Restaurants in Little Italy are hoping to move outdoors. Historically, only a few restaurants in the popular dining district have offered sidewalk dining options and sporadically at best.
But now, inspired by a one-time outdoor dining event held on the Friday of Grand Prix weekend, a few restaurants on and off High Street are looking into expanding their dining options to the sidewalks of Little Italy.
Outdoor dining in Little Italy has been seen but rarely over the years.
Cafe Gia offers year-round dining on a heated balcony overlooking Eastern Avenue. The 20-seat balcony is in use year round but is particularly popular in the summer, according to Gia Daniella, who helps operate the cafe with her mother, Giovanna Blatterman. "Our guests will wait 45 minutes for a seat on the balcony," Daniella says. "It's been a very popular amenity here. Cafe Gia is permitted to offer seating under a canopy on its High Street side but offers that option on a more occasional basis
Germano's, by most accounts has been offering outdoor dining the longest of any Little Italy restaurants, since about 1990, according to Cyd Wolf, who operates the restaurant with he husband, Germano Fabiani. Germano's puts out six tables on Fawn Street from April to October (earlier or later depending on the weather). "People love it," Wolf says about the outdoor dining. "But even people who don't sit out here see people dining outside. The best advertisement is our food. It brings us a lot of business through our doors."
But Grand Prix Friday was the first time in anyone's memory that so many restaurants offered outdoor dining.
"We had a nice time with Grand Prix," said Amiccis co-owner Roland Keh. Keh acknowledges that the crowds didn't show up for the neighborhood's experiment in outdoor dining, for which High Street was closed off to traffic.
If the expected crowds didn't come, the pleasures of al fresco dining were still obvious to the neighborhood's restaurateurs.
"The whole neighborhood banded together,' Kuh said. "We came away pleasantly surprised." And Wolf says that recent improvements to the neighborhood’s infrastructure, including new paving and Venetian-style lampposts, make the notion of outdoor dining in Little Italy even sweeter.
Kuh said he's all ready to go with the outdoor seating but will likely wait until the good weather looks like it's here to stay.
"We'll definitely have it out in time for Opening Day," Kuh said.
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