MILFORD — It’s almost like starting a new business.

Gusto Trattoria, a high-end Italian restaurant in the city for 25 years, will greet customers on its new asphalt garden patio from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday when the state’s new COVID-19 restaurant regulations go into effect.

“Gusto’s is all about getting the approvals needed and making sure we are following all the safety rules for our customers and our staff of workers,” said Ellen Mavuli, co-owner with husband Riccardi Mavuli.

“The Health Department came on Friday and the Fire Department came today (Tuesday). We have all the things we need. It is like starting a new business,” Ellen Mavuli said.

The new rules were put into place May 8 for the May 20 opening.

“As Connecticut is now planning how best to begin reopening businesses and reopening its economy, we want the public to know that local restaurants are taking our role and our responsibility seriously when it comes to protecting public health,” said Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association. “Connecticut restaurants are working with state officials to determine how best to return to full service as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Toward that end, the Mavulis enlisted the aid of the Slate Pages app.

“The Slate Pages app is important to us,” Ellen Mavulis said. “All of our employees can take their temperature and we can scan the QR (quick response) codes and record their cleaning history.”

The Slate Pages app gives gives business owners the ability to implement a personal health screening plan with employees, according to the company. For instance, prior to a shift, employees can open the Slate Pages app on a smartphone and perform a health screening. The Slate App saves and timestamps the employee or volunteer health screening, according to the website.

Social distancing

Gusto’s is taking social distances guidelines even further.

“Without a doubt we could have had more tables on the patio,” Ellen Mavuli said. “Instead of the 6-foot separation, however, we are going with 12 feet. They (officials) told us we could put more tables out there, but we want to make sure our customers feel comfortable and safe.”

Gusto’s also is bringing back its employees.

“We had a big employee meeting to go over all the safety precautions that will be necessary,” Ellen Mavuli said. “Some of the staff will be working the patio service. It has been difficult because many can make more money for now staying home.

“Some of our people had full-time jobs and they stayed, as well,” Ellen Mavuli said. “We also have back a strong front-door hostess staff. We’ve been fortunate. We’ve been able to keep our whole front kitchen and back kitchen. A lot of people are calling for reservations. From day one of the pandemic shutdown we stayed open for takeout, which was good.”

The menu choices will be plentiful.

“Riccardo really has high standards,” Ellen Mavuli said of Gusto’s chef. “He has a full menu and a partial menu. There will be specials daily. He is making his homemade pasta in a clear-glass room, so that people can watch him make it.”

“Our menu, I think, is adorable,” Ellen Mavuli said. “It is paper with Tuscan colors inside. It is sealed so the customer can bring it home. It is the history of the Tory Brook Inn. It is the original restaurant on this site, so we went back to that.”

Ellen Mavuli said the restaurant has “a very loyal following” and she and her staff have missed them and “we are looking forward to seeing them again. We are excited to be opening and looking forward to the next phase (June 20). The next few weeks are very important.”

“It has been long and tough for everyone, and we will hope for the sun every day,” she said.

Long-term outlook

While issuing guidelines on May 8, state Department of Economic Development Commissioner David Lehman said in a statement, “We’ve seen lots of survey data on how many consumers are ready to go back into that restaurant (scene), but we’ll see that in real time later this month, and some restaurants are going to make the decision that they can’t do outdoor or with the weather.

“It’s hard for them to make money or make it work for them, so we’re going to need to see that here in late May and early June,” Lehman said. “My expectation is that this is going to happen very slowly and that’s what we’d like to see.

“This slow and steady reopening in and of itself is going to build confidence,” Lehman said. “I actually think in the medium and long term, more restaurants in the Connecticut economy, that is better than potentially taking a risk where we then have to dial it back. So, I think the slow and steady opening is the right thing for restaurants and for Connecticut for the longer term.”

Dolch, of the restaurant association, said forbidding indoor dining is unfair to the restaurant industry, which was among the first and hardest hit industries of the global pandemic.

“Our local restaurant industry knows that things cannot return to normal right away, but as malls and hair salons and others are allowed to gradually begin indoor service, as they should be, it’s illogical that restaurants would be constricted to outdoor-only service for so long,” Dolch said in a statement.

“And while it’s true that a mask must be removed to eat, it’s also true that in a restaurant patrons stay in one place for almost their entire visit as opposed to browsing or circulating about, and that the area they use is cleaned and sanitized after every use,” Dolch said.

“As part of that work, we’re making these promises directly to the public that we will do everything in our power to make their dining experience safe and enjoyable,” he said.

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com; Twitter: @blox354