Restaurants spill out into street for first night of Al Fresco dining in Federal Hill

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – After weeks of planning, the Federal Hill Commerce Association launched the first night of a “Al Fresco” dining on Atwells Avenue.

Every Friday and Saturday throughout the summer, Atwells Ave. will shut down from 3:30 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. to allow restaurants to expand their outdoor dining space into the street.

The idea was welcomed by businesses that are hurting from the dining restrictions put in place amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re excited. It’s bringing some positive light to what has been an awful 3-4 months,” said Armando Bisceglia, owner of Bacco.

On a normal day, he can only have two small tables outside his restaurant. With Al Fresco dining, he gets an extra 12 feet of roadway to set up several larger tables.

“It’s very important to us,” said Bisceglia. “We have a good set of reservations.”

Rick Simone, the Executive Director of the Federal Hill Commerce Assoc., said the 26 restaurants participating in Al Fresco dining saw about 80% of their reservations filled.

“Next week we’ve already been notified that four more restaurants will be joining us,” said Simone.

He predicts 36-38 of the 40 restaurants on Atwells Ave. will take part in Al Fresco dining in the coming weeks.

Outdoor tables are set up six feet apart. Waitstaff wear masks and other personal protective equipment like gloves and face shields. Tables are sanitized between groups.

“This feels pretty safe to me,” said diner Jim Chang.

Restaurant owners hope Al Fresco nights will boost consumer confidence.

“We’ve been waiting for this to happen so we can all get our businesses back to normal,” said Anthony Rouhna, Owner of Da Vinci Restaurant and Lounge.

When Al Fresco dining is in effect, Atwells Ave. will be shut down from Bradford Street to Dean Street, and from Dean Street to Lily Street.

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Providence, Rhode Island