A bit of patience on our parts will be well worthwhile as some of our favorite local restaurants take a break this winter to freshen up and put on a new look.
On Federal Hill, Siena has just completed a makeover literally on the ground floor. The Italian bistro’s iconic, hardwood floors received a facelift over a week in early January. Proprietor Christopher Tarro promises a few other renovations as well. Some of the tweaks to the venerable building may not be immediately apparent to the eye but may be to the palate.
Chef Anthony Tarro anticipates serving his rustic Tuscan specialties to more of Siena’s regular patrons and new visitors alike. The bistro address at 238 Atwells Avenue has seen other changes through the years going back to when the DiGiglio family operated a butcher shop there.
This was followed into the early years of the Providence restaurant boom by L’Epicureo, which was owned by Rozann (DiGiglio) and Tom Buckner. In the early 2000s, the Buckners moved downtown, making way for Siena, which quickly established itself as a mainstay on the Hill’s Restaurant Row. Plans are still in the works for a third Siena location, in Smithfield, to join the original and its East Greenwich sibling restaurant.
Cook & Brown announced its “renovation vacation” before the holidays. The stylish “gastropub” on the Hope Street Restaurant Row underwent a weeklong makeover during the first full week of January. Chef and proprietor Nemo Bolin planned carefully so the demolition and construction schedule would be completed in time for the beginning of Providence Winter Restaurant Weeks. Bolin and his wife, Jenny, invited their customers and friends to keep an eye on the progress of the work at the restaurant’s Facebook page. One Cook & Brown regular was looking forward to the restaurant’s reopening for Restaurant Weeks, while another wanted to be sure the unique ceiling treatments were copied.
The Bolins have established themselves in the forefront of New England seasonal cooking by forging relationships with local farmers, fishermen and food artisans. A fine point to the seasonal menu philosophy is at the bar, with its emphasis on esoteric, old-world wines, crafted cocktails and small-batch beers. One of the first events scheduled in the renovated space will be a trade tasting of sherry wines from Spain.
Sometimes the inspiration for a makeover comes from outside influences. In the case of the Cuban Revolution’s Downcity location on Aborn Street, the impetus came from Baltimore. That’s where proprietors Ed and Mary Morabito recently opened the fourth location of their casual Cuban-fusion restaurant concept. The new restaurant is located near Johns Hopkins Hospital. Ed Morabito calls Baltimore a “dynamic city” and says he was drawn to the collaborative aspect of the redevelopment of the area around the Johns Hopkins medical campus. It was not so long ago when such a venture was making news here in Providence when the Valley Street neighborhood just off Olneyville Square was undergoing a similar renaissance and the Cuban Revolution was first into that emerging area.