In his role as the director of operations for Backstage, the new restaurant within the footprint of the Warner Theatre in Torrington, Bob DeZinno has a few figures on the new arrival in the space left vacant last fall with the closing of the Cambridge House Brewpub.

The new establishment has 24 brews on tap, along with some 60 bottled beers, many of them craft and microbrews; he calls it the most diverse and plentiful beer selection in the Northwest Corner of the state.

Backstage seats 210 patrons, and, Mr. DeZinno noted, it has created 60 much-needed jobs. If there is an evening show at the adjacent and thriving Warner Theatre, the kitchen is open for 12 straight hours, beginning 11:30 a.m. daily.

In an economy hopefully on the upswing, and in a city reinventing itself as a place where arts, entertainment and independent businesses can thrive, Mr. DeZinno’s command of these numbers and how they apply to a sound business model carries some importance.

He stresses this point, and it’s one that always loops back to the restaurant’s symbiotic relationship with its friendly neighbor (and landlord), the Art Deco theater that has become the premier performance venue for Litchfield County.

“The restaurant before us closed, and the landlord is the Warner Theatre, so it’s important to the Warner Theatre there be something like this here,” said Mr. DeZinno. “It’s good for us, it’s good for the Warner, and it’s good for the downtown revitalization of Torrington.”

Mr. DeZinno, who runs DT Media Group, is on the board of directors at the Palace Theater in Waterbury. Restaurant owner Keith Mahler, who reportedly first opened the Palace Theater to rock shows back in 1972, runs the Connecticut promotion company Premier Concerts. Given the success of the two theaters, it’s fair to suggest that these two businessmen understand the positive impact an entertainment anchor can have on a former industrial city’s peripheral economy.

“I would talk to every restaurant owner, tell them they really want to open in downtown Waterbury because of the Palace Theater,” shared Mr. DeZinno on his rising tide philosophy. “I believe in that, it is opportunity.”

Farther north along the Naugatuck River, Torrington’s downtown region has in recent times become a marketplace of artistic expression, denoted by locations such as the Artwell Gallery and Community Arts Center and the Nutmeg Ballet and larger Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts.

At the center is the restored former moviehouse that seats approximately 1,800 and brings in acts as diverse as Bill Cosby, Alice Cooper or a rendition of “The Wizard of Oz.” The mixed-use establishment also has a school and promotes arts education and community performances in an adjacent 300-seat studio theater.

Having a dark spot on Main Street, as there was for at least three months in fall and winter, doesn’t help the organization’s mission. The landlords know it, and they needed a tenant also does.

“It’s great for everybody, and it’s exciting to have another restaurant added to the nightlife, and they’ve put a lot of energy and time and money into renovating that space,” said Steve Criss, the marketing director at the Warner Theatre.

“It’s a great addition to downtown Torrington and for the theater,” he continued. “Our goal is to be open as much as possible, to keep foot traffic going as much as possible, to keep everything going as much as possible.”

In 2010, according to Mr. Criss, the theater brought about 120,000 people to the region. Downtown will see 2,000 people on a busy night, and no single restaurant can accommodate that kind of volume. The more the merrier.

Still, the Cambridge House Brewpub couldn’t make it work. Mr. DeZinno isn’t worried, and apparently the Warner Theatre is confident about Backstage’s chances.

“It’s so simple, we were not the only group interested in this space,” said Mr. DeZinno. “We had to make a presentation to the board, to explain why us. We showed them shots of the menu, our potential, our customer service. They saw favorably on our possibility of success.”

That possibility is bolstered naturally with his and Mr. Mahler’s other media-related careers.

“We feel confident that Premier Concerts can book 60 shows here at the Warner Theatre this year,” Mr. DeZinno allowed. “Without a neighbor like the Warner Theater, to open a 210-seat restaurant anywhere in Connecticut you would have to be nuts.”

He spoke of a recent day when three scheduled events at the theater—a kids magic show during the day, an evening rendition of “Rent” and a night performance of Jefferson Starship—brought three great waves of patrons in for food and drink.

To learn more, see the Web site at

The Eating's Good Backstage

Business model aside, for any restaurant the food is arguably the most crucial component. At Backstage, the new restaurant at the Warner Theatre in Torrington, there is no hierarchy-creating bar menu, no restricted offerings, and any time the kitchen is open it’s open democratically.

And everything served is as the fresh mozzarella and vine-ripened tomato tower, an exceptional dish from the soups and salads category. With a side of salad and bread, it consists of six alternating layers of tomato and cheese slices, not doused but flavored with olive oil, balsamic and fresh basil.

The grilled lamb porterhouse is luscious and fulfilling, most, and the side of spinach quinoa (a grain-like crop grown mostly for its edible seeds) makes for a unique complement.

As the restaurant’s director of operations, Bob DeZinno, puts it, everything is “popularly priced.” Nothing is too much; even the $24 sirloin and crab-stuffed shrimp with mashed potatoes sounds like a great deal. To learn more, see the Web site at