The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT)
Familiar faces in food scene join forces to open new J. Law restaurant
DANBURY – Some big names in the local food scene are combining their decades of experience to open a new family restaurant in Danbury this spring.
Longtime friends Benny Vrenezi, owner of the Dolce Restaurant and Wine Bar in Danbury, and husband-and-wife Kelly and Jason LaReau, owners of the former J. Lawrence Downtown in Bethel, are joining forces on the new venture.
The new J. Law Kitchen & Craft Bar restaurant will open in the location of the former Augie’s Numero #1 Restaurant and Pizza at 30 Germantown Road. Renovation work began March 6, with the goal of opening in mid-May.
“We’ve been friends for over 10 years and visited each other’s restaurant when they owned J. Lawrence Downtown. When they sold their restaurant, we still hung out together at my place” Vrenezi said.
“Jason was itching to get back into the restaurant business, and one day we started talking about opening a new restaurant together,” Vrenezi said. “The place we are moving into became available and so we went for it. We are renovating much of the space, upgrading the bar and adding a cocktail station inside the bar.”
The goal is to offer the Italian-American food that is dished up at Dolce, he said. Jason LaReau, who will be J. Law’s chef, is also creating new food items for the menu, which will feature burgers, steaks, fish and pizza. And noting that “we have kids with allergies,” she said J. Law would also offer gluten-free items.
Despite the success of J. Lawrence Downtown, Kelly LaReau and Jason LaReau sold the Bethel restaurant in 2021 as a business decision, allowing them to step back a bit and spend more time with their family according to Kelly LaReau.
“We are looking forward to this partnership and getting back into the restaurant business,” LaReau said. “It’s exciting. We were looking for our next venture, and this was the right one to come along.”
Fans of J. Lawrence Downtown will welcome the cocktail scene at J. Law, she said.
“We created new craft cocktails, had different cocktails for each season and had a craft cocktail night when we were at J. Lawrence Downtown. It was an amazing craft cocktail program, and it was a huge feature. We plan to bring that same mentality and elevated craft cocktail game to our new restaurant,” LaReau said.
The LaReaus’ son Trevor Reed will be the head bartender. Their daughter, Vanessa Reed, and youngest son Jason LaReau Jr. will also help out at the restaurant.
“This won’t be an upscale restaurant; it will be a place where families and people can come to enjoy good food and chill,” Kelly LaReau said. “My husband is looking forward to this. He is focused on the creative side when it comes to food, including creating new cocktails.
“This break we had has given him a chance to hone in on creating new food dishes. He is always writing down ideas for new recipes.”
Vrenezi and the LaReau family hope to make J. Law a destination in Danbury. Vrenzi will split his time between Dolce and J. Law and assist with management. Jason LaReau will run the day-to-day management of the restaurant and kitchen, and Kelly LaReau will be involved in front of the house operations.
“For us, this is a great concept, bringing Benny and my husband together with their experience in the business,” Kelly LaReau said. “You have two great restaurant entrepreneurs with 40 years’ experience coming together.”
They had hoped to get the Augie’s location “for many years,” she said. “We had heard their site was available and that helped get things going for our partnership.”
The new J. Law restaurant will have a dining area, a separate bar area and event space for 50 to 70 people for parties, baby showers and weddings, she said.