COVENTRY — From serving up meals featuring locally-sourced ingredients to collaborating with nonprofits that benefit residents in need, Coventry’s newest restaurant is on a mission to become a powerful force for good in the community.
“We’re just excited,” Jay T., general manager of T-Bonz Grill, said last week of the plans for the restaurant, located at 1080 Tiogue Avenue. “We’re excited to meet new people and to forge new relationships.”
The intent is to open around the middle of next month, said Tony P., a Coventry resident who owns the eatery alongside Linda T. and David P. And while it’s scary to be opening a business in the midst of a global pandemic, Tony said he’s hoping that customers will be drawn to the restaurant’s unique concept.
“We think we’re offering something that’s new,” he said. “We don’t want to be like every other restaurant around.”
With barbecue, locally-caught seafood and pizza among its extensive offerings, the menu will have something to satisfy just about any palate. Everything, from the pastas to the sauces, will be made from scratch, and breads and pastries will be made daily at an on-site bakery.
“That’s the key — we want to be the opposite of everybody else,” Jay said. “We want to make everything from scratch, so that you can really taste, not just the food, but the love that goes into it.”
Linda, for one, is looking forward to introducing patrons to “Grandma’s Bread Pudding,” a take on her grandmother’s bread pudding recipe.
As for Jay, it’s the brisket that has him most excited.
“And just smoked food, period,” he added, standing near the place in the kitchen where the smoker would soon be installed.
Breakfast will be served on weekends and holidays, and each night of the week will have a different theme — on Tuesdays, for example, Mexican dishes will be featured.
Transforming the atmosphere of the building into one that’s welcoming and intimate has proven one of the biggest challenges, Jay said. The building most recently housed Papa Gino’s, and a lot of work has gone into creating an environment distinct from that of the chain pizzeria.
And with tin tiles covering the ceiling, a teak centerpiece at the bar and plenty of potted plants, the restaurant’s new look is a far cry from what it had been.
“The building, when we first saw it, just looked so bland,” Jay said, natural light flooding the room around him. “But then the vision came.”
The hope, he said, is to remind diners of the beach-side restaurants they may have visited while on vacation in tropical locales.
“When you come in here, you’re going to think you’re somewhere else,” he continued.
Including the bar and patio — which will also be decorated in the tropical theme — the restaurant will have capacity for 80 guests.
This is the first brick-and-mortar restaurant for the owners of T-Bonz, but they’re far from inexperienced when it comes to food service. Prior to this venture, they owned food trailers that they towed around to state fairs and various other events.
That experience taught the restaurant owners a thing or two about making diners happy.
“When you’re out there you have competition like you wouldn’t believe,” Tony said of the events they used to serve food at. “You might go into a place selling sausage, and there might be 50 other people selling sausage. So if you didn’t have the best sausage, or the best looking trailer, you’re going to lose out.”
Tony and his partners had always imagined that one day they’d open a restaurant. And with many of the events they typically sell their food at canceled this year, they decided the time was right to find a permanent location.
It’s not only about feeding Coventry, however.
“We’re not just here to set up shop and make money,” Jay said. “We want to give back in any way we can, so that our community is enriched.”
One of the T-Bonz team’s biggest goals in establishing the restaurant is to help out residents of the community where they’re planting roots.
“If you look around, there are a lot of people that have lost everything because of COVID,” Jay said. “Everything has been impacted tremendously.”
The restaurant will give back primarily through two philanthropy programs.
Through its “charity of the month” program, the restaurant each month will feature a different organization to be the recipient of 100 percent of the program’s proceeds. Customers who dine in or order online will have the option of rounding their checks up, Jay explained, or they can donate freely to the featured charity.
“We want to connect with [local nonprofits] so that our community gets better,” he said, adding that he’s already received a lot of positive feedback on the program. “Things just aren’t what they used to be, so how do you bring that back? How do we prepare for our future, today?”
There will also be a Big Brothers Big Sisters clothing bin on the property, and a Toys for Tots drive in November will let diners save on their orders with a new toy donation.
The second program is called “Bonz for Books,” designed to promote literacy. Through the program, children will receive a free pizza for every eight books they read.
“They read eight books, their teacher or parent signs off, they come in, hand us the paper, and we give them a free pizza,” Jay said. “And there’s no limit — you could do eight books a day and come in every day.”
The reader who finishes the most books by the end of each school year will be featured somewhere in the restaurant, and will enjoy free pizzas all summer long.
The team at T-Bonz has put a strong focus on supporting the community in ways that aren’t philanthropic, as well. They’ve employed local companies to help with renovations, Tony said, and plan to partner with area farms for their produce, dairy and meats.
“Everything’s not available right here in Coventry,” he said, “but anything we can, we’re trying to get it locally.”
On the T-Bonz website, "Come as Friends, Leave as Family” is written across the top of the homepage.
“I think that speaks volumes,” Jay said. “We want to be on a first-name basis with everyone; we want to watch the kids grow up — we want to make it about the community.”
T-Bonz Grill will open next month with options for curbside pickup, delivery or dine in. More information on the restaurant’s progress, information about an upcoming job fair, and details on the grand opening can be found on its website, tbonzgrill.com.