Growing from a modest coffee shop and restaurant on East Center Street in Manchester, Cavey’s Restaurant & Lounge eventually became known as one of the best Italian establishments in Connecticut, and its reputation was such that the owners were called upon to cater a dinner for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor when they visited Hartford in October of 1941.
Florence Cavagnaro and her husband opened Cavey’s in 1933, serving solely Italian cuisine. Starting in the late 1930s, it became known as the go-to upscale restaurant in town, and had visitors coming from all over the state. By the late 1970s, Florence’s grandson, Steve Cavagnaro, took over and added a French-inspired menu on the lower floor, while still serving northern Italian cuisine on its main floor. In 2016 the main level began serving both menus, and the lower level was set aside for spillover and special events.
The restaurant received honors and recognition for its fare over the years, including top ratings from the Zagat Survey of America’s Top Restaurants, and multiple favorable New York Times reviews. Cavagnaro himself earned a nod from the James Beard Foundation in 2010 as a semifinalist in the Best Chef: Northeast award category.
The Cavagnaro family closed Cavey’s after 86 years of service on May 24, 2019, selling the restaurant to “an old friend of Cavey’s,” Geno Auriemma, famed head coach of the UConn women’s basketball team. The restaurant was remodeled and reopened as “Café Aura” in December of 2019.This illustration depicts Cavey’s on a summer afternoon in 1960, when it was at the height of its popularity. Note the customers’ vehicles – a 1960 Chevy Corvette convertible in the parking lot, and an enormous boat-of-a-car, the 1960 Pontiac Bonneville, across the street.