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CRA Names 2018 Award Winners and Finalist Nominees

By October 18, 2018Connecticut, Top News

The Connecticut Restaurant Association (CRA) announced its award winners and finalists for the 2018 CRAzies Awards Gala presented by Sysco. The 24th Annual Awards Gala for the CRA has been renamed the CRAzies, which will recognize the exceptional ability and talent of the restaurant community.

The honorees for the Connecticut Hospitality Hall of Fame, Restaurateur of the Year, Vendor of the Year and CRA Friend of the Industry have been selected and each of them will be recognized on Monday, December 3, 2018 at Foxwoods Resort Casino.

The Griswold Inn (Essex) and The Place Restaurant (Guilford) will be inducted into the Connecticut Hospitality Hall of Fame. The 2018 Restaurateur of the Year will be Dorjan Puka and Scott Miller of the DORO Restaurant Group, which owns and operates three West Hartford restaurants (Avert, Treva and Zohara), one Manchester restaurant (Artisanal Burger Company) and a full-service catering company. The CRA Vendor of the Year is The Chef’s Warehouse, which is a nationwide specialty food distributor that is based in Ridgefield. Rounding out the award announcement is the CRA Friend of the Industry, which will recognize State Senator Joan Hartley (D-Waterbury), who has served nine terms in Connecticut’s 15th district.

The finalists for the other six categories have been selected and public voting is now live at

  • Chef of the Year finalists for 2018 include Corey Cannon from Bricco Trattoria (Glastonbury), Brian Lewis from The Cottage (Westport), Manuel Romero from Olea (New Haven), Chris Sheehan from Max Downtown (Hartford), Matt Storch from Match (Norwalk) and Luke Venner from Elm (New Haven).
  • The Server of the Year finalists are Chris Catanesi from Jesup Hall/The Whelk (Westport), Dru Conway from Oyster Club (Mystic), Stephanie Lemire from Sayulita (Glastonbury), Michael McGarrity from On20 (Hartford) and Brian Smith from Millwight’s (Simsbury).
  • The Bartender of the Year finalists are Kin Hun Khoo from Arethusa al tavolo (Bantam), Dan Rek from Elm City Social (New Haven), MeKayla Roy from Zohara (West Hartford), Christine Short from Zaragoza (New Milford) and Michela Zurstadt from The Essex (Centerbrook, CT).
  • The Caterer of the Year finalists are Big Green Truck Pizza (New Haven), Craft Bird Food Truck (Hartford), Delicacy Catering (West Hartford), Elizabeth’s Café (Madison), Mercado (Wethersfield) and Pasta Vita (Old Saybrook).
  • The CRA Restaurant Newcomer award highlights the top restaurants that are less than two years old and the 2018 finalists include Grano Arso (Chester), Oko (Westport), Osa Restaurant (Middletown), Park & Oak Restaurant (West Hartford), Porron & Pina (Hartford) and Swyft (Kent).
  • The final category is the Restaurant of the Year and new for 2018, the CRA will recognize four different regional winners from throughout the state, as well as an overall winner. The North Region (Hartford & Tolland Counties) finalists are Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ (Windsor), Present Company (Simsbury), Shu Restaurant (West Hartford) and Zohara (West Hartford). The South Region (Middlesex & New Haven Counties) finalists are Bread & Water (Middletown), Bufalina (Guilford), Shell & Bones (New Haven) and Zinc (New Haven). The East Region (New London & Windham Counties) finalists are 85 Main (Putnam), Cafémantic (Willimantic), David Burke Prime (Mashantucket) and Oyster Club (Mystic). The South Region (Fairfield & Litchfield Counties) finalists are Arethusa al tavolo (Bantam), Elm (New Canaan), Kawa Ni (Westport) and The Restaurant at Winvian Farm (Morris).

The vote of the public, the CRA Board of Directors and an additional panel of judges from the industry will help select the overall winners from each category.

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