BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — The restaurant and food scene in downtown Salem has gone through almost as many changes this winter as the Red Sox lineup.
Some of the regulars are gone, like Green Land Cafe, Cafe Polonia and Ben & Jerry’s. But when one place disappears, it seems something new pops up to take its place.
“There’s still a lot of interest in coming here,” said Rinus Oosthoek, executive director of the Salem Chamber of Commerce.
In addition to new restaurants replacing old ones, there are also entirely new ventures. One of those is Melita Fiore Patisserie, a pastry shop that will open in early May a few doors down from City Hall.
“I thought we needed a pastry shop here,” said Fiore, who trained with Delphin Gomes, the master French pastry chef from Marblehead.
“He is actually helping me open up over here,” she said. “It’s going to be very classic French-style pastries.”
She will open next to Opus, the much-buzzed-about Washington Street restaurant that is taking Green Land’s old spot.
Opus is the latest and grandest — as in magnum opus — venture by the Serenitee Restaurant Group, which owns Latitude 43 in Gloucester, 15 Walnut in Hamilton and Hale Street Tavern in Beverly.
Opus, set to open in mid-June, will have a large oval bar, kitchens upstairs and downstairs, an art gallery, an “eclectic modern cuisine,” and seating for more than 100.
It will be something Salem hasn’t seen before, a Serenitee official said.
“There is for me, and for the people on this project, just this palpable sense this is something big,” owner Mark McDonough said.
Over in Lappin Square, the former general manager and executive chef from Coda, a bistro in Boston’s South End, are about to open Naumkeag Ordinary just a few doors down from Gulu-Gulu Cafe.
“We’re super-excited,” co-owner Matthew Brady said. “You can’t beat this location.”
Naumkeag Ordinary will be a moderately priced restaurant with “creative American comfort food” and a bar, Brady said.
They will serve, for example, macaroni and cheese with Tasso ham and peas, snacks like deviled eggs and basil pesto, and even something called “bacon lardons.”
One of the most interesting additions to the food scene is the Jean Louis Pasta Shop, 84 Derby St., which is right on the edge of downtown near The House of the Seven Gables.
Open just a few months, it already has a following, and why wouldn’t it? Where else can you find escargot ravioli?
“I created my own style,” owner Jean Louis Faber said one day last week while making a seafood ravioli filled with lobster, shrimp, crab and scallops.
The Grapevine, which Stacey Fraser and Kate Hammond ran for more than 20 years and turned into a dining landmark, changed hands a few months ago.
Kristin Zarkades, the new owner, has taken over with her husband, Harry, serving as wine director. They liked the restaurant’s tradition so much they decided to keep the name.
“It’s such a great name,” Zarkades said, “especially with the wine focus we have.”
The cuisine has shifted slightly to northern Mediterranean. And now that renovations have been done along the South River basin, they plan to open a new outdoor patio.
On Pickering Wharf, work is underway to transform The Hungry Whale, a popular sandwich shop famous for its lobster rolls, into Longboards Cafe & Bar, so named for the flatbread and artisan pizzas it will serve on long cutting boards.
The casual cafe, which will have a bar and offer takeout, hopes to open next month.
The Ben & Jerry’s franchise on Washington Street closed last fall, but is about to get new life. A new ice cream shop, the Salem Screamery, plans to open around May 1.
“It’s really just going to be an old-fashioned ice cream store,” said Tim Hopkins, who also runs a catering business.
In addition to ice cream, he plans to offer homemade baked goods.
There are at least two more downtown restaurants that may change hands in the next few weeks, but none of those deals is final.
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.