Before there was Diego’s on Bowen’s Wharf – and all the iterations to come over the years – there was punk band drummer Scott Kirmil. Hailing from Newton, CT, Kirmil dove into the restaurant industry when he moved to Boston, where he met his now wife Adrienne. The two of them stacked up over 12 years of experience working in restaurants before Adrienne’s real estate background led them to a property destined to become the first in a local franchise of eclectic contemporary dining.
“When Adrienne and I opened up the original Diego’s in 2009, we wanted a fun casual vibe with inspiration drawing from some of our favorite West Coast and Mexican eateries,” says Kirmil. “Our backgrounds were everything from dive bars to high-end cocktail spots. We just wanted something fun that landed somewhere in between the two.”
Amidst Newport’s sea of fine dining and white linens, Diego’s fearlessly marches to the beat of its own drum with its punk rock motifs and Mexican-fusion menu. Since the Bowen’s Wharf eatery achieved success, they have continued to expand the franchise, and branch out to other styles of cuisine. For instance, also in the neighborhood is Wharf Southern Kitchen & Whiskey Bar, which opened in 2018 with a fresh take on southern dining. Using locally sourced ingredients, the eatery brings the flavors of Louisiana and Nashville to the Ocean State.
Diego’s Cantina opened in 2019 just two blocks away from Easton’s beach and adjacent to Reject’s Beer Co., which is owned by Kirmil’s sister. The tandem businesses (and built-in-since-birth partnership) makes for seamless takeout orders via the brewery. Then in 2020, Diego’s made its debut across the bridge on a cozy corner lot in Providence’s Wayland Square. With the pandemic following just a few months after, Diego’s Eastside, like many restaurants, was limited by COVID restrictions. Luckily, their charming wrap-around porch provided a safe option for outdoor dining, and the location has quickly found its footing in a post-pandemic world.
Inside the East Side iteration, it’s clear the energetic personality of the OG restaurant hasn’t faded – there’s a cluster of polaroids hanging in the foyer offering an ode to memories made over margaritas, along with a delightfully manic ambiance established through bright and punchy accents contrasted with black-and-white skull wallpaper. Popular menu items, like a variety of street tacos and Mezcal cocktails, remain the same, but each Diego’s diverges with its own specials, too, like the East Side’s Pork Taquitos.
And the Kirmils don’t plan to stop there. Coming soon from the restaurateur couple is a new destination on Long Wharf, where Celtica Newport used to be, called The Quencher. “We hope to create the perfect marriage between a dark bar and the cozy neighborhood eatery you crave weekly,” Kirmil explains, “with no-fuss Italian food made from scratch, late-night live music, family and local friendly, and an old school barroom vibe.”
With chef Joey Piotti at the helm, the new upscale dive will substitute the sugar skull decor of its predecessors for vintage Italian horror movie posters. Keep an ear to the ground for a celebratory block party happening mid-June to mark the opening of what’s soon to become one of Newport’s best kept secrets.
11 Bowen’s Wharf, Newport
401-619-2640 • DiegosNewport.com
116 Aquidneck Avenue, Middletown
401-619-1717 • DiegosMiddletown.com
37 Bowen’s Wharf, Newport
401-619-5672 • WharfSouthernKitchen.com
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