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May 20. 2014 10:22PM

Popular restaurant proposes new location

SALEM — A popular Italian restaurant is looking to move and build a new location on South Broadway at the corner of Belmont Street.

Representatives from Ralphie’s Cafe Italiano recently met with the planning board for initial discussions about a planned 4,300-square-foot, 80-seat restaurant at 91 South Broadway. The current building on the property would be knocked down and replaced by the new building.

A more detailed plan will have to come back to the planning board for approval as well as possible conditional use permits for some wetlands buffer and parking issues.

Ralphie’s Cafe currently shares space with a Cumberland Farms at 386 South Broadway, but needs to leave that property, according to project engineer Kurt Meisner.

Restaurant owner Ralph Fioli said the restaurant has been in operation for 37 years, making it one of the oldest in Salem. He said the restaurant still has two years left on a 10-year lease at its current location, but that it is being asked to leave the current site prematurely.

“We have operated our business with integrity, offering quality food at reasonable prices in a family setting,” said Fioli.

The new location would have about twice as many seats as the current location, according to Meisner.

There are several issues that will need to be worked out before the planning board considers final approval, including parking and drainage.

Under the town zoning ordinance, the restaurant would require 42 parking spaces. The initial plan has 35.

Some neighbors are concerned about potential parking and drainage issues on the site.

A petition signed by 18 residents of the area stated that they did not support the restaurant plan as proposed, citing the drainage issues as well as potential for increased traffic and noise.

“Belmont Street and Westchester Street have water issues that need to be corrected by the town before it considers any new construction,” the petition stated.

Michael Lyons, the selectmen’s representative to the planning board, said he believed most of the issues concerning the project could be addressed.

“If anything is going to affect the people in the neighborhood, I think it’s the parking,” said Lyons. “I think we can overcome everything else.”

Town Planning Director Ross Moldoff said the planning department will be working with the applicant to get the plan into shape before it officially comes before the planning board.

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