For as long as he can remember, Luciano Dinis has wanted to get into the restaurant business.
"I've always wanted to do a small restaurant," said Dinis, who's owned his own Peabody electric business for 16 years and several real estate properties. He said it was just a matter of the right opportunity coming along, and one finally did this past spring.
Dinis has actually spent most of his life as an electrician, right out of Peabody High's own vocational school, but in May, he bought the entire building at 135 Washington St., which had been home to the Willowtree Restaurant until it closed this past spring, and Dinis has opened up his own Portuguese eatery with his family.
Dinis Restaurant & Lounge opened its doors Oct. 9 for a soft opening, and then a ribbon cutting was held with the Peabody Area Chamber of Commerce and Mayor Ted Bettencourt on Monday.
For now, Dinis said, they're "working out the kinks" in getting the establishment up and running, but the response from the community has been all positive -- a little overwhelming, in fact.
Dinis said the initial turn out for the soft opening was much better than he anticipated and friends and neighbors alike have continued to stop in regularly in the days since for a meal or a drink.
As someone who's invested in the community over the past 35 years, Dinis says, he just has "the city's and neighbors' best interests at heart." He said he has one daughter in college now, another at Bishop Fenwick and a third daughter who's just 10 months old.
"I've got a few more years to go with running a business [in order] to pay for college," he said, laughing.
The dining area at Dinis' seats about 50 and another 12 can sit around the bar/lounge area, all in a relaxed atmosphere. Dinis said he employs five waitstaff, a bartender and three cooks, including Chef Virgilio Pires.
The authentic and traditional cuisine, Dinis believes, also fills a void now in Peabody.
"There really aren't many Portuguese restaurants [here]," he said, noting the options are either the Trackside Bar & Grill over on Warren Street or dinner at the Holy Ghost Society Cultural Center on Howley Street -- O'Fado's closed up shop again two years ago and was replaced by Oliveira's Steak House.
Dinis said his initial interest in the Washington Street building, which property records show he purchased for $420,000 from Frank Bolognese, was just another real estate investment -- the restaurant space is on the bottom floor and four apartments are above.
But Dinis decided to go ahead and reopen the restaurant and the transaction also included the full liquor license from the Willowtree.
Over the past few months, Dinis says, he has "cleaned up" inside and outside the restaurant, replaced carpeting with hardwood floors, repainted, redid the ceiling and made other "cosmetic" changes.
The liquor license transaction was approved by the Licensing Board and the City Council signed off on a license last week for non-live entertainment (TV, radio and CDs). Dinis said he doesn't have space for a live band, which is why he didn't seek a license for live entertainment.
Dinis does plan on holding Fado Nights though.
The traditional musical genre finds its roots back in Portugal in the early 1800s in the cities of Lisbon and Coimbra. A fado singer is often accompanied by a Portuguese guitarra (a 12-string guitar) and a viola (a six-string acoustic guitar).
Fado Night is coming up on Oct. 19 at the restaurant.
The hours of operation at Dinis Restaurant & Lounge are Tuesday through Sunday, 11:30 a.m. - 1 a.m. The kitchen closes at 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Dinis' is closed Mondays.