PROVIDENCE- What has become a summertime culinary tradition, Al Fresco on the Hill is returning to historic Federal Hill on Saturday.
Through Sept. 2, every Saturday night, Atwells Avenue will become “a lively European atmosphere” from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m.
The weekly outdoor dining event began in 2020 and is funded by the Federal Hill Commerce Association, the nonprofit advocacy group “dedicated to marketing the Federal Hill section of Providence as a vibrant destination to visit, live, work and operate a business,” according to its website.
Federal Hill Commerce Association President Rick Simone on Friday said this year’s version will begin Saturday with 25 participating restaurants and is expected to grow to 30 “within a few weeks” after the opening of five new eateries on the hill.
“What’s great about this year is that it’s an expansion,” he said, adding that he has already heard from restaurant owners seeing a “surge” in reservations for Memorial Day weekend.
“And this provides them with the additional tables they need.”
There are also five retail stores participating this year. Simone said there will be two music and entertainment stages set up along Atwells Avenue.
A new feature this year are the scheduled performances by the local aerialist group Dancing Loon who will perform once a month starting June 3 from 6 to 9 p.m.
“This is kind of the unofficial start of summer,” said Simone. “We are incredibly excited.”
On Saturdays for the next 14 weeks Dean Street to America Street along Atwells Avenue will be closed to all vehicle traffic from 3:30 pm until 2:30 am. Bradford Street to Dean Street along Atwells will be remain open to vehicle traffic each night.
Last Febuary the FHCA voted to limit the Al Fresco dining to Saturday nights until Labor Day. The events used to run Fridays and Saturdays from May to the beginning of October.
Regardless, the commercial benefit from Al Fresco is not limited to restaurants and bars. Olivia DeAngelis, owner of Scialo Brothers Bakery, said the business enjoys significant spillover from diners eager for dessert.
“With all of the tables out on the street, it gives people time to sit outside and see the bakery,” she said. “We are all for it. It has brought us a lot of foot traffic the last couple of years.”
Although she keeps the bakery open longer than usual on Saturdays, DeAngelis said there is always a rush of customers who decide to visit before their dinner reservations to ensure they can score some pastries “in case they think we are closing early.”
The bakery, which has been in business for more than 100 years, will commonly sell out of popular items during the events, said DeAngelis, who estimates they sell more than 100 cannolis.
“We always run out of the best sellers,” she said.
Christopher Allen is a PBN staff writer. You may contact him at Allen@PBN.com
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