Artisan Pizza, Bourbon Bar Coming to Downtown Middletown

The city's fast-growing NoRa — North of Rapallo Avenue — section will soon be home to a world-class pizza place and old-fashioned speakeasy.


By mid-October the northernmost reaches of Middletown's North End of Main Street — re-christened NoRa by longtime owner of Eli Cannon's Tap Room — will be a hopping artisan pizza and bourbon bar. 

Kevin Wirtes is says he's shooting for mid-October opening of Krust at 686 Main Street. Middletown Patch stopped by Tuesday afternoon to see the wood flooring already lain and Wirtes prepping the front of the storefront to remove the glass — in inticipation of a 5,800-pound Forno Bravo brick oven arriving Thursday from California.

"It's going to be a big spectacle," says Wirtes, who was laid off from his longtime  job as in insurance crisis management in March, which served as a catalyst to purse his own business.

He's opening the restaurant with a partner, a former co-worker with a side catering business. "We've been talking about this for several years. We drew up a business plan a while ago," Wirtes says.

Wirtes himself has two years of college culinary courses under his belt and pizza restaurant experience.

Wood-fired pizza, Wirtes says, is not well-known in Connecticut, but he's aiming to change that. "It has a unique and distinct taste." The addition of a bourbon bar will allow him to expand upon his second passion — bourbon. "We're looking to create a throwback, speakeasy-type atmosphere," with a lot of top-shelf bourbon but also affordable brands and cocktails which incorporate whiskey and scotch, for those who haven't yet become aficionados.

As for NoRa, Wirtes says, "we actually saw the space [at 686 Main] a year ago and fell in love with its long, narrow, space; the look of it. We fell in love with the North End." He met Phil Ouellette, owner of Eli Cannon's and the Trading Co. across the street, and saw what Carrie Carrella was doing with NoRa Cupcake Co. "They really embraced us," Wirtes says.

And how does Wirtes take his bourbon? 15-year Pappy Van Winkle whiskey — neat.

For information, see Krust.

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