FULL PLATE: Rob Tomasso, left, and Noah Donnelly, co-owners of The Roi, are looking to create an environment that caters to both dinner and live-entertainment crowds.
PBN PHOTO/TRACY JENKINS
BACK IN BUSINESS: Travis W. Lawton, head chef at The Roi, works in the restaurant’s kitchen. The Roi’s owners are hoping to capitalize on the eatery’s location, which once housed The Century Lounge.
PBN PHOTO/TRACY JENKINS
By Victor Paul Alvarez
The old mantra “location, location, location” suggests that where one opens a business is crucial to success. It does not, however, define a good location. That definition is up for interpretation by the developers who roll the dice – and their capital – on a location for their business.
The new owners of The Roi, which held an official reopening on Sept. 12 on Providence’s Chestnut Street, are among those who believe in the potential of a location with a history of turnover – a place that “used to be” another successful business. Rhode Islanders, after all, are fond of giving directions using landmarks that “used to be” something else.
The Chestnut Street location once was home to The Century Lounge, which shuttered its doors a few years ago. Originally opened in 2012, The Roi’s new owners saw a turnkey bar, restaurant and nightclub in a busy part of the city that is poised to get busier as the Knowledge District grows.
“With only a few other restaurants in our immediate area we knew that our lunch crowd would be a good part of our business and be able to grow as the area builds up,” said Rob Tomasso, co-owner of The Roi.
Tomasso is the broker-owner of Shea Realty in Providence. He is also a licensed contractor with experience in property renovations and new construction. Earlier this year, he took over The Roi with co-owner Noah Donnelly, who brings 25 years of hospitality-industry experience to the venture. Both men believe a good location is important to success, but their definition of “good” is flexible.
“We saw the need for local business lunching and event catering, which is now becoming a growing part of our business,” Tomasso said. “We also plan on offering delivery in the near future to reach other parts of the city.”
Tomasso hired Providence chef Travis W. Lawton to take over The Roi’s kitchen. Lawton has worked for popular restaurants such as Down- City and the beloved Providence Bookstore Café, formerly in Wayland Manor.
“The big change I see in Providence is people returning to local, seasonal products,” Lawton said. “I hate to call it a movement, because it’s not new. People just forgot about it. My grandparents always had a big garden so I’ve always eaten locally and seasonally.”