Feasting on the Seasons at the ROI

In the kitchen with new Executive Chef Travis Lawton
GRACE LENTINI

Travis Lawton in the kitchen at The roI PHOTO BY MIKE BRACA
Travis Lawton is the new executive chef at The ROI. He started as a dishwasher and was taken under the wing of his friend John Walsh. Twenty years and many restaurants later, he’s graduated from the school of hard knocks and is ready to tell his story through his food.

What story are you trying to tell through your menu?
I wanted to tell my story as a cook, cooking in Providence. My friends and family are reflected in my menu.

How is the menu going to be different from what we’ve previously seen at The ROI?
It’s going to reflect the seasons. Fall is my favorite time of year. I’m really excited to put more hearty, homey and earthy stuff on it. Give me some root vegetables and pot pie! That’s the best thing about New England. We have four distinct seasons; why not make the best of it?

If I wanted one last blast of summer, what should I eat?
Get the Grilled Watermelon Salad before the watermelon is gone. The watermelon is hot and the tomatoes are roasted and served cold. It’s served with some feta, a hint of mint and a balsamic reduction.

How do you support locally sourced products?
I try to hit the farmers’ market as much as I can. Providence is such a close-knit community. I go see my friend’s band on the weekends. It’s the same with local products. Supporting your local farmer is the same as supporting your local music scene. Its people who love what they’re doing and just want to do their thing.

Tell me about one dish that really stands out on your menu.

The duck – it brings out a lot of my past and present together. I learned to make duck confit at a restaurant in Philadelphia. The blackberry demi-glace is a summering-up of a not-so-summery ingredient – the demi-glace. The späetzle is my girlfriend’s mom’s recipe. It’s straight from Germany. I had to translate it from metric.

What goodness can we expect from your upcoming fall menu?
I like turnips and parsnips. I’m sure there will be a pot pie and lasagna. My mom used to make me lasagna every year on my birthday. I liked that.

What is your approach to cooking?
One of the things I like to do is take things that are familiar and tweak it in a di!erent way. Food is supposed to be fun. When it is a little bit surprising, it is fun. When I look at raw ingredients, I know they know what they want to taste like. I’m here to guide them to get there. I’m just a helper with good skills and a great crew. A chef without an ass-kicking crew is like James Brown without the Famous Flames.

Can you give me an example?
Take an egg. It doesn’t get any simpler than an egg. They want to be so many di!erent things. Some eggs want to be breakfast and some want to be späetzle. I’m here to help them out. If they hang out with me they won’t be plain for long. They’ll rocket up the food chain quickly!

I’ve got a sweet tooth. What’s the pre-scription?
I have to give a huge shoutout to James Bjurman, my sous chef. He’s my dessert guy. When I started working here, I immediately called Jimmy, told him to quit his job and start this thing. He makes a mean cheesecake. Everything else is made in-house. The beignets are pretty slammin’ too.

The ROI

Just below the sidewalk in the historic and hip Jewelry District, The ROI is is a modern American bistro where the food is hot and the music is cool. It’s a stylish yet comfortable atmosphere serving creative comfort food for lunch and dinner. The scene heats up a night with live music so you can catch dinner and a show.

The menu is a mix of traditional favorites and creative twists on familiar dishes. For starters, you can enjoy a classic Rhode Island-style Calamari (pictured right) or try something new with the Pork Belly Corn Dogs in Narragansett Beer cornmeal batter. For a simple, hearty entree, try the Truffled Mac & Cheese with smoked gouda cheese sauce and ciabatta breadcrumbs, or dip into the unexpected with the Noodle Bowl: sambal marinated tofu with pickled vegetables, mushrooms and rice noodles in a spicy ginger broth.

Pair the creative food with something from the extensive wine list, plus the great live music, and you’ve got the recipe for a memorable night out.

Can’t-Miss Dish: Signature Meatloaf (pictured above) with caramelized onion demi-glace and truffled mac & cheese.

What makes good location depends on the business


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
By Victor Paul Alvarez
Contributing Writer
9/16/13
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.”

He believes The Roi stands out because it is just as suited to a business lunch as it is to an anniversary dinner or a night out for cocktails with upscale bar food and live music. Call it modern comfort food that’s refined, but not stuffy.

He also believes a good location can be made, not found.

“Look at the change from The Decatur Lounge to The Avery. People loved the Decatur because they let dogs in and they had cheap ’Gansetts and The Stooges on the jukebox. People love The Avery because you can get a good Manhattan and it’s chill and refined. It’s like reincarnation backwards – new soul, same body.”

That was exactly the idea behind The Decatur Lounge’s transformation into The Avery. Sometimes a location becomes a “good location” by the sheer will of its owner. The Avery, for example, thrives in the West End without so much as a sign one can see from the street. It’s hard to find at 18 Luongo Square, seats less than 50 and has no kitchen.

“I think the big take away is the scale at which you work,” said owner/manager John “J.R.” Richard.

“We’ve become somewhat of a destination in spite of our location because of what we’ve created,” Richard said. “If you’re a chain or larger establishment, location can be the deciding factor in your success.”

Richard is the man who made The Avery work, but he goes out of his way to credit Mike Sears – business partner, friend and longtime colleague – for the conceptualization. Sears is the owner of popular city establishments such as Lili Marlene’s and Justine’s – both of which, while not hidden, could be easily missed.

Richard is known in the city for his time behind a dozen bars, including Lupo’s, J.G. Goff’s, Amsterdam’s, and Maverick’s. Despite his view on the importance of location, his decision to open The Avery was simple.

“It was available,” he said.

“I worked at The Decatur when it first opened and was a frequent customer,” Richard said. “So I knew the location well. Also, there’s been a bar in that location since the end of Prohibition.”

Richard and Sears create spaces that are nondescript from the outside, relying on word of mouth and good will. Location is not the driving factor. Not yet.

“I don’t know how many times people have come in and commented on how hard The Avery is to find,” Richard said. “As I’m fond of telling people, if there’s ever a time when business starts going south, then that’s when the advertising begins and the huge sign will spring up outside.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Fat Belly’s Pub owner and President Scott Parker has signs up all over the state. He traveled to Europe after graduating Johnson & Wales University in 1992.

When he came home, Parker did time at Capriccio and Cafe Nouvo before reopening The Canfield House in Newport as executive chef. He started the Fat Belly’s family of pubs with his childhood friend Brian Murphy when a small space became available in Warwick in 2006.

“We knew that there was something special with this store and with the name Fat Belly’s. Serving upscale pub food, we became a neighborhood favorite,” he said.

Now he has seven locations around the state, including a new Fat Belly’s on Metacom Avenue in Warren where the Tuscan Tavern once was located.

“Growing up I would go to the old Tuscan Tavern. I knew the area well and loved the people from that area. When I first looked at the area I saw how busy the traffic count was on Metacom Avenue.”

The Fat Belly’s in Warren is Parker’s biggest eatery.

“Location is the most important thing when opening a restaurant.” Parker said. “I have been lucky to have very good locations when opening a Fat Belly’s.”

One benefit of his success is that potential locations for new eateries now often come looking for him.

“I have gotten hundreds of calls but you have to pick and choose without growing too fast,” he said. “I am currently working with my architect, my managers and developers to make up an ideal Fat Belly’s that we find to be the best fit and then, hopefully, can market it to spread throughout New England and, hopefully, the country.” •

The Roi is a ‘roi-al’ dining experience

Review by Don Fowler

When I discovered that chef/owner Paul Shire had recreated his famous meatloaf that drew me to his original DownCity Diner, I knew I had to visit his new venture, The Roi, at 150 Chestnut St. in the heart of Providence’s Knowledge District.

The Roi sits in the midst of renovated old manufacturing buildings in what was the Jewelry District, neatly tucked in the basement, which has been turned into a warm, cozy, casual bar and restaurant.

There are only three entree items on the luncheon menu, served Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. I ordered the meatloaf dinner ($12.95), and it was as good as I remembered it. Shire makes his meatloaf with rolled oats, giving it a moist and soft texture, enhanced by a Jack Daniels gravy, served over fresh mashed potatoes and topped with thin onion rings. It doesn’t get any better than this. Joyce chose the Maryland crab cakes ($14.95), two cakes filled with crabmeat and cooked to perfection, served with fresh veggies and sweet potato fries. The fries are hand cut and large, giving you the full taste of the potato. The third item is a hummus plate, which also looked delicious.

There are sandwiches galore on the menu, including an open face meatloaf sandwich ($7.95), which is enough for the biggest appetite. The meatloaf is served for dinner, and I can’t imagine a larger portion ($15.95). The dinner menu is extensive, including rack of pork, steak, chicken and fish and ranging in price from $15.95 to $23.95.

The Roi is one of the few venues in town that serves up some cool jazz with its food and beverages. Whether it is lunch, dinner or a late evening snack, you can order soup, salad, burgers, pizza and other items. Try their polenta.

The Roi is one of a number of good restaurants located only a few minutes from Edgewood and Governor Francis, with on-street parking and easy access without going into the center of the city. A short drive down Allens Ave. to Point St., and then 150 Chestnut St. avoids Route 95. If you are on the highway, take the Point St. Exit 20, turn right on Point and left on Chestnut. Other restaurants in the immediate area include Olga’s Cup and Saucer, Blount’s New Clam Shack, Rick’s Roadhouse and CAV.

The Roi is open Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., Friday until 2 a.m., Saturday 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Sunday 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. For reservations or more information call 272-2161. And try the meatloaf.

The ROI – Providence’s Newest Comfort Zone

This post was found on adventuresinridining.com.  Posted by Stacey Place

It’s not often that I find myself being the youngest person in a restaurant anymore. Getting a little closer to 40 than I’d like to admit, it’s rare that I look around and can’t find anyone younger than me. Last Saturday night, I was out in Providence at a fairly new restaurant and was stunned to find myself being the youngest diner in the room. I’d found the place where Baby Boomers hang out on Saturday nights.

I chose the ROI based on the fact that their Chef is Paul Shire. Chef Shire was part owner and the original chef of Downcity, but I knew his work more from when he owned and cooked at Oak on the East Side of Providence. I lived on the East Side in those years and spent many nights and Sunday brunches enjoying this neighborhood gem. Hearing the news that Chef Shire was back, I knew I wanted to check out his new place.

The ROI is located on Chestnut Street in what I still call the Jewelry District, but the city now refers to this area as the Knowledge District. I was kind of surprised the Baby Boomers all found their way to this spot because to me it seemed off-the-beaten path. The restaurant was empty when we arrived (yes, it was before 6:00, but I was really hungry), but the hostess told us most tables were already reserved, so we took a seat at the sleek bar. The restaurant is dark because it’s located in a basement, but the darkness matches its cool interior. We were surprised to find both tv sets in the bar tuned into TBS reruns of The Family Guy. Nobody was watching tv, but why would they want to watch that? The music didn’t befit its atmosphere either. The soundtrack was depressing to me – James Taylor, Air Supply and Elton John, but it did fit the age of the crowd.

The bartender was really good and especially patient with one patron who kept insisting on inventing her own drink and explaining how the last drink she invented was later put on the menu. She was getting on our nerves but didn’t rattle him in the slightest. The cocktail list seemed overpriced at $12.95, but my French 75 Part Deux (Plymouth gin, lemon juice and Champagne with a hint of thyme) was large and flavorful. At $12.95, I didn’t order a second, however. The wine list, in contrast, was reasonable but not extensive.

The menu at the ROI includes a little bit of everything and something for everyone. It varied from sandwiches to salads, pizzas to pasta, and salmon to filet. We started out with an appetizer of Polenta Fries. The thickly cut sticks of creamy polenta were fried to a golden crisp and then dabbed with marinara sauce and gorgonzola cheese. As was the case with much of what we ate at the ROI, we wished there was just a tad bit more sauce and cheese to complement the fries. We managed to eat every bite and sop up every last bit of sauce.

Polenta Fries

For dinner, I ordered the Herb de Provence Salmon. The salmon was cooked crispy on the outside, and it was moist and flaky on the inside. The salmon was topped with a citrus butter which was tasty but so tasty I longed for more. On the side, there was a generous portion of creamy mushroom risotto and a helping of garlic green beans with roasted red peppers. The serving was more than generous for $18.95 – I even had some to bring home for lunch the next day.

Herb de Provence Salmon

One of my favorite meals at Oak was the crab cakes with sweet potato fries, and Chef Shire brought this dish along with him to the ROI. Bridget ordered this for her dinner and was glad she did. The crab cakes were as good as she remembered, and the sweet potato fries were even better than she remembered. The red pepper aioli on the crab cakes was super tasty but again it left her longing for more.

Crab Cakes with Sweet Potato Fries

We were too full for dessert, but at $5.95, the desserts are some of the biggest bargains in Providence. In hindsight, I should have ordered a piece of Turtle Cheesecake to go . . .

We had a nice night out at The ROI, mostly because we enjoyed the attentive, friendly service from the bartender and the excellent food. The food, the music and the service were comfortable and safe, and I can see why this would be a place to eat before taking in a show at PPAC. In a world filled will 12 course tasting menus, molecular gastronomy and communal dining tables, sometimes we all long for the taste of comfort, and the ROI is comfort all around.

Cooking Polenta Fries on The Rhode Show

We’re cooking Polenta Fries with Gorgonzola cheese and house marinara with Paul Shire from The ROI.

Ingredients:
Cornmeal
Stock
Butter
Parmesan Cheese
Cream
Gorgonzola
Marinara
Garlic
Salt
Pepper

Steps:

  1. Wisk cornmeal into stock and creamy butter and cheese
  2. Cool on sheet and cut
  3. Fry strips in oil top with cheese
  4. Bake
  5. Add marinara

Special thanks to The Rhode Show.

Comfort Food for Kings and Commoners

Review of The ROI by Bill Rodriguez

Anyone who liked DownCity Diner when Paul Shire opened it in 1990 or Oak when the chef was in charge there will love his newest restaurant, the ROI. It’s in the low-key Jewelry District — oops, we’re supposed to think of it as the Knowledge District these days — and it fits well in that laidback neighborhood.

Shire’s culinary heritage ranges from regal — his great-grandfather was chef to the king of Egypt — to regal-er — his aunt Lydia Shire is Boston restaurant royalty (Biba, Locke-Ober, Scampo). Until recently he headed the kitchen at Andreas in Providence.

The ROI looks cozy enough to trigger a yen for comfort food. The basement space is inviting, maintaining the low-light intimacy of the former occupant, the Century Lounge, the decor warm ambers and browns. The restaurant is billing itself as a “Food & Music” supper club, so there’s a small stage, a nightclub-quality sound system, and frequently scheduled performances.

Since roi means king in French, Shire hasn’t passed up the opportunity to joke around that the food and service here is fit for such, and also that he’s aware it also stands for “return on investment.” (Speaking of the latter, this ROI is pronounced “roy,” as in Paul Roidoulis, Shire’s financial backer in this venture.)

The food here is good, but any crown-chapeaued tourists venturing down the stairs would be doing so to learn how we ordinary folk live. All half-dozen burgers and half of the dozen sandwiches offered at lunch are on the dinner menu, indicating that the expected clientele is not your quail and truffle crowd. And the prices are kept down — the top splurge is the $24 filet mignon.

If you’re thinking of checking out the place at lunchtime, there are a couple of representative entrées that also are on the dinner menu: Maryland crab cakes ($14.95) and Shire’s signature all-beef meatloaf ($12.95) with Jack Daniel’s gravy, each three bucks more in the evening. Available larger as an entrée at lunch ($12.95) as well as an appetizer at dinner ($10.95), there’s also a roasted garlic and chives hummus platter.

We were there for dinner, and that appetizer list presented several temptations to me: a pulled pork and Monterey Jack quesadilla ($10.95); pecan-crusted chicken tenders ($9.95) with a blackberry glaze; and Gorgonzola-topped polenta fries ($8.95), sliced thick, fried in olive oil, with marinara sauce for dipping. But we wanted to see what they did with pizza, so we tried one of those. For us carnivores, there’s either grilled chicken or sausage — not offering a choice of oh-so popular pepperoni counts as a touching health measure.

The veggie version ($12.95) had such an appealing collection of ingredients that I was glad to go with that. Not only spinach but organic spinach, not only tomatoes but fine-ripened tomatoes, caramelized onions, mushrooms, olives, and four cheeses over tomato sauce. It was wonderful, the toppings not only varied but also bountiful. Who needs nitrates and spicy animal parts?

There are only seven main dishes on the dinner menu, but our server proposed three or four additional options, including cod and mussels over spinach and fish and chips. We limited ourselves to the menu, so that you, dear reader, would be able to partake and not just wistfully crave.

And crave you should, since both our dishes were excellent. My Southwestern-spiced pork chops ($15.95) were delicious, thin like cutlets but flavorful. Speaking of flavor, their bed of rice and black beans was rich with chicken broth, an addition I intend to follow at home. Johnnie’s “all-natural” chicken cutlet ($15.95) was moist and tangy in its lemon and wine sauce, accompanied by plenty of capers, intense calamata olives, artichoke hearts, and roasted peppers. Wonderful.

Sautéed-Chicken-Cutlet

Wonderful The ROI's Sautéed-Chicken-Cutlet

As for desserts ($5.95), they are not made there — Wayland Bakery provides them — and we did not pick a winner. The fruit in the bananas foster bread pudding was unaccountably unappetizing, hard instead of sauteed to softness; we had to pick them out and push them aside. Maybe you’ll have a better time with the apple pie crisp, our server’s favorite.

TV Diner (NECN) with Billy Costa

(TV Diner) – New eateries are popping up left and right in Rhode Island, but at the top of everyone’s list is The ROI, a new supper club in the capital city’s Jewelry District.

The chef is Paul Shire, whose aunt happens to be Boston restaurant royalty, none other than Lydia Shire. This is Paul’s latest venture in Providence, where he has been pleasing palates for more than 20 years.

The ROI is a subterranean restaurant with a dark and sexy ambiance. Red pendant lighting and amber sconces add a warm glow to the intimate dining area. As a 21st-century supper club, The ROI has a state-of-the-art sound system and a small stage for live music.

ROI is the French word for king, and the food here is fit for a king, starting with the Tuscan calamari tossed with garlic, peppers and olives, and the Mediterranean Hummus Platter, with certainly enough roasted garlic hummus, feta and kalamata olives for a small crowd.

The burgers are just awesome, topped with everything from smoked bacon to Gorgonzola cheese. We thoroughly enjoyed our all-American burger smothered with sautéed onions and good old American cheese.

From the higher end of the global menu, we recommend the Maryland Crab Cakes, loaded with a lot of lump crabmeat and just a few breadcrumbs. What makes it sing? The finely diced peppers, a dash of lemon, and the chef’s secret seasonings.

On the side were some of the best sweet potato fries we’ve ever had, served with a red pepper aioli, which made for great dipping.

Make sure you don’t skip dessert. The moist and spongy Chocolate Cake served with vanilla ice cream is another dish that could feed a small crowd, and the Cinnamon Maple Bread Pudding was pure comfort food. This was a warm and sweet coffee cake that reminded us of French toast with a walnut topping.

The service is on point and super friendly. Don’t be surprised if the chef pops out to make sure everything is to your liking. Later in the evening, live music takes center stage at The ROI – everything from Brazilian jazz to soft rock, which makes for a perfect night out. For honest, affordable food and generous portions in sleek surroundings, and then cool music to boot, we feel The ROI deserves the Platinum Plate.

Appetizers range from $5 to $13. Entrees run from $10 to $24. Desserts are $6 each.

The ROI is located at 150 Chestnut St. in Providence, R.I. It is open Tuesday through Friday for lunch and Tuesday through Sunday for dinner from 4:30 to 10 p.m. There’s street parking in the area. For more information, call 401-272-2161, or visit www.theroiprov.com.

Five Things: The ROI, Providence

GoLocalProv

Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Sean DeBobes, GoLocalProv Dining Critic

Our Signature Meatloaf

Come for the location, stay for the meatloaf: Paul Shire's signature comfort food still has it going on. Photo: The ROI.

Rhode Islanders have sorely missed Paul Shire, co-founder of Providence’s beloved DownCity Diner. When Sean DeBobes got wind that Shire was back with The ROI, his new restaurant/club in the city’s Knowledge District, he had to check in. Here are the 5 things he wants you to know.

One. Jewelry…Knowledge…Easy Parking District.

Whatever you like to call it, The Jewelry district is becoming a place to be these days. Condos, medical buildings and business incubators are filling in long-abandoned buildings, the inhabitants of which are clamoring for a place to eat. The ROI hopes to attract some of this crowd with its new versatile space that works as a lounge for an after-work drink or a place for a late dinner and a show. With easy street parking and easy (and now ‘unabridged’) access to the theatres I think more restaurants will be joining The ROI sooner rather than later.

Two. High Marks at the Bar.

Setting the pace for what may be a new culinary wave in the opened up Knowledge District. Photo: The ROI.

I was able to try two cocktails that I’d love to try again. The Pear Martini is a must-try for lovers of that class. The ROI keeps it simple and refined—Grey Goose la poire is shaken with a hint of St. Germaine and fresh lemon juice. The result, a sweet and tart blend with a very forward Anjou flavor. Also impressive was The West Side Girl, a blend of house-infused lavender vodka with Cointreau, lemon and a bit of simple syrup. I could have used a little more lavender, but the floral notes were excellent.

Three. Polenta Fries.

I am still wondering why the polenta fry hasn’t hit more menus. Joining Loie Fullers and La Laiterie, The ROI is one of but a few restaurants in town that have unlocked this magnificent treat. The ROI sets itself apart from the rest by serving an oversized piece of polenta. Fried in extra virgin olive oil and topped with marinara sauce, this dish really starts to sing when you have a bite with the flavorful and bold gorgonzola served alongside. If the gorgonzola was brûléed a bit I may have done a backflip.

Four. What Happened?

When all was going well I hit a bit of a snag. My friend ordered the rack of pork to be served with a sweet potato mash and a pear and apple compote. It all seemed promising, the aroma of the warm compote was intoxicating and the sweet potato mash was delicious. The pork, however, was far overdone – even a generous dousing with the syrupy sauce was not enough to save this dry dish.

Five. Signature Meatloaf.

Sometimes I just need some comfort food ,and the meatloaf at the ROI delivered comfort and meatloaf in abundance. The delicious compound of ground beef and rolled oats was incredibly moist. Chef tops the dish with a Jack Daniels sauce, blending sweet and savory and beating anything your mother ever told you meatloaf was.

Would I go back? Yes. There was a stumble, but ultimately The ROI has me curious to come back and try more dishes.

Hit “Save” The ROI, 150 Chestnut St, Providence, 401-272-2161, TheROIProv.com

Want to know more? Follow Sean DeBobes on the Five Things Facebook page, or on Twitter @SeanDeBobes.

Providence Journal

Providence Journal
By Gail Ciampa

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.