Al Fresco on the Hill returns for 3rd summer with new restaurants, repaved streets

AL FRESCO ON THE HILL outdoor dining along Atwells Avenue will return for a third season in May, with new restaurants and repaved roads. / COURTESY FEDERAL HILL COMMERCE ASSOCIATION

PROVIDENCE Federal Hill has gotten a makeover, just in time to welcome diners back to the third season of its popular street dining initiative Al Fresco on the Hill.

City and state leaders touted the new and improved ambiance of Providence’s acclaimed restaurant row during a press conference Friday while announcing the return of the Federal Hill Commerce Association’s outdoor dining program in which Atwells Avenue is closed to car traffic and opened to restaurant tables on Fridays and Saturdays. Al Fresco on the Hill will start on May 13.  

“This is our renaissance,” Rick Simone, executive director for the association, said of the street improvements.

Simone highlighted the repaving of Atwells Avenue, new sidewalks and water, sewer and gas line upgrades as examples of the improved physical appearance of the neighborhood. Adding to the vibrancy are three new restaurants that have opened in the last nine months, including the soft opening of Massachusetts-based seafood chain Cap’t Loui in the space left vacant by Italian eatery Siena when it closed its Providence location in January.

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Another three restaurants are slated to open in the next month, adding new dining choices for the summer season and reducing the number of unoccupied storefronts from 14 to 5, Simone said.

While Federal Hill is a popular destination for people across the region, the neighborhood surrounding Atwells Avenue has also added more than 1,000 new residents thanks to a number of new apartment projects, Simone said. 

The outdoor dining program will be funded in part through a $200,000 grant through the state’s Take It Outside program, Simone said. The state plans to announce all recipients of the $4.5 million in grants for small businesses to build or improve their outdoor spaces on Monday.

Last year, the city of Providence also offered its own programs, including waiving charges for events permits, to help retailers and restaurants put on outdoor events more easily and cheaply.

While the city plans to again offer free, two-hour parking later this year, it ended the fee waivers in December, according to Theresa Agonia, the chief of external affairs for Mayor Jorge Elorza.

Al Fresco on the Hill begins May 13 and runs on Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 1.

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at

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