If you walk or drive by the Merchant’s Wharf building downtown, you’ll notice a new sign on the side of the blue building.
The black sign hangs above the location where Pizzeria Roma was before it closed in September for renovations. The sign now simply proclaims “Roma.” Jeff Arnold, marketing director for the Juneau Waterfront Restaurant Group, said the new name sends a message.
“We didn’t want it to feel like it was just a pizzeria anymore,” Arnold said, “because we’re trying to be more than that.”
Roma, as it will now be known, is set to open sometime this month, Arnold said. The new-look restaurant will include a large bar area that will have a rotating cocktail menu. There will be new artwork, including a statue hanging from the ceiling. Designer Schimoney Du Preez has coordinated the new look, Arnold said.
“As a lover of old-world charm I wanted Roma to evoke curiosity yet still be relatable,” Du Preez said in a statement. “Exposed wood features mixed with luxurious textiles aligned with historic elements, the space leans itself to all genres.”
The food menu itself will include more Italian dishes than just pizza, and will offer small plates as well.
The pizza itself won’t be drastically different, Arnold said. There will be some new pizzas from Chef Ron Burns, but the style of pizza will remain the same.
“I want this place to be really cool, I want the menu to be really appealing, I want us to be cutting edge in Juneau again and be something that other people aren’t doing,” Arnold said, “but I also want people who remember Pizzeria Roma to be able to come in and have a pizza and still get what they’ve been missing for the last six months.”
Work on the space has been going on for months, with Juneau-based Peak Construction running the project. Matt Herrick has been leading efforts for Peak, Arnold said.
Arnold, who graduated from high school in Juneau in 2005 but has been gone for most of the time since then, said the food scene in Juneau is vastly improved since he was last living in town. He’s not the only one who feels that way, as downtown restaurants have opened in droves recently and chefs have won national awards.
Those at the Juneau Waterfront Restaurant Group (which owns Hangar on the Wharf, Twisted Fish and other downtown eateries) continue to adapt along with the downtown scene. Arnold said the Hangar is such a classic, well established place that it’s hard to really change what it does. With Roma, though, the group can make some changes to it and walk that line between revamping a place and preserving the charm it’s built up over the years.
“The community is going to benefit from everybody trying to outdo each other,” Arnold said, “and I think this is what this restaurant’s going to be for us, is us trying to step into the elegant, higher-class market that downtown’s starting to exhibit.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.