Caliente to reopen as ‘gastro-pub’ with new name, owners

The new owners of the former Caliente will open a pub-style restaurant and bar offering ‘comfort food’ at the downtown site.
The new owners of the former Caliente will open a pub-style restaurant and bar offering ‘comfort food’ at the downtown site.

The new owners of the former Caliente Bar & Grill hope to open the downtown Shelton establishment with a new name, menu and approach sometime in late July.

The new place is being described as “a gastro-pub” and will be called Center Street Social.

“It will be pub-style, with an emphasis on food,” said John Barounis, a co-owner. “It will have reclaimed wood and an antiquated look inside.”

“We’ll offer comfort food,” said Derrick Lee, the other co-owner and the permittee.

A few workers have been renovating the inside since Caliente recently was closed. A gastro-pub generally refers to a lounge and restaurant that serves higher-end beer and food.

Extensive backgrounds in business

Barounis and Lee purchased the business from brothers Danny and Dave Orazietti — best known for the two Danny O establishments in Shelton — about a month ago, but the Oraziettis still own the Caliente building at 127 Center St.

Barounis owns five restaurants and bars in New York state, with four of them in Manhattan and the fifth in an outer suburb.

Lee has been involved in starting restaurants and bars in South Norwalk and, more recently, was a co-founder and co-owner of Tavern in Monroe but has since sold his interest in that Route 25 establishment.

‘We want to get the patio going’

Barounis said they are eager to open their doors. “We want to get the patio going, with the summer here,” he said. “We’ll get a mixologist to design a drink menu.”

The co-owners said Center Street Social will be designed to attract families with their food menu — it will include a kids’ menu and family-friendly dining area — but also be a place for adults to share some drinks, especially after work and after dinner time.

“We want to be inclusive,” Barounis said in a reference to welcoming people of all ages who want to primarily eat or drink. “There will be a light, fun atmosphere, with a little bit of energy as well.”

Center Street Social should offer Sunday brunch, live music, karaoke and a daily Happy Hour, they said.

A banner announcing the new name should go up as soon as this week, the co-owners said.

Building had been renovated

Caliente opened about four years ago when the Oraziettis purchased and renovated the building at 127 Center St., with its unique yellowish-brick facade. The building previously was a bar that attracted many motorcycle riders.

Caliente specialized in Mexican cuisine and doubled as a place to eat or drink. A neon sign with a sun logo identified the establishment. Its outdoor patio, visible from Center Street, was an attraction.

The word “caliente” means hot or fiery in Spanish.

“We had three places and someone came in with an offer and we decided to sell it,” Danny Orazietti said of the Caliente business.

There is a concentration of drinking and eating establishments in downtown Shelton.