Holy Ghost Society takes back control of restaurant
Over the next several years, two separate restaurant groups tried their hand at operating the Portuguese American Citizens Club, both unsuccessfully. After the most recent fiasco, the property owners decided the best management was closest to home.
The doors at the Jamestown Bar & Grille on 138 Narragansett Ave. opened in mid-December under the society’s watchful eye. Joan Dupee, president of the Holy Ghost, manages the restaurant. She is joined by head chef Mike Macioci and bar manager Terrie Storey. Although the restaurant opened as the season turned to winter, typically the worst time for restaurants, especially on a tourist island, the trio is happy with the reception in its first month.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s been great,” said Macioci. “We already have regular customers, some of them daily. The volume isn’t as good as it could be, but that’s expected this time of year. Right now we’re just trying to get into a routine. As word gets around and the weather get warmer, we’re going to develop a good customer base.”
Macioci’s voice booms with excitement as he talks about preparing his food. Aside from a stint as a military policeman in the U.S. Army, the Newport native has cooked his entire professional life. The 45-year culinary veteran taught the science of food at Johnson & Wales, the same university where he earned his master’s degree in 1996.
At one point, Macioci owned a 122-seat sports bar in Maine. When the economy went south, however, his dream faded. He closed his restaurant in 2009.
“I kept shelling out money, shelling out money,” he said. “Eventually my pockets went dry. I came back to Rhode Island with my tail between my legs.”
Macioci wasn’t unemployed for long. After returning to the Ocean State, the chef was hired at Trattoria Simpatico. When Phyllis Bedard sold the restaurant in November 2012, Macioci continued to cook under the new ownership. He left Simpatico Jamestown in the fall of 2013 after being offered the job by Dupee. Macioci packed his knives and made the half-mile trip westbound on Narragansett Avenue.
Unlike Macioci, Dupee isn’t a restaurateur by trade, admittedly. She dabbled in the business when she was in her 20s, and hopes to get back into the swing of things before tourist season. On this particular morning, Dupee was on the dining room floor hours before the restaurant opened, stationing placemats in front of each seat. Although the duty belonged to the closing server, Dupee didn’t mind the chore.
“The waitress probably just forgot,” she said. “It’s no big deal. But someone has to do it, and I’m the only one here.”
Six servers and bartenders, two dishwashers and a part-time cook round out the staff. Macioci’s cohort is Jamestown resident Michael Westcott, a retired restaurant owner who also ran a catering business. Storey, the bar manager who lives in Jamestown, is the longest reigning employee. She has been at the restaurant through its name changes and owner turnover since 1998.
“I’m growing old here,” she quipped. “I’ve hung in through all the punches.”
The staff works around an abbreviated menu, at least until St. Patrick’s Day, when Macioci hopes to unveil his full list of options. Right now the menu offers pizzas, soups, burgers, salads and sandwiches, including, of course, chorizo with peppers and onions.
The board, however, offers the more hearty options. Until his full menu is available, Macioci scribbles a handful of specials on the board each day. On any given night, patrons may be offered prime rib, teriyaki-glazed salmon or fish and chips. With the frigid weather, Macioci is emphasizing comfort food as well.
“We serve our beef stew with garlic bread in a big bowl,” he said, seemingly savoring the idea. “Perfect for days with snow on the ground.”
According to the chef, everything that comes out of the kitchen is made from scratch, from handcrafted burgers to salad dressings.
“We don’t open jars,” Macioci said. “I make my own cheese sticks, using pepper jack instead of mozzarella. We have wings of any flavor you want, and I make my own sauces. We don’t take anything out of jar and serve it.”
When Macioci pulls up to work, a sticker can be seen on his bumper: “No farms, no food.” That mantra is visible in his work as well.
When crops are ready to be harvested from the local farms, Macioci plans on using them. He has already made a habit of stopping by Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown on his way into Jamestown to pick up fresh herbs for his dinners, and apples for his desserts. A friend of his is a quahogger, and Macioci uses the local clams for his chowder and stuffies.
“All our seafood and meat is fresh,” said Dupee. “Nothing ever comes in frozen.”
Macioci says staying fresh is the key to success. “If you’re serving a bad product, that’s going to be the death of your restaurant. But if you’re serving a quality product at a reasonable price, people are going to keep coming back.”
The restaurant also offers a kids menu. “We gear toward the family,” said Dupee.
Added Macioci, “Bring the kids. We love having children.”
Opposite the pub and grill, Macioci and Dupee take great pride in the hall.
“As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t a better place on the island to have a function,” said Macioci. “There’s plenty of parking. And the hall is absolutely gorgeous. The potential of this building is unlimited.”
When the warmer weather hits, management hopes to utilize the outdoor patio for cookouts and theme parties. “It’d be nice to have, for example, a Hawaiian night,” said Macioci. “Hopefully we can have a different theme each month.”
One of the reasons Dupee decided to name the restaurant Jamestown Bar & Grille, opposed to reverting the club back to its original name, is because of the connotation.
“When it was the Portuguese American Citizens Club, a lot of out-of-towners thought it was a private establishment,” she said. “We don’t want the public to think that. The restaurant and bar are open to everyone.”
To locals, however, Dupee realizes the restaurant will always be the PAC Club, no matter who is running it. That’s no problem for her, since she predicts the Holy Ghost Society will run the restaurant for the foreseeable future anyway.