Bridgeport’s Testo’s restaurant to close after being sold

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BRIDGEPORT — If the walls of Testo’s could talk, they’d have a lot more to share than recipes for red sauce, meatballs, linguine with clams and filet mignon in a cognac sauce.

Democratic Town Speaker Mario Testa’s famed restaurant and banquet hall has for years been where Bridgeport movers and Connecticut political insiders have chatted and made the deals that, for better or worse , have shaped city and state government and its policies.

Soon, however, Testo’s, located at 1775 Madison Ave. in the North End, will be gone.

“It’s sold. It’s a done deal. December 31 is the last day,” Ralph Giacobbe, Testa’s nephew who runs the operation, confirmed on Tuesday.

Giacobbe said the restaurant sent letters over the weekend to people who had booked about 30 different events there for 2023, letting them know the venue would no longer be available.

Giacobbe declined to discuss the buyer, but prominent local developer John Guedes said it was an individual who planned to erect apartments there. Guedes said his company, Primrose Construction, was contracted to design and build the project.

“I’m part of the development team,” Guedes said.

In late 2021, Giacobbe filed preliminary documents with the city for an apartment or condominium complex with underground parking at Testo’s. He and his land-use lawyer, Raymond Rizio, dismissed rumors of a pending sale in early January. Instead, they argued the paperwork needed to be submitted to circumvent height restrictions on new development that went into effect Jan. 1 as part of revised citywide zoning regulations.

Giacobbe had previously indicated that he expected Testo to operate for a few more years.

“I have two kids. One is in college. My son is going to college. I’m not going anywhere for the next six years. It’s not for sale,” Giacobbe had said in January. (But) later on, if my kids don’t want this business and I want to grow it myself or sell it, I could.”

But rumors that Testo could close sooner rather than later continued throughout the year, particularly after Giacobbe’s wife Lilly, who had been closely involved in running the business, was hired. last spring for a politically appointed non-union position in Mayor Joe Ganim’s administration. .

Testa opened Testo’s 47 years ago in a different location, then moved to the current address of Madison Ave. in a heavily residential section of the North End 16 years ago. In addition to hosting regular dinner parties and hosting weddings and other functions, the facility served as the unofficial headquarters of the Bridgeport Democratic Party, where members held formal and informal political meetings around a dinner and a drink.

The current site has also housed restaurants since the 1930s and there were strict restrictions on what could be built on the premises. So, in the late 2000s, Testa and Giacobbe launched an effort to convince city officials to make property zoning more flexible and, in the process, more marketable.

They were successful in 2013 and Testo’s earned the ORG (Office, Retail, General) designation. There was intense opposition from neighbors who, fearing that the land might possibly be used for housing or a dormitory for nearby Sacred Heart University, filed a lawsuit which was eventually withdrawn.

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