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“Service was great - food only so-so” 3 of 5 stars
Review of Leon's Restaurant

Leon's Restaurant
501 Long Wharf Drive, New Haven, CT 06501
203 562 5366
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Ranked #120 of 453 Restaurants in New Haven
Price range: $12 - $29
Cuisines: Italian
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Families with children, Scenic view, Bar scene, Romantic
Dining options: Dinner, Breakfast, Lunch, Outdoor Seating, Reservations
Dining style: Casual Elegant
Cross street: Canal Dock Road
Central Village, Connecticut
Senior Contributor
45 reviews 45 reviews
35 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 21 cities Reviews in 21 cities
17 helpful votes 17 helpful votes
“Service was great - food only so-so”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed March 4, 2014

For those of us who remember the original Leon's in downtown New Haven, run by Eddie Varipapa and Eugene Varipapa, the "new" Leon's in North Haven is a disappointment. Now located in a strip mall on US Rt 5 in North Haven, it is still owned by a Varipapa family member, but the old culinary excellence is not there.

Compared to contemporary Italian restaurants in the New Haven/Hartford area, it is just OK, not outstanding.

The restaurant is nicely decorated, very clean, and the service was outstanding. They still serve that crusty bread upon arrival, which was excellent. The house salad was quite nice, by the way. But the menu items, while nicely presented, were only average.

For an appetizer, we chose the clams casino, remembering the originals from long ago. Leon's kind of "wrote the book" on clams casino, the likes of which we haven't experienced in many years. To be fair, the menu called them "baked, stuffed" and a "Leon's classic in our style". They were simply baked, stuffed clams - too much breading and little flavor. Even as baked, stuffed clams, they were not distinguished, and we feel we could do as well buying them at a local supermarket.

Our entrees were nicely presented but without much flavor. The sauces were bland and did not accent the food well, although my wife stated that her shrimp had a good flavor.

The food seemed fresh and was freshly prepared (except for the clams), and the service was outstanding, but we can find food just as good at a much lower price-point.

We lament the passing of a great restaurant which had a bold, innovative chef. Too bad.

  • Visited March 2014
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Food
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76 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
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Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Italian first
  • Any
English first
Chicago
Top Contributor
59 reviews 59 reviews
39 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 30 cities Reviews in 30 cities
23 helpful votes 23 helpful votes
“Wouldn't rush back”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed February 8, 2014

I'm not sure where to start on describing this strip mall restaurant. Upon entering they've done a nice job decorating but it just lacks character. The back wall was covered with fake ivy, another wall had faux bricks and the bar divider was very modern.

The service was okay but took real Italian time. At 7:30 they were already out of the soup special which was clam chowder. They were also out of the the Bridlewood Pinot Noir we requested too. They substituted the house wine Pinot Noir, which was very metallic tasting.

The clientele was something out of the Sopranos. And the table next to us had the eves dropping Gladys Gravitz seated there.

Our food was fine, but not outstanding. Two had the gnocchi, one the seafood pasta dish and I had the standard Chicken Parmesan, which was good but did not include a pasta. It was the chicken only and you paid more for pasta. Rather odd if you ask me.


Lastly, this restaurant is now located at 344 Washington Avenue in North Haven, CT.

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Hartford, CT
Top Contributor
59 reviews 59 reviews
31 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 23 cities Reviews in 23 cities
13 helpful votes 13 helpful votes
“Still an excellent restaurant”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 31, 2013

Leon's was a highly respected restaurant in its original New Haven location....then they moved to Hamden...then to the harborside location next to the New Haven Maritime building....now they're on Washington Ave. in North Haven north of I 91, exit 12. We're glad that they're keeping it going and maintaining their high standards of food and service!

Other than when they were on the harbor, one didn't go to admire the environs (and you will probably not admire the current ones).....one went to get first-rate traditional Italian food with impeccable service, in an elegant setting....and I'm happy to report that that's still what you get. The current location is beautifully decorated and laid out, with really cool-looking bar (I'm planning a return trip just to try out a martini there). So it is a wonderful restaurant experience in every respect.

Leon's has never been cheap, and it still isn't. But you can count on getting terrific food and value. If you want a bargain, thy the $19.38 prix fixe "Sunday Supper" there.

  • Visited December 2013
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
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Hamden, Connecticut
Top Contributor
82 reviews 82 reviews
78 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 33 cities Reviews in 33 cities
31 helpful votes 31 helpful votes
“Almost as good as when located in Long Wharf”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed December 30, 2013

Was anxious to visit the new Leon's in North Haven since the original was extremely popular in the day. It has such a warm, friendly atmosphere and very accommodating staff. Menu selections are exactly what you expect at an Italian restaurant so we chose the traditional Chicken Parm with Penne and Veal alternative too. Also picked the Fried Mozz as a starter followed by a just-the-right-size salad. Had a couple of drinks to ring in the holiday season and felt it was the perfect place to bring my friend from Los Angeles who complained the Italian cuisine there just isn't the same.

  • Visited December 2013
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 4 of 5 stars Food
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Wallingford, Connecticut
Senior Contributor
38 reviews 38 reviews
15 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 19 cities Reviews in 19 cities
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
“Delighted”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 7, 2013

Recently had a delightful lunch with friends.
Great Service, the staff friendly and helpful.
The food was very good with attention to detail!
Had a lovely experience!

  • Visited October 2013
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
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