Prospect Beach House Deli brings new life to shorefront corner in West Haven
In a few short months, Chris Walsh, owner of Prospect Beach House Deli & Market, has turned a prime, if underutilized, shorefront corner on the city’s West Shore into a neighborhood gathering place that feels as if it’s been there for years.
The Prospect Beach House, 940 Ocean Ave., opens at 7 a.m. for breakfast and stays open until 6 p.m. so people can pick up dinner on the way home.
The comfortable space features exposed red brick and wood — and old West Haven and West Shore photos, along with a painted Prospect Beach House logo, on the walls.
The counter help — including Stacey Fumiatti, widow of the late New Haven police Officer Robert Fumiatti — are all local folks from the West Shore, and if you’ve spent any amount of time at all in West Haven, chances are you’ll run into someone you know along the way.
Anyone who knows Walsh from his other place — Duffy’s Tavern on Campbell Avenue — isn’t surprised at the Prospect Beach House’s initial success.
But what would make him want to double his trouble?
“I live literally two blocks away” on Connecticut Avenue, said Walsh, whose father, John Walsh, once owned famed West Haven joints Johnny Walsh’s Cafe and Christopher John Michael’s, the latter of which he named after his three sons.
For years, Walsh has driven past the empty space that used to be Dairy Mart, Cumberland Farms and more recently Food Fair, and saw in his mind what it could be.
“I’ve just always thought it was such a great building” and that “somebody should do something with it,” Walsh said.
He started thinking seriously about taking the leap last year — and got to work on it over the summer.
“I definitely went for a coastal farmhouse look” and “I wanted to get some history on the walls,” Walsh said.
So far, the biggest hit on the menu seems to be the West Shore Cheesesteak — extra-lean shaved steak with caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, melted provolone and roasted garlic aioli on a sub roll — although the Beach House Burger, the Rachel, the paninis and the soups and salads all have their fans, Walsh said.
He envisions having a seasonal menu as times goes on, with an emphasis on fresh seafood, including lobster rolls and crabcakes.
“It’s an evolving-type menu,” Walsh said, noting that he recently has expanded the number of “grab-and-go” meals, so people can pick things up for dinner when they don’t have time to cook at home.
The place already is full of regulars, including a fair share of both “every day regulars” and some “twice-a-day regulars,” said Walsh.
“They did a nice job with the remodel,” said Bert Rapini, who said he comes in for lunch at least twice a week. “It’s nice and clean. The food is good. It’s convenient. ...
My goal is to try probably everything on the menu.”
Fumiatti, who lives about a half-mile away and was among the first people Walsh hired, said “everybody who comes in says that we’re long overdue for a nice deli.
“I love it!” she said.
In fact, she loves working there so much that she got her niece, Bianca Studdard, to apply for a job there, as well.
Joe Strilbycki, who lives in East Haven but works in West Haven and knows Walsh from Duffy’s, also is a regular.
“It’s cozy” and “family friendly” and “everything’s fresh and good,” he said. “It’s a good, honest meal for us local people.”