FALL RIVER — Arrivederci, Italian cuisine. At least for now.
But owner and chef Brendan O’Neil hopes this goodbye won’t be permanent, but rather “until we meet again” as he searches for a new home.
O’Neil said its off-the-beaten-path location and operating day limitations were some of the challenges over the past few months that have contributed to a lull in business.
“We’re not doing the business that I had hoped and anticipated unfortunately… I don’t see us surviving the summer to get back to cooler weather which I think would have been our best time of year , ” he said.
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Italian Kitchen opened its doors at the Don Carlos Clublocated at 245 Plain St., in October 2021, offering sit-down dining for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday and take-out only Saturday and Sunday.
According to O’Neil, business at the restaurant – a small business with only five employees – was stable at first. “Lunch in the fall and winter was OK, it was building,” he said.
But he said he struggled to gain traction with a new clientele and attract people in the summer who were looking for an outdoor dining experience.
“I had anticipated it to be an issue or a concern, but it was a bit more than I expected,” he said.
O’Neil’s arrangement with the Don Carlos Club does not allow him to open Italian Kitchen for dinner on weekends, when the club rents out its function room, which also hasn’t helped, a- he declared.
“I was aware of that and thought we could handle it…but at this time of year and winter it’s two pretty vital days,” O’Neil, who previously owned Il Piatto, a restaurant Italian at the current site of Mesa 21 and a pizzeria in North Kingston.
Location, he said, was also an obstacle.
“The two streets surrounding the Don Carlos Club (Plain and North Varley Streets) are both one-way north towards Locust Street which has caused problems for our clientele,” he said. .
According to O’Neil, he had a petition before the Fall River Traffic Board to have North Varley Street on the west side of the building changed in the opposite direction, but by the time they got a decision on it “I going to be irrelevant as far as the Don Carlos is concerned.”
There are also “a lot of things that are out of our control,” O’Neil noted, such as rising gas prices, which reduce residents’ disposable income to spend on dining out.
As his run at the Don Carlos Club draws to a close, O’Neil will still be serving dishes of a different variety by the sea this summer.
You can find O’Neil handing out summer staples — hot dogs, burgers, chicken tenders, Italian ice cream and more — seven days a week from his food truck on the Horseneck Beach pavilion in Westport.
He had O’Neil’s food truck for five years, using it mostly for private parties and one-day festivals and functions. He got a permit to move to Horseneck last summer, but the weather was not on his side.
“This year has been great so far, the weather has been wonderful,” he said.
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O’Neil said he has his eyes set on a new home for Italian Kitchen, but doesn’t see himself embarking on anything until September or October at the earliest “unless it’s an absolutely perfect location.”
He also hopes to stay in the city if possible.
“I really love the Fall River area. I’m from here, I grew up here…this is my home,” he said.
Those who still have restaurant gift cards are encouraged to drop by and use them before business closes on Friday.
The Italian Kitchen is open for dinner Monday through Friday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Takeout is also available by calling 508-272-8004.