Bordentown City restaurants excited with the start of outdoor dining

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A waitress from Toscano Ristorante and Steakhouse asks two gentlemen how their meal is going on June 16. The restaurant opened outdoor dining for its customers on June 15. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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A couple gentlemen gather around the outdoor bar at Marcello's Restaurant & Coal Fired Pizza on June 16. The restaurant opened up outdoor dining to its customers on June 15. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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A gentleman drinks a martini during his meal at Toscano Ristorante and Steakhouse on June 16. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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A couple sits down outside of Smile's Sweet Spot to eat their ice cream on June 16. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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A waitress from Toscano Ristorante and Steakhouse asks two gentlemen how their meal is going on June 16. The restaurant opened outdoor dining for its customers on June 15. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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A couple gentlemen gather around the outdoor bar at Marcello's Restaurant & Coal Fired Pizza on June 16. The restaurant opened up outdoor dining to its customers on June 15. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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A gentleman drinks a martini during his meal at Toscano Ristorante and Steakhouse on June 16. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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A couple sits down outside of Smile's Sweet Spot to eat their ice cream on June 16. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

BORDENTOWN – Stage 2 of Gov. Phil Murphy’s reopening plan for the state of New Jersey kicked off on June 15 with the start of restaurants being able to serve customers through outdoor dining.

A total of 10 restaurants and shops in Bordentown City were ready to provide outdoor dining to their loyal customers after only being able to offer takeout or delivery services the past few months.

The next step in recovery from the coronavirus pandemic has been a bright spot for people in the Bordentown community.

“It’s a great feeling to see people back in the streets,” Bordentown City Deputy Mayor John Brodowski said. “You can feel a different vibe in the town. Everything seems to be coming together.”

Brodowski said that the Board of Commissioners and city officials have done their best to communicate with restaurants and small businesses about opening up outdoor dining and following the proper procedures to be able to do so.

Mayor James Lynch and Chief of Police Frederic Miller have kept on top of the outdoor dining guidelines sent in from the state for the restaurants to follow, Brodowski said.

City Commissioner Joe Myers has led the charge in helping restaurants set up barriers on the street and sidewalks to put tents to host customers for outdoor dining, the deputy mayor added.

For restaurants and small businesses to hold outdoor dining, Brodowski said owners had to connect with city clerk Grace Archer to fill out an application to the state to request extending their dining area to outside.

“We have a good working relationship with the restaurants,” Brodowski said. “We made them know what they needed to do to make the most of the perimeters that were set in place for outdoor dining. Everyone has contributed to accommodate those changes.”

To help restaurants and small businesses in the town during the pandemic, the Board of Commissioners launched the Bordentown City Small Business Grant program that went into effect last month.

Brodowski said that the city commissioners have heard from restaurant and small business owners that the grant has helped pay off some of their expenses and keep them afloat during the pandemic.

Zack Melker, who owns Toscano Ristorante and Steakhouse, said the city was a big help in providing the restaurant with the barriers for outdoor dining and slowing down traffic flow to keep customers safe while dining.

Melker also owns Angelo’s Trattoria, a new Italian restaurant in the town that will be open starting on June 17.

Both restaurants are receiving money from the Bordentown City Small Business Grant and Melker said the grant allowed each place to pay off some food vendors to get food in the door.

So far, Melker is very happy with how outdoor dining has gone and said Toscano has been booked with reservations all week.

The chef believes outdoor dining will be a big help in revenue for all the restaurants in town during the summer and the early parts of fall.

“Outdoor dining opens up more tables and more revenue for all the restaurants,” Melker said. “The only situation we have to pray for with that is good weather. Takeout brought us some new opportunities too and I think that’s going to be around for a while.”

Marcello’s Restaurant and Coal Fire Pizza is equipped to take full advantage of outdoor dining. The restaurant had a retracted roof implemented about five years ago that allows the whole restaurant to be considered outdoor dining, owner Vincent Minerva said.

Under the COVID-19 guidelines, Minerva said the restaurant can serve at max 50 people inside and at the bar.

The restaurant has also set up 11 tables outside on the sidewalk for regular outdoor dining.

“We’re fortunate we have the space to set up 11 tables for regular outside dining and also have the restaurant,” Minerva said. “It’s a big win for us. People are excited to come out. This will help us each day until everybody feels safe again and we can have indoor dining.”