By Kristina Rex

BOSTON (CBS) – Boston’s Hanover Street in the North End looks like a scene out of Italy, if you ignore the masks on people’s faces. There are tables lining the street, full of happy people out to dinner.

Starting Thursday, the city eliminated parking on Hanover Street in lieu of makeshift patios to accommodate the state’s Covid-19 Phase 2 outdoor dining regulations.

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The change is one restaurant owners hope will be permanent for Boston summers. “It’s beautiful! We love it,” Limoncello owner Sabino DeVito said.

“This has been a godsend,” Pellino Ristorante owner Frank Pellino said, adding, “Thank you, Marty Walsh.”

“I get to feed people again, so I’m very happy,” Arya Trattoria Massimo Tiberi added.

While the reason for the outdoor tables, the COVID-19 pandemic, is heartbreaking and devastating to hundreds of thousands of Americans, restaurant owners say it has given them a chance to re-imagine the North End to give a proper nod to its roots: Italy.

“You see the piazzas [in Italy]?” Frank Pellino said. “It’s all closed, they all walk around, enjoy ice cream, café, a little dinner.”

Dining on Hanover Street in the North End (WBZ-TV)

The prospect of a night out even brought New England Patriot Matt LaCosse and his wife Jessica to Arya Trattoria. “It’s a little more packed than I thought it would be,” LaCosse told WBZ. “I’m sure everyone is just ready to get back to normal, ready to get back to eating out again.”

Of course, there are challenges to the setup in addition to the lack of parking. On Thursday, a quick but fervent burst of rain forced diners to scatter and employees to feverishly dry tables.

And then, there’s safety. While parking is closed, Hanover Street is open to all traffic, and to allow for the North End fire station trucks to get through.

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Owners and servers hope the setup will stay safe so it can become a permanent fixture. “I’m very very hopeful,” Casarecce server Justin Iannelli told WBZ. “I’m super excited to be back to work. I’ve been doing this 22 years. This is what I do. This is what I”m good at. I love what I do.”

Kristina Rex