"It'll help the neighborhood. It fits." So pronounced one patron at the long-awaited opening last Friday of a new Lower Mills restaurant and bar - Ledge Kitchen and Drinks - on the former site of Donovan's Village restaurant at 2261 Dorchester Avenue.
The introduction of Ledge, as it is called, adds to the growing collections of tasteful and tasty dining options in the neighborhood that offer, clients say, downtown-quality food without the inflated prices and haughty attitudes of Newbury Street or the South End.
The new business is a joint effort by Dorchester contractors Brendan and Greg Feeney, natives of County Sligo in Ireland who also operate Feeney Brothers Contracting, and Mike Ahern, a Dorchester native who also manages his own construction business.
In the wake of the opening, the restaurant is overshooting the expectations of General Manager Francis Pezzolanella, a dining industry veteran with a resume that includes stints managing restaurants in New York and at Legal Seafoods in Boston.
"The flow of people coming through the doors is remarkable," Pezzolanella told the Reporter just before the dinner rush Monday evening. He said that the demand for lunch on Saturday "blew us away," but was not as surprising as the after-church crowd that hit the dining room on Sunday.
"Its great to have another nice restaurant to eat at here," said Kathy Heffernan of King street, who came to the Ledge for a second time Monday night for dinner after getting the lobster pizza for lunch the day before. Heffernan's husband, Rick Myette, agreed, saying that the neighborhood needs a little more business regeneration and that the new restaurant will help that cause because "it fits."
"It's inviting, and it's clean and when you walk out to the back deck patio you would never expect that to be out there," Myette added, offering the opinion that the new spot offers "Newbury Street"¦ service and style without the hassle."
Pezzolanella says that while the cuisine is certainly upscale, the atmosphere at Ledge is very much a neighborhood feel. "I wouldn't say that the dining experience is upscale - the food is," he said. The menu is overseen by Steve Brady, an up-and-coming young chef who has come to Dorchester from a restaurant in Boston.
The after-work crowd gathered there Monday evening saw customers sporting everything from finer business wear to work boots and shorts. No glares were spotted coming from the patrons or staff, who seem as happy to serve a light draft beer as they are to pour one of the restaurant's 24 wines. The menu even offers children's choices, with several dishes priced at $5.
Myette and Heffernan compared Ledge's lobster pizza, which Pezzolanella said is one of the restaurant's most popular items, to the same dish served at the ritzy Liberty Hotel downtown.
Pezzolanella says that value and quality are what will set the new endeavor apart from the competition. He recommends the braised short rib arancini, the half-roasted free range chicken, and the eight-ounce, bone-in, rib-eye steak.
Another blow to the notion that a place like Ledge might be too classy for the Avenue: the two most popular items on the menu - the nine ounce filet minon and the rib-eye - are also the most expensive, at $21 and $25, respectively.
A special ribbon-cutting and reception with Mayor Thomas Menino marked the official opening. Though the establishment was only open from 7 p.m. until the close at 1 a.m. (the kitchen closes at 10 p.m.), 250 patrons were served. (Menino returned at 9 p.m., this time with his wife Angela and an extra six guests, for dinner.)
"I want to be the anchor of the neighborhood, and I'm damn sure that's what we're going to be," Pezzolanella said.
Ledge Kitchen and Drinks, 2261 Dorchester Ave. Dorchester Lower Mills. Hours: Monday-Sunday, 11 a.m.- 1 a.m. Phone: 617-698-2261