Hamden man returns home to open new ‘dueling piano’ bar with Mickey’s Restaurant owner

Pauly Popolizio by one of his paintings displayed in the entryway to Bugsy's Dueling Piano Speakeasy, the event space above Mickey's Restaurant, in Hamden.

Town native Ari Gorfain and Mickey’s Restaurant owner Mickey Josephs recently opened Bugsy’s Dueling Piano Speakeasy above the restaurant at 2323 Whitney Ave., with Gorfain returning to his roots in the hopes of providing an elegant, fun outlet for local residents to enjoy the nightlife.

Gorfain, former owner of Keys to the City in New Haven, said he was inspired by the history of Jewish mafia members in the United States to create the 1920s- and ’30s-themed bar.

The name Bugsy — made famous by Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel — brought to mind a “red velvet, plush, comfortable place,” Gorfain said.

He looked for a place to bring his vision to reality, and, after his rabbi introduced him to Josephs , Bugsy’s Dueling Piano Speakeasy began to form.

He hopes the pair’s new bar will provide a clean, classy place where people can enjoy themselves. It serves small plates, including tapas, and offers a wide selection of after-dinner drinks and desserts, Gorfain said.

It will offer shows, from music to burlesque acts to comedy, and Gorfain will DJ a regular midnight set of songs from the 1970s through the 2000s, offering an alternative to the hip-hop suffused landscape of the club scene.

“I want (customers) to say, ‘Wow, that was an adult Disney World,’” said Gorfain. “‘I got treated like gold.’”

With the new bar and eatery, Gorfain said he’s returning to a place he knows well. His father, Neil, used to own a print shop just down the road.

“I grew up literally on this corner,” said Gorfain.

It’s the start of a new chapter in his professional life. After 27 years as a traveling DJ and club promoter, he’s coming off the road to begin this endeavor.

But he still will be able to follow his passion and entertain people, he said. In addition to his regular set, he can play the drums and accompany musicians, and he’ll DJ private gigs, as well.

“I couldn’t be happier with my life right now,” said Gorfain. “I pretty much have the best of two whole worlds.”

A sports bar, expected to occupy the roof of the building , is in the works, Gorfain said, with the goal to open March 17, in time for St. Patrick’s Day and March Madness.