UPDATE: Mario Testa Gets A Shot Of Hennessy, State Rep Joins Neighbors Opposing Political Leader’s Restaurant Expansion In North End

Testo's restaurant
Testo's Ristorante offers good food at an affordable price. Some neighbors don't want a building expansion added to the menu.

UPDATE: Withdrawn from agenda:


11-12 Proposed Amendment to the 2008 Master Plan of Conservation & Development Chapter 14 – Future Land Use Plan.

State Rep. Jack Hennessy wants to find out if Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa’s influence with members of the all-Democratic City Council is 100 percent full-proof. On Wednesday at 6 p.m. the City Council’s Committee on Economic and Community Development and Environment is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. in the Wheeler Room of City Hall to consider a proposed change to the city’s master plan of development that could allow Testa to expand his restaurant in a residential section of the North End. Hennessy’s leading a neighborhood effort to block the town chairman’s proposal. “This was a quiet neighborhood but Mario Testa is not a good neighbor,” Hennessy writes in a commentary he submitted to OIB.

Testa has been shot down in the past by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission in his quest for expansion, but his latest effort provides a new twist involving the City Council as well as land use legal expert Chuck Willinger representing the restaurant on the issue before the council and city zoners. The political leader’s restaurant is the epicenter for Democratic politics and enjoys a strong following. Some neighbors maintain the traffic and potential expansion is too much for their residential taste. Hennessy’s commentary follows:

Mario Testa
Mario Testa in his restaurant.

Part of the advertisement states, “Nestled in a quiet neighborhood of Bridgeport, Connecticut, Testo’s Italian Family Restaurant is the pinnacle of succulent cuisine, quality service, and truly elegant atmosphere …”

Ever since he bought the property and tore down the sleepy Three Doors Restaurant to put up his mausoleum, Mario Testa has been a pain in the neck. He has blatantly ignored zoning rules, incurred cease-and-desist orders, and every year has forced the neighbors to come to city hall and fight to prevent him from having the zone designation of his property changed from residential to commercial. If that were to happen, anything could spring up there such as a Scared Heart University high-rise dorm.

We have picketed his establishment for the last two years to bring attention to his callous disregard for the neighborhood and the potential to destroy the neighborhood. And we have been successful in preventing the land use boards from giving in to his requests.

Testo protest
One year ago North End neighbors protested a restaurant zoning application for expansion. Zoners rejected it.

The history

The property has had a non-conforming use since the 1930’s and has been granted an exception to allow for a tavern. It has kept its Residence A Zone despite the fact it has had a commercial use all these years to protect the neighborhood from it turning into something that would be inappropriate to the residential character of the neighborhood. When Testa bought the property, he was aware that it was residentially zoned with a waiver to allow for a restaurant. But he has been coming before the land use boards each year since he moved in in 2006 petitioning to get it changed to commercial. And each year, we the neighbors, have come out in force and have been able to prevent it.

What prevents the land use boards from granting his zone change request is that to do so would be a classic case of detrimental spot zoning. That’s against the Master plan of development. The same thing happened in another neighborhood in the North End at Wentworth Street. We took it to court and won. And we promised to sue if Testa got his property zone changed. The Master plan of development has protected us.

Until now.

This Wednesday evening, February 20th, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall, 45 Lyon Terrace, in the Wheeler Room, Side B, the Committee on Economic and Community Development (ECD) and Environment will hold a meeting.

The third item on their agenda is:

11-12 Proposed Amendment to the 2008 Master Plan of Conservation & Development Chapter 14 – Future Land Use Plan.

This committee will be discussing changing the map of the Master plan so Testa can get his zone change. If and when the city council changes the map designating the area where Testo’s Restaurant is from residential to mixed use, the Planning and Zoning Board can change the zone from Residence A Zone to OR-G Zone and our legal protection will be removed by the city council’s action.

This is an easy thing to do if you are the Democratic Town Committee Chairman and undisputed boss of the “Bridgeport Machine.” This is an easy thing to do if three of the five city council members of the ECD sub-committee are city employees whose job security depends upon them doing the boss’s dirty work.

Do our city council members give us a call and ask us what we think, or do they keep quiet and hope nobody notices? Do they vote no to protect the neighborhood and uphold the Master Plan? Of course not. Not when they are on the payroll. This is Bridgeport–Testa is using his power to change the Master Plan to get what he wants.

I am asking people to come to the Wednesday Bridgeport City Hall meeting to witness this. We will not be allowed to speak, but we can be there and witness what’s going on and let the city council members know we are watching.

This zone change application is also scheduled to be heard February 25th before the Planning & Zoning Commission. We are planning to show up and protest and provide testimony against the proposed zone change. I ask for your support.

I also ask that you contact city council president Thomas C. McCarthy (city employee), and the members of the Economic sub-committee and ask them to deny Testa the change to the map of conservation and development.

Members of the council committee are Lydia Martinez, Evette Brantley, Warren Blunt, Michelle Lyons, Marty McCarthy and Jack Banta.

Their contact info can be found here.



  1. Honestly, they say doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different response is a sign of insanity. How many times are we going to listen to Testa request an unnecessary zone change? Brings back memories of the Finch and Mary-Jane Foster primary. Well the people were warned and now I will be looking in my garage for the famous literature talking about the zone change. This is not going to happen. Why waste the council’s time and energy? Is there any moron who is actually thinking about supporting this and if so are they really looking to make fools out of themselves? Very very curious. I do hope the North End can come together the way Black Rock comes together when fighting ridiculous proposals. Word to Mario Testa, maybe you will show up and explain to the neighbors instead of sending your nephew. Nephew. I see new leadership on the horizon. Does anybody else?

    1. Off topic. If anyone knows who is responsible for the DSSD website, Info Bridgeport … Please update the front page. Épernay Restaurant is no longer in business. You may actually be able to update the site and add restaurants or other downtown happenings. It seems so many things happening in this city start with good intentions and just fall flat. Is everybody who is considered a mover and shaker just asleep at the wheel? Marketing this city should be a group effort with so many different entities keeping everyone updated and on their toes. It just seems everyone is asleep at the wheel.

    2. I heard from very reliable sources Madison Avenue around Testo’s was plowed repeatedly during the Blizzard of ’13. Why is it this crooked bastard gets preferential treatment?

      1. I was there, Finch had three plows working Testo’s and the small deadend street behind Testo’s was being plowed too! While non-connected people could not get out of their driveways.

  2. This is a city wide issue–If Testa gets this through, it sets precedent for any other developer to do the same anywhere–including Back Rock–the whole city and the NRZ must get on board, rally, boots on the ground and win this battle so we don’t lose the war …

  3. I try to understand what is facing us at a given moment when I write, and then I spend a little thought as to next steps. I cannot look too much more into the future because public systems have many players, stakeholders and potential actions. So I leave most matters at: TIME WILL TELL as you have come to expect when I write.

    Well a petition for Bill Finch to resign is most interesting for many reasons, but for many other reasons it is not likely to work. However, do you know what happens if Mayor Finch resigns or for some other reason is unable to physically serve? If memory serves me, next in the governance line is Thomas McCarthy, Council President, an attorney on the City Labor department staff, with no real experience in a managerial position, especially one that primarily depends on political power.

    Would that learning curve really improve our governance? Who would follow to lead the City Council or would that be another Council election? It really looks like the snowstorm has become a lit fuse. The budget is due by March 1 per the Charter and that may be extra fuel on the fire. Last year’s tax increase provided funding as the year before for multiple “ghost positions,” ones that would remain vacant and whose funding would be spent in other areas unknown to the public, unexplained by the administration and unaccounted for by a FINAL DRAFT of the June 31 closing month of the year report where line item detail is available. The only place such information would become available to taxpayers is a report we do not get at this time. Call Finance Department and ask them to take last June 31 report that was put out as a DRAFT and not complete until after the CAFR-2012 external audit. CAFR is published. Anne Kelly-Lenz can now provide the real final month numbers for taxpayers.

    2013-14 proposed budget will need oversight by the public. Look for it online from OPM or Finance. Pick a favorite area to monitor, question, compare to former years and check it against that DRAFT June report. Perhaps the Budget & Appropriations Committee will look at their Committee Rules and decide an allowance for public comment at these meetings is a good idea going forward. Perhaps they will assure all Special Hearings will have professional notetakers and minutes available to the public. Perhaps they will be happier with the citizens recording the public sessions for what is covered and what fails to become part of the permanent record. Time will tell.

  4. Just walked 4 hours with petition–door to door for Jack. Woman on Flint street said–I am moving to Fairfield. I am renting my house to Sacred Heart Students. I work for Sacred Heart, and they want to buy this property and put up dorms. I cannot sign this petition. Sacred Heart is a non profit–www .guidestar.org/organizations/06-0776644/sacred-heart-university.aspx.
    If this deal goes through, we lose another tax base. Little help here, people! Call your city council reps and tell them to stop this from going forward with their approval.

  5. *** No doubt Godiva2011 is hooked on the present city government “kool-aid,” no? The more you drink the less you think and see the reality that’s all around us! *** TAKE THE BLINDERS OFF ***

    1. Really, James! Do you want a dormitory (with all the stuff dormitories bring) stuck in the middle of YOUR neighborhood? Do you want to pay higher property taxes because a three-acre parcel has been sold to a non-profit and is now OFF the tax rolls? Rr do you just not care?

  6. There’s plenty of land available in Trumbull and Easton, let Sacred Heart and their hooligans build there!

    I’m going to also petition the council people on that list to NOT vote to change the master plan. This is an obvious ploy to better himself (Testa), not what is best for the neighborhood.

  7. I have calls into Tom’s office to clarify what taken off the agenda means–I hope he returns my call and I can update people who plan to attend this meeting tonight.


Leave a Reply