NORTH HAVEN — Local residents soon will no longer have to trek to New Haven to dine at Leon’s Restaurant. Owner and executive chef Eddie Varipapa is opening a new 4,200-square-foot eatery in their neighborhood, at 344-354 Washington Avenue. Varipapa recently signed a 20-year lease for the space in a deal brokered by Lynn Weed and Lisa Varipapa of Weed Realtors, who represented Leon's, and H. Pearce Commercial’s Rich Guralnick, who represented the landlord, 354 Washington Ave., LLC.


The former Hollywood Video store is being gutted and retrofitted with a new kitchen and seating for 130 to 135, which is about half the size of the downtown original (since relocated to Long Wharf).


“I’ve always loved North Haven,” says Varipapa, who decided to open a second restaurant in the area after analyzing market trends showing many of his customers hail from Hamden, Branford and North Branford, and that “people are staying closer to home, and usually travel within a two-mile radius.”


Varipapa intends to introduce some branded products in a “small retail section” in his new place, which also will be called Leon’s Restaurant.

“We just came out with three of our own sauces: ‘Quick Sauce’ (tomato-based), ‘Family Sauce’ (with pork and beef) and ‘Lobster Sauce,’ which is unique to the market,” Varipapa says. “We spent a lot of time, money and research to find the right products, using all really, really high-end imported products, and they are endorsed by the American Diabetes Association.”


Line extensions will likely include pastas and olive oil, he adds.


The new Leon’s menu will be “heavier on the pasta side,” featuring gluten-free and wheat-free options, all made in-house.


Varipapa expects open his latest venture in May.