PROVIDENCE — For decades, Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel helped shape downtown Providence. The concert venue, in all of its locations, brought in acts like Wu-Tang Clan, The Pretenders, Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters, and Dave Mathews Band.
Fans remember Lupo’s as much more than a neighborhood bar. It was a melting pot where anyone from factory workers to Brown University students would gather to catch a solid show.
Lupo’s changed locations three times, bouncing from one downtown building to the next. In 1993 it settled in the former Peerless Building on Westminster Street, where people referred to it as Lupo’s II.
Tracey DeFusco bartended at Lupo’s II throughout her 20s. Downtown Providence looked a bit different back then.
“The area was a little grungy. You’d look one way and there was a band heading into a club. Look the other way, and there was a fight breaking out,” laughed DeFusco in a recent interview. “There was a lot of gay bars and a lot of rock and roll clubs. And it was just a lot of fun.”
Lupo’s II left Westminster Street in 2003 and reopened as Lupo’s III in the Strand Building at 79 Washington St. It officially closed in 2017.
The building on Westminster Street was sliced up into several storefronts, and was once home to the popular restaurants Flan y Ajo and Sushi Yama, both of which closed prior to the pandemic.
Now, DeFusco and her business partner Deanna Marandola are opening a new restaurant in part of the space where DeFusco once worked. Amaryllis, a 16-seat restaurant with a standing area, will be a scratch open-kitchen led by the two women, with inspirations that come by way of West Coast and global flavors, including Japanese, Indian, Spanish, and Italian ingredients.
Amaryllis is slated to open June 19.
The menu will focus on “clean and vibrant food that emphasizes health and happiness,” sourcing from local farmers and growers (including some products from their own garden), and using organic and seasonal ingredients whenever possible.
“When you go out on a date, you want to go dancing afterwards,” said Marandola. “Think of this as date food. You’re going to be satisfied, but not want to take a nap afterwards.”
Marandola said guests will see bright dishes and sharing plates, such as a signature miso ginger rice noodle bowl, stuffed roasted eggplant, salmon ceviche with parsley salsa verde, and beet muhammara and lemon basil hummus.
While they won’t be serving alcohol, Amaryllis will allow diners to bring their own booze (with a $5 corking fee). They will also focus on creative mocktails with an option to add liquor and wine pairings through Eno Fine Wines & Spirits just next door.
Among the mocktail options: lavender lemonade with fresh herbs from their garden; a muddle of fresh berries, lemon and tonic; and a beet-and-house-made-ginger-beer combination to which guests can add their liquor of choice.
Kombucha will be on tap and assorted herbal teas will be available.
“We are creating a space that is whimsical and hip, without being pretentious,” said DeFusco.
DeFusco and Marandola met while working as bartenders at sister restaurants Rosalina and Kleos, which are owned by wife-and-husband duo Lauren Lynch and Tom Bovis. They first opened Amaryllis as a pop-up model in 2018, knowing they wanted to eventually open a brick-and-mortar location.
When the pandemic hit last year, the bar areas at Rosalina and at Kleos were closed because of state-mandated restrictions. But their pop-up business was in demand.
Bars became some of their best clients during the pandemic. Places that served food could still open, but many bars didn’t normally offer food.
DeFusco and Marandola served colorful tacos in the parking lot behind Scurvy Dog, a punk bar on the west side. They paired side dishes with an AC/DC cover band at Dusk, a nightlife venue on Harris Avenue where they also offered a French-themed night with a movie, a playlist, and French-inspired dishes.
While there aren’t many rock-and-roll concert venues left in the area, much to DeFusco despair, she said she and Marandola want Amaryllis to continue to be the “melting pot” that Lupo’s once was.
“Downtown may look completely different from the ’90s, but we’re going to keep doing funky things,” said DeFusco. “This is still Providence.”
Amaryllis, 225a Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02903, Wednesday to Friday, 4 to 10 p.m., Saturday 12 to 10 p.m., indoor and outdoor dining, @AmaryllisRI.