After sitting empty for more than three years, the site that once housed the Bacchus restaurant and Crispin's dessert shop in Forest Hills is now an "upscale-casual" Italian restaurant, cigar bar and six-pack shop.
Roman Bistro and the Boulevard Bottle & Cigar Shop are the newest additions to Ardmore Boulevard, featuring Italian food, craft beers -- with 33 on tap -- and a wine list of more than 30 wines.
Restaurant owner Michael Roman said he chose the spot because of its proximity to the parkway and visibility on Ardmore (Route 30).
He said Forest Hills' 2003 decision to allow for the sale of liquor licenses in the borough made a big impact on his decision to set up shop in the eastern suburbs. He had considered locations in Cranberry but said the real estate prices were three times higher in the North Hills.
Renovations took eight months before the businesses could open in June. Mr. Roman said renovations included redoing the dining room and transforming Crispin's into the bottle and cigar shop. The cigar shop is connected to the restaurant, and patrons can enjoy a stogie in the shop, but a double door with a dedicated HVAC system between the restaurant and cigar shop keeps the air clear, Mr. Roman said.
Action Housing, a nonprofit housing, development and human services agency, bought the building in 2011, when the Forest Hills Community Development Corp. approached Action and asked for help when the building was in foreclosure.
"We consider this a community development project," said Jennifer Dinardo, Action's director of real estate affiliates.
The entire retail space -- 7,000 square feet -- is operated by Mr. Roman. Action is working to rent out four apartments on the second floor of the building.
Not only did the project bring new businesses to Forest Hills, it also created about 40 new jobs, Ms. Dinardo said.
Mr. Roman said business has been "excellent," with lots of support from the community.
Roman Bistro and Boulevard Bottle & Cigar Shop is open seven days a week. It is at 2104 Ardmore Blvd., Forest Hills. For more information: www.romanbistro.com.
Annie Siebert: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert.