SOMERVILLE, NJ - The organizers of Downtown Somerville Restaurant Week concede it’s  an idea that is long overdue, so they’re rolling out the welcome mat, setting their tables, and offering a Prix Fixe menu certain to appeal to customers old and new.

Beginning Monday, March 19 and running through Saturday, March 24, the event is a showcase for more than one dozen of the borough’s four-star restaurants, featuring  diverse menus of Italian, Irish, Thai, Korean, Cuban and other ethnic, fusion and traditional American cuisines.

It’s also an opportunity for nearly one dozen Main Street retail merchants to entertain shoppers with a broad spectrum of goods and services, from fresh-baked dog biscuits and gourmet baked goods,to specialty ice cream and candy, fitness centers, contemporary fashions, premium cigars, eyewear, antiques and collectibles, floral arrangements, fine gift ware, interior design and decorating shops.

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Well established as a restaurant destination, the borough's Main Street is lined with cars most weeknights and weekends with locals and out-of-towners making reservations for dinner, but there is always room for more at the table, according to one high-profile restaurant owner. 

“We have so much in town,” said Ronaldo Linares, owner of Martino’s Cuban restaurant, 212 West Main St. and the prime mover behind Restaurant Week.

“You always always hear about restaurant week in New York City and other high-profile areas,” Linares said. “Since we are a great downtown, with great restaurants, why can’t we have one ourselves.  I started talking to other restaurants and we went beyond just dining. Why can’t we make it more of a community event, and bring in the other shops in town,” he added.

Rinaldo brought together three other restaurateurs: Pat Mannion, owner of Mannion’s Pub and Restaurant, 150 Main St., Mike Proske, Project P.U.B., 41 N. Bridge St., and Tapastre, 1 West High St., and Rick St. Pierre, Verve Restaurant, Bar & Bistro, 18 E. Main St. All agreed It was time to move forward with the concept, Linares said.

Their initiative is independent of the Downtown Somerville Alliance,  the Business Owners of Main Street or any other group in town, according to Linares.

Linares enlisted the help of Joe Clancy, a videographer and neighbor at Gems’n' Stems, 194 W. Main St. Together, they set out to market the concept.

“We went door to door to every restaurant, told them what the plan was,” Linares said.

Each restaurant was asked to create a Prix Fixe menu with entrees in the $25-$35 range. “We asked them to  highlight some of their best menu items; everyone was excited about the idea,” he added.

Clancy produced a 30-second marketing video, which was posted on social media last week.

Linares concedes the launch of the first Restaurant Week in Somerville was “kind of a last minute type of deal,” but is confident it will appeal to prospective customers and diners.

 “We’re using the tagline ‘Shop, Dine, Drink,’ ” he explained. “This makes sense for everybody."

The restaurant owners plan two more Restaurant Weeks this year to coincide with the beginning of summer and fall, with menus reflective of the seasons.  Merchants will be an integral part of each celebration, according to Linares.

Participating restaurants include Alfonso's; Boulevard Seafood; Cafe Picasso; Casa Luna; Division Street Café; Kyma; Mannion’s; Martino’s Cuban; Pinoy; Project P.U.B.; Savor; Seoulville; Tapastre; Venetian Grille and Verve.

Participating merchants include Ashes N Embers; Blue Sheep Bake Shop; Carol's Creative Chocolatez; From the Hive; Gallery on Main; Gems & Stems; Hungry Hound; Mainly Gadgets; Revive Consignment; Somerville School of Rock.

Prix Fixe dinner prices at all participating restaurants exclude beverages, tax and gratuities. Offer is valid during the following hours:

Monday, March 19-Thursday, March 22, 5 p.m.-close; Friday, March 23-Saturday, March 24, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

This special promotion is not to be combined with any other offers or coupons. Reservations strongly suggested. Some restaurants are not open on Mondays.

Further information is available online at https://www.soville.org/restaurant-week/