Riviera Bistro is Closing

November, 03, 2008, by David

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Sad news today: Wilmington Street’s Riviera Bistro is closing.  The restaurant announced it was closing by inviting friends on facebook to its final night tonight.

Riviera is closing her doors. Thanks to everyone for making it such a wonderful place!

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  • Mark
    11/03 01:16 PM

    I feel bad for them, and I hate that it happened but I really did not like their menu.  Alot of my friends felt the same way….so I think that had a lot to do with it..

  • hmmm
    11/03 01:56 PM

    goodbye old friend, ill always remember having never set a foot inside you.

  • Micah
    11/03 01:57 PM

    This is great!  Maybe someplace that my friends and I actually like will open in that space.

  • tjoad
    11/03 02:14 PM

    Riviera started off strong with food quality and inventiveness, then went through a serious decline where they tried to play it safe.  My last 2-3 visits were spot on though.

    Their upstairs had a lot of potential but they never really knew how to market it.

    Nonetheless I will miss them…

  • Al
    11/03 02:15 PM

    That is sad news. Any time an independently owned business fails it is bad for all of downtown.

  • Deb
    11/03 02:31 PM

    I enjoyed Riviera the one time we went there. The food was fantastic and interesting and the service was good. We probably would have gone more often if we had more disposable income to spend on eating out, but that’s not the case. Definitely sad to see it go, but I hope whatever fills its space is successful.

  • RaleighRob
    11/03 03:16 PM

    Sad.  I’ve had some real good meals there.

  • cat
    11/03 03:43 PM

    Micah, saying it is great when a business closes is really tacky.  Downtown is never going to be what we want it to be if businesses keep failing. 
    By the way, an Applebee’s is probably not going to fill the space so you and your friends will be out of luck.

  • CF
    11/03 03:55 PM

    The pommes frites w/ truffle oil & garlic will be missed.

  • TheWaveLife
    11/03 04:19 PM

    George poured his heart into that place and it’s always sad to see another independently-owned venture close its doors. Bon voyage.

  • Micah
    11/03 04:27 PM

    I don’t think it is really tacky at all, and what I think is all that matters to me.  In my OPINION Riviera was not a good place to dine, drink, or work, so I am glad that another place might get a chance in this already fit-up restaurant and bar.

  • Cindy H.
    11/03 04:44 PM

    Yes, I agree with most of you:  it’s sad to see local businesses close down.  My husband and I went there only once and we enjoyed it.  The staff was quite nice.  The meal was great but with all the offerings in the area, we never made it back.  I hope they DON’T fill it with an Applebee’s, no matter how attractive it is to the masses.  SUPPORT LOCAL!

  • Jason!
    11/03 05:10 PM

    So is it inexorably linked to the upstairs space as well? Because that space seemed to do alright…

    “You must log in to see this page.”

    Ahh well, clearly I wasn’t cool enough to go there.

  • Chico Scott
    11/03 05:46 PM

    Rivera is officially closing tonight. Anyone who knows me knows how important this place has been in my life for the last two-plus years, and how how much I will miss “the job next door”. Officially I stopped working there three weeks ago, but I was as shocked as anyone that it’s closing would be so sudden. I encourage everyone to stop by tonight for one more night of downtown Raleigh’s only Mediterranean restaurant. This will be your last chance to reminisce about the good times, and all the crazy times we all had. Also this will be your last chance to have sex in the basement. Of course the staff no longer have jobs, and the money made tonight will go a long way towards them getting their final checks. And if anyone is in need of a great kitchen staff they are all very talented. So that’s it. Two and a half years of blood, sweat, tears, and countless wonderful memories all come to an end tonight.


    p.s. And all wine by the bottle is half priced!

  • Lisa Jeffries
    11/03 06:18 PM

    “Any time an independently owned business fails it is bad for all of downtown.”

    So true. Never made it out there unfortunately…

  • ashleyc
    11/03 06:43 PM

    I think it’s frustrating to read some of what I am seeing here.  However, it’s also really predictable.  It’s the nature of a blog to always have someone taking out their anger for a joint or celebrating it’s misfortunes and errors.  Regardless of how you feel about this place, let’s have a little respect.
    I own a restaurant in downtown Raleigh called Poole’s Diner.  We have been both praised and braised with equal passion on the blog circuit.  I am thankful every day to get to open my doors because it is a tough, tough business.  I think it’s important to keep in mind the beginning of this thread. “The restaurant announced it was closing by inviting friends on facebook to its final night tonight.”  It’s not a review.  It’s not some explanation of whose fault it might or might not be that it won’t be open after tonight.  It is an informative statement to its fans on facebook that after tonight, it won’t be open, so here’s one last chance to celebrate the respectful closing of a restaurant that has chosen to spend its last night with the people who the doors were opened for in the first place.
    Being a (first time) restaurant owner myself, there are no words for how difficult is to open a restaurant in this town, or any town, for that matter.  It’s a labor of love and one that requires a tremendous amount of investment and sacrifice on many levels.  If you’re not a restaurant owner, it may be difficult to fathom. However, you might take a moment to think about it.  It’s an offering that is always on display, so it’s easily criticized.  Imagine if we all got to blog about the juicy demise of every person who filed bankruptcy, got fired, got laid off, lost their mortgage. . .  The thought turns my stomach.  I think its really sad that anyone would take this moment to celebrate, or say that they knew it was coming.  But, I guess that’s what we risk when we dedicate or lives to our passion; a career we can only celebrate once we share it with the public, with the guest… with you.  I hope you guys will go down and celebrate this place tonight.  Riviera deserves it. One last crack at doing what they do, practicing their craft for you.
    George, I remember a long time ago you and I met for a cocktail.  You were telling me about this idea that you had for a restaurant.  What you wanted it be, and how you wanted it to be a special, unique place for the people of Raleigh.  I want to congratulate you, and your staff, for getting a lot further than so many people with the same dream ever get.  I’ll stay tuned for next venture.  Cheers to you my friend.  Best of luck on your next chapter.
    And for everyone else, let’s do a better job of taking care of each other.  This is a really tough economy, and it’s gonna get worse before it gets better.
    If anyone knows of available restaurant positions, I’m sure some of these guys are looking for a new spot.  Maybe you could post it here.  I’ll keep an ear to the ground as well.

  • dillyb43
    11/03 07:09 PM

    Beautifully said, Ashley.  We’re frequently surprised by all the negative blogging on this site about local businesses who are trying to contribute valuable services to the community.  It’s easy to sit back and criticize those who are actually risking everything to make this a vital, attractive city when you can write your blogs on company time, violating employer internet usage policies and wasting valuable company resources.  Those who’ve put their necks on the lines would not be so lacking in empathy, sympathy, nor compassion.

    If we could redirect all the negative energy spent here into something positive, Raleigh would be an awesome city.

    Sorry to see you go, Riviera.  You were part of our neighborhood and always welcomed us with hospitality and warmth.  We wish you well, George and family.

  • map
    11/03 08:34 PM

    I read this post earlier and mentioned the closing to a friend who works at Riviera who was hearing this news for the first time from me.  I don’t understand how a Facebook posting takes priority over ensuring that all employees have been notified of such news first.

  • SPCLGST........
    11/03 08:45 PM

    YOU WILL BE MISSED….......

  • Cathy
    11/03 09:20 PM

    Oh Riviera, you will be missed! Thank you for the opportunity to learn to love and appreciate true mediterranean cuisine all the while enjoying the class and ambiance of a beautiful place. You have made such a wonderful contribution to the downtown area and were always so supportive to the community - it’s a shame to see you have to go. Here’s to pomme frites, great drinks and and great people. You will all be missed!

  • TheCatalyst
    11/04 12:35 AM

    Good job Dean. Maybe that will deflate an ego or two….


  • Pete Susca
    11/04 10:29 AM

    Ashley, Chico, and the rest of our true riviera supporters thank you all for showing your love.  Its been a long road hard traveled, but with a staff that I would go to war with again.  I also want to thank everyone that came out last night and showed your support in helping the staff and really showing us that it was all for not.  I don’t mind the haters on this blog thats why I never check this site anymore.  Raleigh “Foodies” or irate ex-employees that have nothing better to do then bash a place.  Its like this, WE ALL LOST our jobs, it was way sudden.  As far as the employee that didn’t know about us closing she needs to learn how to check her voicemail and make a call back.  We did not find out till 9am or so on monday morning, and as with all things you have to progressively go down the list of phone calls to make and none of them are easy or quick. Its not easy to say sorry you lost your job, but please come to work tonight so we can pay you.  That’s one thing I would like to say, all our staff with regards to one showed up tonight.  Not only that but my whole kitchen staff sat outside waiting for an empire employee to come let us in to prep for our last dinner shift.  These guys were the best kitchen staff to ever work with and I would be honored to go back into the heat of a kitchen with anyone of them.  To everyone that has dined with us thank you.  To any haters please go blog about somewhere else and let us remember riviera for the good times and great people we all met.

  • TheCatalyst
    11/04 11:02 AM

    Freedom of Speach

  • David
    11/04 11:06 AM

    we went and ate there last night, enjoyed a bottle of white with some scallops and she had the smoked tempeh…it was wonderful.  it was a place that consistently served a good meal.  we are not big dessert people but we decided to go for it and celebrate a little last night with the apple/pnut butter concoction with a cinnamon topping…WOW is all I can say.  if you didn’t like anything on their menu you should start eating away from Wendy’s and McD’s more often.  my question would be have you ever lived anywhere besides Raleigh or NC?  if so, you would know that Riviera was a hidden gem amongst some fairly terrible selections…most notably Tir Na Nog…I’ve never had a good experience eating there.  Now, their bloody’s are good but I’m convinced they don’t give a damn about the food they serve.  Please open Riviera in a new spot…one that has less overhead, maybe.  That sort of quality food should not be lost in the Triangle.

  • Johnny
    11/04 11:40 AM

    I only ate there once, but the food was delicious. A bit pricey for the portion size, but great food none the less. I wish the owners of buildings downtown weren’t so proud of their properties. Reducing the rent would open up so many opportunities.

    The lounge/bar area upstairs never reached it’s full potential unfortunately.

  • David
    11/04 12:22 PM

    @Pete I hope you can separate the commenters from the publication here.  New Raleigh wants to support locally owned businesses as much as possible and we are certainly sad to see Riviera go.  To all foodies, restaurateurs, we are in full support of quality establishments like Riviera.  Please share your thoughts on restaurants you love in our restaurant section, and let us know when there is a local business you think deserves extra attention.

    To all those involved with Riviera, my heart goes out to you, please let me know your next projects- .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    New Raleigh

  • TheCatalyst
    11/04 01:38 PM

    Don’t be mistaken. I am empathic for all those who lost jobs and any who are struck with lose. I just don’t feel bad for those who treat others poorly.


  • Carrie
    11/04 02:19 PM

    Who are you talking about?  George and Phillipe are the owners and the manager up until a few weeks ago was Mike.

  • kim
    11/04 04:22 PM

    Yeah…I was there from the beginning and don’t remember an Andrea. Anyway , thanks for your positive words Ashley.
    I think the point of all of this , this whole thing , these last two years , these past months of 14+ hour work days followed by sleepless nights, just to wake up and do it all again, is Family. Thanks to everyone for sticking it out with us for as long as you did. I am so thankful to have had this experience with you guys…my family. No matter what anyone thinks of an individual place , I’d rather it be on the block than a corporate spot.
    George and Carrie, I want to thank you for every opportunity that was given to me.
    Thanks as well for the send off from all of the familiar faces last night…I kept saying it felt like the final scenes from “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  If you guys hadn’t come out to show some love , we wouldn’t be getting our paychecks!
    I love all of you snotheads! Good game everybody!
    P.S. George, I haven’t called you back because I can’t freakin’ stop crying ;-)

  • 150
    11/05 03:59 PM

    I only ate at Riviera once but I had a lovely time there.  The food was unique, the atmosphere was nice, and they offered 1/2 price coupons, which is always a plus.  It’s a shame to see a unique restaurant like this close its doors, and I hope that something takes it’s place before too long.  Raleigh needs places like this.  Good luck to all who lost a job.

  • Blaine
    11/05 04:20 PM

    I have never eaten at Riviera, or Pooles either for that matter (sorry Ashley..I don’t get out much these days) but I can say that times are tough for everybody right now. These 2 folks have had the courage to lay to all on the line for what they love to do and my hats off to them. Good luck on future ventures.

  • Caroline Morrison
    11/05 06:07 PM

    I remember almost two years ago searching for some small local restaurant to feel a little sympathy for a 30 year old women wanting to embark on a career change from Corporate America to a line cook.  I walked around downtown handing out a resume that topped off with 8 years experience at IBM. Sure, what chef wouldn’t want me handling 8 inch sharp chef knives in cramped areas?  Steve was the Exec Chef then, and I did a stag run for him and George one night. I guess they decided since I did not cut any fingers off, they would give me a shot.  Still feeling nervous, I remember how Carrie’s consistently cherry (without pretensions) disposition, kept the butterflies flittering at a low speed. Just the moment when I thought that I could not possible handle four sauté pans at once, I noticed the VERY PREGNANT Carrie doing dishes.  It became very evident that the pregnancy was not the only labor of love.  Dedication motivates me. Dedication of anyone to something they are passionate about is inspiring.  You can never please everyone, in any industry.  There will be those who did not like the menu, those who loved it and those that could care less.  Either way, I was given a chance to help feed a newly found passion and to be surrounded by others who were actively feeding their passions.  Thanks George and Carrie for giving a stranger a chance. Thanks to my kitchen boyfriends for putting up with my obsession with detail and perfection. Kim and the front of the house, your smiles will always get me through a bad day.  Thanks to everyone who took the time to come in and show support, or show support via this web page. Cheers and Good luck to everyone!

  • Chico Scott
    11/05 09:08 PM

    I also remember pregnant Carrie doing dishes - in three inch heels, none the less. And I’ve seen Phillipe and Annie Ragot with brooms in their hands on several occasions. Ashley says it best when she talks about how hard it is to open, sustain, and make successful a business downtown. Downtown isn’t a sure thing yet, and I salute and support all the pioneers that are blazing this trail. George had a vision, and he saw that through to fruition. And if for only that reason alone he deserves our respect and admiration. We all dream, but very few of us turn our dreams into reality. I remember the downtown Raleigh of a decade ago, and the majority of the readers of this blog have no idea how good they have it downtown. It’s vibrant and electric and full of potential. George Ghneim is just one of the people you can thank for that. And on a more personal note I will always be indebted to him (and Carrie) for the opportunities afforded to me from working at Riviera. I started working for George two months before the opening, and I saw all the rain as well as the sunshine. None of us always agreed, and all of us made mistakes, but with confidence I will say, and I speak for the Ragots, the Ghneims, and myself, that we never lost our commitment for downtown. I suggest to folks that regardless of their review of Riviera at least acknowledge the accomplishment of the trail blazed by that restaurant, and the commitment and dedication of all those involved in bringing it to life.

  • ap
    11/07 02:57 PM

    Those who are looking forward to seeing downtown Raleigh develop into its full potential will be looking forward to the next venture as well!

  • rk
    11/07 03:27 PM

    Riviera was a great restauraunt and will sorely be missed.  We’ve gone several times over the years and the meals were consistently fantastic.  Downtown Raleigh has lost a true treasure. 

    George, Carrie and Phillipe should be commended for all the sacrifices they made to bring their labor of love to fruition for us to enjoy.  Kudos to the staff as well.  They made at least one customer’s experience consistently an excellent experience.  Good luck to all with your endeavors.

  • lw
    11/08 04:02 PM

    Riviera was a great space and the service was very good. However, they tried to get too fancy with the menu but the execution was poor - everything laced with salt and lacking in flavor. I wish they could have gotten their act together with the menu .

    I wonder, has Poole’s managed to get their act together as far as service? We were stoked when it opened and went the first weekend only to wait 2.5 hours only to have everyone’s food come out at different times. The wait staff was completely unapologetic.  We went back 6 months later and it wasn’t any better, and the wait staff was equally unapologetic.

    They seriously needed a visit by Gordon Ramsey because it really was a kitchen nightmare when we were there. I hope to god it’s better, but there are so many other restaurants that I know have good service that I’m unwilling to give them a third chance.

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