Several restaurants have closed of late, including two that starred in make-over, reality television shows — Downcity Food + Cocktails and Mainelli’s.
Yet quite a few have opened in recent months and even more are in various stages of construction and will open this year. They reflect the hope and dreams of chefs and business people. They are also anxiously anticipated by diners who love something new. Here’s the lineup.
Chef Paul Shire is back in Providence at The Roi, 150 Chestnut St. Some will remember that Shire opened Downcity Diner with Anthony Salemme near the Providence Performing Arts Center in 1990. They had a good run but sold Downcity when Salemme set off to become a massage therapist and Shire opened Oak on Providence’s East Side. After he sold that, he traveled for a while and eventually returned to New England to help his aunt, Boston restaurateur Lydia Shire, open Blue Sky in York, Maine.
Providence has changed a lot since his first restaurant, he observed. He said that back in 1990, when there was an event at PPAC, they would sell out the diner.
“We could see the tumbleweeds going by otherwise,” Shire laughed.
With the same optimism he showed then, he thinks there is great potential for his new spot in the corner of Providence known as the Jewelry District, which is in proximity to the development referred to as the Knowledge District.
“The challenge is to get people to think about this spot for dining,” he said.
The Roi is in the space that was formerly The Century Lounge. Shire’s partner is Paul Roidoulis, who owned Century and is president of Liquid Blue in Lincoln, which makes band and concert shirts, including those for the Grateful Dead. That explains the inspiration for Shire’s tie-dye blue chef coat. ROI stands for return on investment, but Shire said Roidoulis “wants to see people happy here.” And he’s happy to be playing with his band, the New Prophets, on the small stage Sunday nights.
Diners loved Shire’s Downcity Diner homestyle food, especially the meatloaf which is on the Roi menu. The secret of the meatloaf ($15.95): it’s made with quick oats instead of bread crumbs, and Jack Daniel’s gravy.
He has what he calls a grazing menu that includes appetizers of pizza, sausage and peppers and more, and entrees of salmon, pork chops, crab cakes and the signature meatloaf. Shire also talks about using seasonal foods from Farm Fresh.