out as the new location to the new owners and the Tampa-headquartered Melting Pot.

“New Haven has everything that would support a great Melting Pot,” Benyo said. “Daina and Jonathan have never been restaurant owners. Because of the simplicity of what we do, that’s what I’ve tried to impress on people. We are trying to find people that match our core values. They are going to be our brand ambassadors. They will be the host of their own party, seven days a week.”

Reeve said New Haven is a ‘foodie based’ with great pizza and restaurants.

“Given the population density and at least four large colleges in the area – there’s a lot of industry in that area,” Reeve said. “We will be intersection of I-95 and I-91. We have great access to two major interstates in the downtown area. Melting Pot’s usually get people from longer distances.”

The opening is expected in late fall. The location will be at the bottom of a residential building and will be the first retail space of phased project to fill the former site of the New Haven Coliseum.

There will be areas for bigger parties and another area called Lovers’ Lane for those on dates.

“We plan on having a nice bar,” Reeve said. “New Haven also has a nice bar scene. We can also serve people right at the bar while they watch a game. We feel we can serve the entire family and give a nice experience for a date night.”

There will also be an event space for private family parties or business meetings, and space outdoors for small and large parties to eat and drink.

“Most people come here to celebrate,” Benyo said. “When you come to Melting Pot, you are doing it for a birthday, anniversary or some special occasion. This is the place where everyone comes together.”


Sean Krofssik
Special to the Courant

View original article.

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