By: Paul Feely, New Hampshire Union Leader
Sitting on a couch in the late day sun, surrounded by friends, Cindy Gravell took a sip from her cocktail and smiled.
“Good times with good friends,” said Gravell, of Windham. “There’s nothing better than that. It’s just a sense of normalcy, enjoying each other’s company.”
Gravell and three friends were enjoying drinks and a pizza in the new outside dining area at Tuscan Kitchen in Salem, joining dozens of diners looking to get out of their homes for a bite to eat Monday, as restaurants welcomed back customers after two months of being limited to curbside pickup and delivery only.
“It’s nice to have someone wait on us,” joked Melissa Trombly of Derry, part of Gravell’s group.
Meghan Frechette, assistant general manager from the Burlington, Mass., restaurant, carries a pizza to a table at Tuscan Kitchen in Salem on Monday. All staffers are required to wear face coverings as New Hampshire restaurants reopen.
Monday marked the first time New Hampshire restaurants have offered sit-down dining — outdoors only, and under certain conditions — since they were shut down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The newest phase of reopening carries many restrictions, such as tables positioned to keep parties six feet apart, and no more than six people allowed at a table. Employees must wear face masks or coverings.
At Tuscan Kitchen, a large white tent was installed by the patio to accommodate diners. The area can handle about 200 people, with more distance between tables than required, said Joe Faro, founder and CEO of Tuscan Brands.
“We’re pretty blessed that everybody came out to say hello,” said Faro. “I think they all wanted to come back out to eat and have a few drinks. We’re just excited to see people smiling again.”
Faro said the entire setup — including the giant tent, container bar, and wood-fired pizza oven — came together in about five days.
“We wanted it to feel authentic, not just a tent with a few chairs around it,” said Faro. “We’re just playing the cards we were dealt. We get lemons, we’re gonna squeeze limoncello.”
Former Republican state representative David Dalrymple was enjoying a meal decked out in a colorful sombrero and poncho.
“I missed Cinco de Mayo, so here I am,” said Dalrymple. “This is the perfect thing to help me celebrate. Look how beautiful this place is? I think Gov. Sununu is doing things right, gradually opening things up. This makes me so happy.”
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