‘Zoners For Ziti’ Redux–Apartment Complex Poised For Sold North End Restaurant

Testo's Restaurant
Site of former restaurant poised for 177 units.

Ten years ago an OIB headline proclaimed “Zoners For Ziti! Amendment approved for Testo’s Restaurant.”

On the proviso the property would not be flipped into a large-scale housing development, despite heated opposition from North End residents, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved a change to the city’s master plan of development based on an application on behalf of the Madison Avenue restaurant then owned by Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa in a residential area.

Testa had been rejected in prior zoning applications for the restaurant that he says he opened with a $5 million investment. In 2013 he brought on Chuck Willinger, the land use attorney guru, to represent him with a new strategy, petitioning the zoning board to amend the city’s master plan.

Fast forward 10 years, the restaurant property was sold and lo and behold a 177-unit development is on the horizon that does not require a public hearing. It has some North End residents density apoplectic in an election year for mayor and City Council.

As CT Post reporter Brain Lockhart notes “any opportunity for the public to weigh in and alter the design may have come and gone.”

The rare zone change Testa obtained in 2013 laid the groundwork. The land at 1775 Madison Ave. had for decades been the site of restaurants and there were tight restrictions on what could be constructed there. Testa was granted an ORG (office, retail, general) designation, which his attorney at the time, Charles Willinger, claimed was necessary for his client to pursue refinancing and was not a prelude to a sale and redevelopment of the site.

“It’s not going to make any difference to the neighbors because there will be no changes made to the property,” Willinger sought to assure critics.

Jump ahead to late 2021. Bridgeport, following a broad public-engagement effort, had just updated its ten-year master plan of development and the related city-wide changes to zoning regulations were set to take effect Jan. 1, 2022

But just weeks before those change went into effect, Testa and Testo’s co-owner, his nephew Ralph Giacobbe, quietly submitted plans for an apartment/condominium complex with underground parking to the city.

Their attorney in that matter, Raymond Rizio, had explained that the new zoning rules as of 2022 would have required reducing the building’s height by “about ten feet” and prevented the below-ground parking. So, Rizio said, the plans were submitted in late 2021 so that the ORG designation Testa got in 2013 would be applied to the future housing development.

Full story here.



  1. ‘Zoners for Ziti is a diversionary tactic hiding a larger issue.
    Bypassing the public hearing on the conversion kicks North End viewpoints to the curb.
    When Testo’s lawyer says “It’s not going to make any difference to the neighbors because there will be no changes made to the property,” he misunderstands his own area of expertise. The traffic flow from a 177 unit complex is different than the existing property and will have immediate and lasting effects!
    It’s disturbing to see the DTC’s chair twice revising Bridgeport’s master plan to suit his desire.
    The ghost of Machiavellli is hanging his head and mumbling “it didn’t have to be this way”.

  2. In Bridgeport, it basically just comes down to “it’s not gonna make any difference”! 😂
    In Bridgeport it’s ‘you get what you deserve’. 😝
    The really big important question everyone should be asking is where the hell will Biden have the meatballs when he makes his whirlwind tour stop while looking to secure his second term! 😆
    Same thing there as well- you get what you deserve. Lmfao.
    Maybe Defillipo can rustle up some votes for him! Lol!!!!
    So…..when’s Mikey’s voter fraud trial to get “innocent until proven guilty” over. 🖕 🖕 !!!
    Cheers!! 😂 All the way to the 🏦 🤣 🤪

    1. I hear that Rich. Public Hearing, Please, It’s just a means to feign that outrage, for the most part, Politically speaking, especially, if it’s coming from a politician/actives.

      Seen that play out on the Amphitheater deal. Besides just getting $3 per ticket, no one in the CC asked for more revenue for the city when they ante the millions more, after the fact. They just wanted to berate them. Even you Girl on the CC didn’t ask for more revenue to compensate the additional “Pasta”

      The city will probably make more on Sounds on Sounds weekend concerts than the total season from the Amp. 🙂 Logically speaking, it seems Anthony Stewart taking a page out of that Zite playbook 🤣

      I did hear Biden’s planning on making a stop in the Port. 😎

      Is it me or does the closing of Testo’s sound like Mario’s departure from Port Politics?
      Through Rich, I wouldn’t worry about Joe, not tasting Mario’s meatballs. I hear they are dry and salty. 🤣

    1. 2018 Connecticut General Statutes
      Title 8 – Zoning, Planning, Housing and Economic and Community Development
      Chapter 124 – Zoning
      Section 8-1d – Hours for holding land use public hearings.
      Universal Citation: CT Gen Stat § 8-1d (2018)
      Any municipality may, by ordinance, establish an hour at or after which public hearings shall be held by its planning commission, zoning commission, combined planning and zoning commission, zoning board of appeals and inland wetlands agency.

      (P.A. 89-175, S. 2, 7.)

  3. All the usual suspects: Mario, Willinger, Rizzio and of course, Ganim. Good times! Next shoe: Joe gets his law license back. Who said crime doesn’t pay?

  4. I was present at public speaking on Monday evening. Chris Caruso rose to spontaneously give voice to the “process” that may permit a large multi-story, 177 unit structure to rise from the formerly commercial, renamed residential, and reset once again for such dense use, out of character with the surrounding neighborhood. He and many others seem opposed and question how such building potential has happened in Bridgeport without review by a board or commission and one or more public hearings.
    Sound reasonable? Bill of rights provides us with Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly. And we are responsible for responding to clear and present dangers of our property wealth. Where is the Mayor on this? Routinely he is supposed to maintain a flow of qualified nominees in sufficient number to anticipate expiries, avoid vacancies, and provide diverse abilities and opinions to Boards and Commissions. I have raised an alarm regarding the death of Fair Housing and Fair Rent boards for mayoral failure for 20 years.
    And OPED, responsible for affordable housing reporting to the State is late. And missed a second date, with insufficient data for CC approval. And Lynn Haig property planner, who may have had oversight and direction over process changes for this property is retiring now?
    Ganim2 likes photos as projects get near completion, where all are smiling. Will there be many folks smiling as the crowds gather? Will the Mayor be there? Cameras are certain to be there. Time will tell.

  5. John, truth be told, I think we, me included, have to define, out of character” Considering just looking at the Picture Lennie posted with this threat, there’s a towering condo complex right behind the shot of Testo’s, right down the road. I believe it’s Inwood CondominiumsCnat. 🤣

    That being said, can’t process be “defined as a form of public speaking? Though I suspect that type of public speaking is not going to be too “logical” effective speaking.

    There’s always legal action. 🤣


  6. As a neighborhood advocate/activist, I can offer a perspective of the health of our city in terms of the health of our neighborhoods inasmuch as a city derives most of its social and political, and to a significant degree, its economic health and wherewithal from the collective health of its neighborhoods. Indeed, the economic health of a city is reflected in the health of its neighborhoods. An economically healthy city will have cohesive, low-crime neighborhoods that support collections of businesses and basic social activities that serve the daily-living needs of its residents. In these regards, Bridgeport is hard-pressed to identify more than a couple of geographically definable “neighborhoods” — out of dozens of such geographically definable areas — describable in such functional terms/conditions per the previous sentence.

    Bridgeport’s neighborhoods are largely in decline or teetering on the brink of disintegration. Bridgeport’s neighborhoods are besieged from within by underservice (police, public works, et al.), overdevelopment (e.g., ridiculously dense, inappropriate, disruptive, destructive development — per dormitory-style residential development incompatible with family-living, neighborhood conditions), and besieged from without by destructive, parasitic development by (especially) our bordering suburbs. And Bridgeport’s besieged have no strong advocates at the local, state, or federal level, with our present and immediate past mayor having given the “keys to the city” to the suburbs, institutions, and developers that would seek to parasitize the social, infrastructure, and municipal benefits provided by the besieged.

    A couple of cases in point, in this regard, are the North End neighborhoods bordering the SHU campus, as well as the Lake Forest neighborhood, both of which have been severely impacted by the infestation of disruptive, destructive SHU students, with the latter neighborhood also having to deal with the issues of unchecked overdevelopment on its Trumbull order in the context of the related, dysfunctional use of the city’s sewer system by Trumbull resulting in sewage discharges into Lake Forest that have recently resulted in prohibiting the recreational use of the lake by resident Lake Forest members.

    So: In terms of the health of the City of Bridgeport by the basic metric of “neighborhood health,” Bridgeport is on the critical list thanks largely to the present and immediately past mayors.

    Whatever wherewithal remains of the Madison Avenue neighborhood in the vicinity of the planned, inappropriate, multi-unit, residential monstrosity slated to be constructed on the corner of Madison and Westfield Avenues, they would probably best use their energy to quash that development by soliciting commitments from Bridgeport voters — citywide — to vote against the present neighborhood-sacrificing regime and replacing it with a neighborhood-friendly regime (definable as a regime that will reduce taxes for resident homeowners even as they use all means available to protect the safety and quality of life of the residents…)

    It should be kept in mind, when thinking in terms of overall municipal health and neighborhood health, that all types of businesses tend to look to locate in cities with a diversity of hospitable neighborhoods, with stable labor forces, when planning moves or expansions. So, for any Bridgeport City renaissance, we must also look to a Bridgeport neighborhood renaissance…

  7. Protest,

    Jeff, I seem to have an understanding of what you are trying to convey.

    However, it seems at times to be an oxymoron, in many ways, because when you think about it. luxury or market-rate housing is an essential contributing/creating factor in the economic health of the city, for any neighborhood, No?

    Yet, when it comes to conjuring up Port votes it seems political activist groups vying for power, ie taking out the incumbent, be it “nonpartisan” groups such as Gen Now or whatever/whoever like Bridgeport Now tents to be against such development or at the very least weaken its immune system to achieve maximum economic health in the guise of caring for the poor among us i.e. affordable housing.

    By no means am I saying there isn’t a need for housing to become more affordable, especially for those whose wallets aren’t as healthy as others. While they are two competing theories to best achieve a stronger economic “Health” for the people i.e. capitalism and socialism. I lean more towards a balance “diet” as the best way to retain strong lasting economic health.

    We also have to define “uncheck overdevelopment. While the dormitory-style residential development on Park Ave was incompatible with family living, neighborhood conditions it weighs the least in comparison to the neighborhood’s “health” and quality live SHU students are having in the “character” appropriate housing they occupy.

    As far as Lake Forrest being polluted, that sounds disturbing, but that’s more political shit than anything that is related to providing the needs. or hardier healthy diet i.e. housing for the economically well-fed “healthy” or“malnutrition” among us.

    My guess is that’s the game though, However, is the system starving to obtain gluttony, Which I heard was a sin, JS people?

    I depart with the prophet-ish.


    Just playin’. The prophet. 🙂


  8. Bridgeport: the standard bearer for the example of what corruption in government is like.
    JML: “where is the mayor on this”? You and everyone else knows but did anyone ask him?!!
    Vote for it, get more of it.
    Glad I’m gone and…. ‘when’s the trial’.
    C’mon Len, when is it? You’re in the know. Or was there a quiet deal worked out! Shhh! 😂
    Cheers!! 😂 🤣 😝

  9. Update from Brian Lockhart today: Joe to Guedes, “Do you mind if l speak out on this?” And there you have it ladies and gentlemen.

  10. 25+ years ago my husband Tom was president of the North End Association. He led a protest against the then proposed super Stop & Shop on Madison Ave. He was sued because of his actions. The lawsuit dragged on for 2 years before it was settled – and the Stop & Shop was built, only to be shut down after a few years. A protest proved fruitless in that case. And I’m sure protesting will prove to be fruitless in this case.
    Will this 177 unit apartment complex be rented to people who choose to live in the North End of Bridgeport? Or will it become a 177 (dorm) apartment complex for Sacred Heart students?
    To paraphrase John Lee: Only time will tell


Leave a Reply