Nautical-themed restaurant could open in Milford by December

MILFORD — A dream 15 years in the making is nearing reality Crystal Ardito-Meyer and Nick Amoratis.

The pair say that before year's end, Nautilus, a nautical-themed restaurant in the heart of Walnut Beach, will open its doors.

"We are hoping to get the kitchen done soon to get the kitchen staff trained," said Ardito-Meyer. "Once we are ready and set, we will open, and we are hopeful of doing it in four weeks."

Amoratis agreed, saying it will be "this year that we open."

The co-owners were hoping to open Nautilus in August, but Amoratis said the renovation process was besieged by workers' scheduling delays and shortages of supplies.

"We started ripping off the floors and bringing down the sheetrock, and we completely gut this place out," he said. "There was also juggling contractor's schedules and getting everybody to come when we needed them, while dealing with the shortage in getting supplies and equipment. We figured there would be some delays, but some of the delays took a lot longer than we anticipated."

 Much of the work inside the restaurant located at 54 Naugatuck Ave. was cosmetic, Ardito-Meyer said.

"I couldn't even imagine if we needed to do construction with the cost of materials that we saw and how long it took to get stuff," she said.

Throughout the process, Amoratis said they added a couple of amenities they weren't planning on doing.

"We wanted to make sure everything was right for the staff, and everything was right for the customer as well," he said. "We also didn't want to rush the project to open. We wanted to open when we have everything done right." 

They have also had a good relationship with the city as they have continued to work on opening Nautilis, said Amoratis.

"They have been really helpful," said Ardito-Meyer. "We had so many questions when we started to make the plan, and I thought we would be so annoying for them, but they said they appreciated us asking all of our questions."

The restaurant is opening in the same location as the former Alfa's, which Amoratis' grandfather opened in 1980, and where Ardito-Meyer worked for 16 years.

"My grandfather started Alfa's Pizza back in 1980, and it was just a pizza place, not a bar," said Amoratis. "In 2000, my dad and uncle expanded it to be a restaurant and bar."

But in the 22 years since the expansion, things didn't always go smoothly, he said.

"Unfortunately, after my dad passed away, things started to go downhill, and this location started to get a bad reputation," Amoratis said. "That's why we wanted to do something new and show the community what our vision is, which is different."

Nautilus is opening in the same location as Alfa's.

"This restaurant is 15 years in the making," said Ardito-Meyer.

Amoratis said there is more work to be done, but one of the major projects — new flooring — is almost complete.

"We have paint on the walls, and after that, we have some minor things to get done," he said. "Then it's about decorating and training."

Ardito-Meyer said she had recruited some experienced staff they have worked with before. Amoratis said it makes it easier to work with them because they know the vision he and Ardito-Meyer have for the restaurant.

"We want people to feel they can come here on a Sunday after leaving the beach, or they can come here on a Friday for a really nice date night," said Ardito-Meyer. "So that's the overall mood and atmosphere we want to go for. We want everybody, staff, and clientele to feel comfortable when they come to the restaurant."

The duo said there is enthusiasm building among the public for the opening, with people approaching them with questions about the business.

"We tell them we are working hard to make it a good grand opening," said Amoratis. "Many people have reached out to us online and have even offered to help as far as physically being here and helping, to helping with menus or getting advice from other restaurant owners."

Once the Nautilus is up and running, the owners want to be heavily involved in local benefits and charities.

"We really enjoy giving back," said Ardito-Meyer. "We plan on working with the local small businesses in these efforts as well."

"We are even thinking of fun ideas for our regulars, like giveaways and stuff like that," said Amoratis.