Second location planned New menu among Sweet Pea’s changes

May 1, 2018

Old Greenwich bakery and cafe Sweet Pea’s Baking Co. is charting a new course, which includes a new menu and table service.

With plans to open a second shop in the coming year, co-owner Rafael Pita hired an operations manager last year to refine Sweet Pea’s business strategy. Julius Khomitch, of Norwalk, joined his staff in August, following a career in New York’s and Connecticut’s restaurant industries. He’s since steered Sweet Pea’s toward making significant changes in its offerings and service.

Pita hopes the alterations will prepare the business to be successful in a second community, such as Fairfield or the Black Rock section of Bridgeport.

“I’ve been sincerely surprised how receptive people have been to the changes,” Pita said. “This is our best moment.”

Last fall, Sweet Pea’s began its table service for breakfast and lunch. Khomitch hopes to add dinner hours soon, per customer feedback. Last month, the restaurant debuted its new menu that features Brazilian-inspired Pao de queijo and gluten-free baked cheese bread, as well as avocado and acai bowls.

The Pau de queijo comes in a variety of mini sandwich options with savory and sweet fillings. “It took off,” Khomitch said. “We’ve been getting wonderful feedback. Customers are pushing for longer hours.”

Looking ahead, Khomitch plans to update the menu seasonally and emphasize ingredients from local markets. “This is a wonderful artisanal bakery that’s family oriented,” he said. “We’re working to create a Sweet Pea’s brand before expanding.”

Years ago, Pita and his wife, Katja, wanted to open a bakery despite having no culinary background. They took baking courses and planned to launch a business in Brazil, where Rafael Pita was born.

Plans changed and they started Sweet Pea’s in Old Greenwich after seeing an opportunity for a coffee shop on Sound Beach Avenue. Now they’re raising four children in town and Pita said he’s eyeing another challenge — running two shops.

To help accomplish that, Pita found Khomitch, who decided last year that his next venture would be building his own business or helping someone else create theirs.

Khomitch’s family moved to the U.S. from Russia when he was young. As an adult, Khomitch dropped out of medical school for more creative pursuits. “I wanted to work with my hands and with people,” he said.

He began in the industry as a dishwasher. With every new job, he worked toward learning all parts of running a restaurant — from fixing machinery to turning a profit. He’s using all of those skills at Sweet Pea’s, where he’s attracted to the relaxed local environment.

Over the next year, Khomitch hopes to help grow Sweet Pea’s into a vibrant bakery and restaurant for two communities.

Contact the writer at mbennett@greenwichtime.com; Twitter@Macaela_