New team takes over Cucina in Slatersville

New team takes over Cucina in Slatersville

Staff and new management from Cucina/The Grille are, from left, Catherine Monfette, Mark Siwicki, Scott Dumouchelle and Rhiannon Smith. (Valley Breeze photo by Sandy Seoane)

NORTH SMITHFIELD - A three-man team with extensive cumulative experience in the restaurant industry has purchased Cucina and The Grille in Slatersville Plaza, and took over the popular dining establishment last week.

Brothers Mark and Dr. David Siwicki are joined by chef and business partner Volker Wagner in the endeavor, and while guests are not likely to notice any immediate changes, the team has begun making updates and is hoping to make some major improvements by July.

"We want people to realize that when they walk in here, it's basically going to be the same," said Mark, a Newport resident who's known locally from his management experience at Box Seats in Woonsocket in the early 2000's. "We want to meet people and see what they look for when they come here to eat."

The trio took over on Dec. 5, and has focused, first, on improving the kitchen and upgrading the food. Wagner, a renowned chef who's worked in acclaimed restaurants in New York City including Windows on the World, Stan Hope, and Plaza Hotel by Central Park, is known for his preference for locally sourced food. Originally from Germany, Wagner has cooked in restaurants across Europe, and specializes in Mediterranean cuisine and dishes including tapas.

"We may incorporate a Mediterranean vision," said Mark.

But such potential changes will not begin until later in the year, when plans include tasks such as addressing heating issues in the lower dining room, updating restaurant decor and adding Saturday and Sunday brunch. A name change is also in the works. For now, things will stay as is, including the "two restaurants-in-one" format. The upstairs portion of the establishment, known as The Grille, has a more relaxed menu including appetizers, pizza and burgers, while the lower level, Cucina, serves more upscale Italian fare. The Grill is open every day for lunch and dinner, while Cucina serves dinner only from Tuesday through Sunday. The restaurant currently is known for dishes such as their signature calamari, and chicken casalinga, a fried chicken cutlet topped with mozzarella and ricotta cheese, fried eggplant and a pomodoro sauce.

"Everyone raves about our Sangria," said bartender Scott Dumouchelle.

The new owners are also keeping the entire staff, including managers.

"We're not getting rid of anybody," said Mark.

Mark worked with Wagner at an eatery in Cumberland and has since done several catering events and wine tastings with the chef. Mark says he and Wagner have been looking for the right opportunity to go into business together for years.

Brother David, an investor who will spend less time in the restaurant, works as a physician in Newport and Kent counties and out of Landmark Medical Center.

"I've been in restaurants all my life," said Mark. "We've just been looking for a good match."

The restaurant was part of the Marra Restaurant Group, one of six owned and managed by Stephen Marra. It went on sale after Marra's death in 2011.