East Lyme brothers will bring combination of BBQ styles to Waterford by summer 2017
Waterford — Barbecue isn't really a Connecticut thing.
But Paul and Pete Daversa are going to try their hardest to bring the best of Texas — and Memphis, and North Carolina — to Waterford with the restaurant they plan on opening next summer.
They say the restaurant's name, Mago Point Smokehouse, is an indication of how the two brothers, who grew up in East Lyme, are committed to coming back to the area where they grew up.
"That was the notion — of doing something on the water and at home," Paul Daversa, the CEO of a national technology recruitment firm, said from his New York offices Tuesday.
"I think there is a definite need for it," Pete Daversa said. "If you really want authentic barbecue, there's nowhere here that does it."
Construction has already started on the 4,500-square-foot restaurant on the former site of Unk's, and the Daversas say they plan to open in the summer of 2017. The brothers held an official groundbreaking event Friday.
Pete has spent the last 10 years graduating from culinary school and making his way into the kitchens of barbecue restaurants from New York to Hong Kong.
Their mother would cook for them, but mostly Italian dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, Pete said.
"She would do ribs occasionally," he said. "I didn't really have much exposure as a kid to barbecue."
But for Pete, the pit came naturally.
"I was just obsessed with ribs, obsessed with brisket, obsessed with pork shoulder," he said. "It just kind of happened."
The Daversa brothers have been thinking about opening a restaurant together for years.
They chose Mago Point — the section of waterfront land that juts out from Route 156 into the Niantic River — after the Unk's property went up for sale, buying the former seafood restaurant in January 2014 and starting to apply for construction permits this year.
The restaurant, which would be surrounded by the recreational fishing industry and smaller restaurants that make up the mostly empty Mago Point, could revitalize the area, Paul said.
The Mago Point neighborhood is named according to legend for the prediction by its original developers that "it may go, or it may not."
The new restaurant will represent private investment in a town effort to revitalize the neighborhood with zoning changes and a boardwalk.
Aside from a handful of businesses that have remained there over the decades, the neighborhood's growth has remained stagnant.
"We think it's got a shot to be a real catalyst for Mago Point," Paul said.
Paul admitted that the restaurant's success in a mostly empty part of town isn't guaranteed.
"It's probably the...riskiest investment either of us have made in our professional careers," he said.
An original plan for the restaurant included a much bigger building with a residential development on top, but the property's location in a FEMA-regulated flood zone made that idea too expensive, Paul said.
Now the brothers are banking on local demand for "real" barbecue, and the success of the town's efforts to make Mago Point more friendly to business.
Local farms can't provide enough meat for the restaurant to be 'farm-to-table,' but Pete said he plans to use local vegetables as often as possible and says he will allow people fishing off Mago Point to bring in their catch and have it cooked in the smokehouse's kitchen.
"We're on the water, it would be a shame not to do something like that," he said.
So far, advertising has been minimal. Pete has been selling his food at the Niantic Farmers Market, and catering private and charitable events to get the taste of "Mago Point barbecue" in people's mouths.
"For now...we're doing just enough to try to get the name out, and get people talking," he said.
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