Above: The Town of East Greenwich distributed dining “igloos” to local restaurants, including Richard’s Pub.
Winter’s pretty much here for Rick Mignanelli, one of the owners of Richard’s Pub and Ritrovo. Outdoor dining went well for both restaurants this fall, but even with the heaters they brought in and a couple of the dining “igloos” they obtained through the town, Mignanelli knows the outdoor season is pretty much over.
“We did well with the outdoor dining. It helped a lot,” he said in an interview this week.
But just as the weather was getting colder, Gov. Raimondo’s two-week “pause” started Monday, dropping indoor capacity from two thirds to one third and dictating that you only eat out with people you live with. The pause also called for bar areas to be closed. That one hurt, Mignanelli said. That’s because before the state even required there be plastic barriers at bar areas, his father built wood-framed glass barriers – the bar space is valuable dining real estate.
Much of the recent rise in COVID numbers has been linked to small gatherings of friends or family who don’t live together but eating inside of a restaurant has also been linked to transmission of COVID-19, according to state health officials. Outdoor dining is much safer, but tough during a New England winter, even with heaters and igloos and blankets.
RI Dept. of Health spokesman Joseph Wendelken said the bar closures were because of spacing.
“While people can be seated at tables with only the members of their households, that is harder at bars. People are much closer,” said Wendelken.
Take out is up a bit at Richard’s and Ritrovo, but it’s too soon to say how much take out business they will get. There’s lots of talk about gift cards and Rick is hopeful but realistic – are people going to buy lots of gift cards if they are worried businesses might not last? Not that he’s concerned about Richard’s Pub and Ritrovo.
Richard’s Pub has been around since 1976, opened by his father, Richard (of course!) and mother, Janice. Richard senior was an unlikely restaurateur. His father owned a furniture and restoration company but with older brothers in line to take over that business, Richard and Janice decided to open a restaurant on South County Trail, on property owned by the Mignanelli family. They’ve always taken a hands on approach – Richard is handy and could do a lot of renovations by himself (or, in the old days, with his father, who was also handy) and Janice has been baking menu desserts for 40 years (key lime pie, pumpkin pie and grapenut pudding are favorites).
Together with Rick and brother Steven, they opened Ritrovo (in the Greenwich Village complex on Main Street at Old Forge Road) in 2011. The tagline for their restaurants: where casual meets quality. They are the places you go to in the middle of the week after your softball game, or for a group event, or date night. And according to Rick, they plan to be around long after the pandemic has receded into memory.
“We’re not going anywhere,” he said. “It hurts right now, but my dad’s old school. They always made sure there was money for the ‘what if.’”