PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Guests can now experience authentic Italian dining on Federal Hill.

The much-anticipated “Al Fresco Dining” began Friday night when the Federal Hill Commerce Association closed two sections of Atwells Avenue as a way for restaurants to serve more seated parties while remaining spaced out due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

From 3:30 p.m. to midnight, Atwells Avenue will be closed from Bradford Street to Dean Street and from Dean Street to Lily Street.

The “Al Fresco Dining” experience will run from 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. every Friday and Saturday throughout the summer, ending in October.

Executive Director Rick Simone said restaurants can extend their outdoor dining 13-feet from the curb onto the street and then there will be a corridor for people to be able to get from one place to the next while social distancing. This will also allow access to everything in the case of an emergency.

“It’s exciting,” Simone said. “It’s going to give us some challenges and I’m sure we’ll have some learning curves in the first couple of weeks, and it’s also providing an opportunity for these restaurants to make up their losses that they have inside from the 50% capacity to bring them out on the street.”

Guests are required to make reservations beforehand, as well as adhere to state mandates regarding wearing a mask — except for while eating — and social distancing.

Simone said he thinks this will save many of the restaurants on Federal Hill, which have been struggling to stay afloat amid the pandemic.

For the first weekend, Simone said 26 restaurants will be participating. He expects more to join within the next few weeks.

Here is the initial list of restaurants that will be participating: