(See additional photographs below.)
Guests will be nibbling on pizza and small bites by mid-summer in downtown Haverhill when Bosa Coastal Italian restaurant opens.
The creation of Salvatore N. Lupoli, the first-floor restaurant and its corresponding rooftop bar will soon commence interior construction at the new “Heights” glass tower on Merrimack Street. Although Lupoli managed to construct the building during the pandemic by following restrictive COVID-19 protocols, he told a group gathered for a construction kickoff ribbon cutting Tuesday, that the restaurant business is in ruins. He explained, fulfilling a promise to open the restaurant and bar was “a long journey.”
“Imagine coming to the City of Haverhill, building a big, beautiful building like this, and now being in a situation that it was incredibly challenging to open a restaurant. The City of Haverhill didn’t quit on us. The City Council didn’t quit on us. The mayor’s office didn’t quit on us. They allowed us to rebuild our company back up,” he said.
Lupoli said his hospitality business survived by cutting menu prices 50%, which not only kept his customers, but also brought in just enough money to avoid having to lay off any employees. As a result, he noted, his company probably received the least in government pandemic aid because relief amounts were largely based on the numbers of employees not working.
“We have some wonderful things in the future. I really think this is about Bosa today. It’s about the employees. It’s about this organization. It’s about this partnership (with Northern Essex Community College). It’s about spreading the word, ‘This is what happens when a city sticks together with a developer. When private-public partnerships come together. This is what happens,’” he said.
James Gallant, Lupoli’s executive chef who has worked 11 years at the company’s 34 Park St. in Andover, told well-wishers the restaurant’s name, Bosa, comes from a small fishing village on an island in the Sardinia region of Italy.
“The goal is to create a pizza—similar to what we do, like you’ll see, at Sal’s Pizza, with a twist. It’ll be a cross between New York style and Neopolitan style, a lot of pizzas, small bites,” he explained.
Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini said he first witnessed, what he called, Lupoli’s “amazing job” transforming abandoned buildings and Lawrence. The mayor decided he wanted the developer in Haverhill. He ultimately convinced Lupoli—who had already built a pizza shop in Haverhill on Winter Street—to buy a downtown building at 192 Merrimack St.
“But, Sal thinks big. I mean really big. Much bigger than I was thinking. He said, ‘I don’t want to just build a building, build a restaurant. I want to build a 10-story building,’” the mayor recalled.
Fiorentini said Lupoli’s vision led to the city putting up is Riverfront Promenade parking lot for sale and selling it.
“How many of you heard the criticism, it’s too tall? How many of you heard it doesn’t fit in? How many of you heard it just doesn’t match other things? Did you hear that one? I tricked you. That wasn’t the criticism of this building I was quoting. That was the criticism of the Eiffel Tower when it went up.”
Northern Essex Community College President Lane A. Glenn noted the institution occupies the second and third floors of the building with its culinary arts program and operation of MassHire Merrimack Valley. As a result of an additional partnership with the developer, he added, students will also learn in the new restaurant. Glenn related how a Lupoli philosophy is embedded in the new building.
“People naturally eat with their eyes first. You might expect that from someone who started his career making pizzas and certainly evolved into making huge buildings and spaces and developments for people in Gateway cities all across the state, but that’s not what we mean. People eat with their eyes first. They walk into a space, they see the space, they appreciate the space, they start to take in the view. Our students, our faculty, our staff, the people who are serving in the culinary operation downstairs. They share that vision,” he said.
Haverhill City Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua, in his capacity as president of the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce, praised Lupoli as the epitome of the American dream, beginning with a single pizza shop. He related a story of how Lupoli braved a “mini-blizzard” to speak the New England Chamber of Commerce Association, representing all six states, when Bevilacqua served as chairman of the body. Bevilacqua explained how Lupoli’s story inspired the audience.
“’Sal, we want you to come to our state. We want you to build in our cities. We want you.’ Because, they had confidence in a developer that would do what he said he would do. They had confidence in a developer that not just simply builds a development for the sake of building, but builds a quality development for that community,” he said.
Gary Armstrong, Lupoli’s vice president of construction, said the company is still getting over long lead times for equipment, but it will launch, what he called, “a soft start” of construction in March. During April and May, there will be heavy construction and equipment comes in June in time for, he said, “a great summertime destination.”