Gigi's Gourmet Italian Market and Deli on Route 1 owes its existence to two Category 5 hurricanes that slammed the U.S. Virgin Islands last year.
After Hurricanes Irma and Maria destroyed his restaurant in a luxury resort on St. John, owner John Ferrigno moved to the North Shore. Now he's making a new beginning, opening an Italian market and deli — its tagline is "Now we can eat" — in a former White Hen Pantry space at 110 Newbury St. (Route 1 south).
Gigi's is just one of a new crop of restaurants springing up on the North Shore, and gearing up for the return of warm weather.
A new Bancroft & Co. steakhouse, featuring more than 300 seats on two levels, opened last week at the Northshore Mall in Peabody, on the side of the mall that is undergoing a multi-million-dollar makeover. It's a stone's throw away from a new Tony C's Sports Bar and Grill, scheduled to open in May.
Salem, which has become a restaurant mecca in recent years, offers one of the newer, trendier offerings with Counter Kitchen and Bar at The Hotel Salem, on the Essex Street pedestrian mall. And there's more in store, including the city's first rooftop eatery, set to open later this spring; a new crepe cafe and a Boston Burger.
Can't decide where to eat first?
Here's a roundup of some of the newer offerings on the North Shore.
New to Danvers
Zozo's Ristorante, an upscale Italian restaurant, had been located on the island of St. John in the Virgin Islands for nearly 20 years, most recently in the upscale Caneel Bay resort. But the hurricanes last year devastated the island, destroying much of the resort.
So Zozo's owner John Ferrigno relocated to the North Shore with the idea for Gigi's Gourmet Italian Market and Deli.
"We are all here because we are not all there," said Ferrigno, using a popular saying from the island. "Everybody who is working here is a refugee of St. John's."
Zozo's former executive chef, Michael Fortino, has joined Ferrigno in the new market, which is named after Ferrigno's daughter, Georgia. Fortino will prepare his own roast beef and pastrami, roast his own turkeys and make all the sauces from scratch. The Italian deli and market is takeout and self-serve, with some casual dine-in seating.
In the other part of town, Joe Bucchiere Jr. of Saugus is making a go of it with his new Hometown Cafe at the location of the former Habor Cafe, 125 Liberty St., in Danversport.
Habor Cafe closed in the summer of 2015, after the reconstruction of Liberty Street forced a lengthy closure of the nearby causeway. Hometown Cafe, which opened a month-and-a-half ago, features breakfast sandwiches and wraps, and a new owner.
"It's been a good response from the community, so I've been very happy so far," Bucchiere said.
Danvers also has a new tea shop, with the opening of the family-owned Tea Camilla at 23A Locust St., just off Danvers Square. The shop offers more than 70 varieties of loose leaf tea, and serves pastries, tea, coffee and hot cocoa.
On Peabody's menu
Bancroft & Co. plans to open for dinner, at first, then open for lunch and dinner starting April 23. The restaurant is a sister restaurant to The Bancroft in Burlington. It's located in the spot of a former P.F. Chang's China Bistro, adjacent to the Cheesecake Factory, at the Northshore Mall.
The inside look is industrial meets a modern, polished steakhouse, says Amy Severino, who does marketing for the Webber Restaurant Group, a family-owned, Groton-based restaurant company with three other restaurants and a catering company. The decor features plenty of mahogany, wood and steel. Rock concert posters adorn the walls.
"Think old school meets new school steakhouse," Severino said.
In addition to steaks, they'll offer fish, chicken and veal dishes. Entrees range from $27 to $48.
There's a large bar downstairs and another upstairs on an open second floor that overlooks the restaurant. A lounge area as you walk is called "the library." Several areas also can become private dining areas.
At the back of the restaurant sits a row of telephone booths with working pay phones.
"One of the owners went and sourced them from an old concert venue that had closed down, so these are actual phone booths that were there," Severino said. They came with the original graffiti and stickers.
Downtown Peabody also has new offerings for diners.
La Siesta Restaurante is planning to open at 3 Main St., next to the new Brodie's Pub location. The family-owned eatery has had an existing location in Winthrop since 2006, featuring fish tacos, chicken poblano and other Mexican fare.
This summer, Peabody's first brew pub, Granite Coast Brewing, plans to open next to the new location of The NexMex Thing at 77 Main St., across from the library. It will offer craft beer but no food, except for occasional pop-ups or food trucks. Patrons, however, can order from other restaurants or bring their own food.
Counter culture in Salem
The department store lunch counters of the 1950s and 1960s inspired one of Salem's newest eateries, Counter Kitchen and Bar, which opened this winter. The former department store has been turned into a boutique, 44-room hotel by Amesbury-based Lark Hotels.
Located just inside the hotel, the restaurant is dominated by a 20-seat, counter-style walnut bar with round, leather-bound stools, and a large, open kitchen. There are 35 seats in the dining room, and in the spring, when the weather finally warms up, the restaurant plans to offer 36 seats in a seasonal patio.
Under Executive Chef Justin Perdue, the menu changes based on the season and what can be sourced locally. The offerings include salads, toasts and sandwiches, pasta made in-house, casual side and hearty main dishes. Main dishes run from $24 for bucatini pasta to $36 for a petite filet of beef.
"I think so far, it's been going over well," said Perdue, who said the large counter gives one the feeling of "sitting at one big chef's table."
In the spring, The Hotel Salem will open The Roof, the city's first rooftop bar. Perdue said the menu will include tacos, ceviche, oysters, and guacamole dishes.
Around the corner, at 83 Washington St., Mr. Crepe just opened, in a sport formerly occupied by a French bakery. It's a second location for the crepe cafe, which is based in Davis Square in Somerville. It offers sweet and savory crepes, for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert.
And the old Caffe Graziani spot on Washington Street will be filled by a Boston Burger. The company has locations in Boston, Cambridge and Somerville, and offers a variety of unique burgers and fries, along with wings, appetizers and other casual food. No word yet on the opening date.
Beverly's food scene
Beverly also has a thriving foodie scene and some new offerings. En Fuego Cocina Mexicana of Ipswich, with its authentic Mexican cuisine, recently opened a second location at 131 Rantoul St., in the new luxury apartment building known as the Flats at 131. A breakfast and lunch restaurant, Omelette Factory Cafe, has also opened in the same building.
On Cabot Street, Bonefish Harry Seafood Saloon at 218 Cabot St. opened on March 15; it has a sister location to District 45 in East Lynn. It bills itself as a "seafood saloon," with a dishes from mussels to oysters prepared with an international flair.
Tartine Kitchen and Eatery, 192 Cabot St., is also a relatively new addition to the food scene. The decor of the non-tipping eatery features prints of vegetables on the walls, and the offerings include open-face sandwiches on toasted artisan bread, called, of course, tartines, as well as a variety of quiches. There are coffees, espressos, teas, Belgian beers, wines by the glass and desserts.
If you are in Boston, you'll be able to get a little taste of Beverly as A&B Burgers at 206 Cabot St. plans to open its second location in Boston on Causeway Street.
On April 10, A&B Burgers owner Tom Holland took to Facebook to sum up why he wants to serve up this destination dining spot steps from TD Garden.
“The chance to open our first Boston location in the middle of one of the city’s hottest neighborhoods was too good to pass up,” Holland said.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.