A HUSBAND and wife team of restaurateurs are thrilled that a project to turn a vacant Oswestry church into a stunning new Italian restaurant is nearing completion.
The experienced husband and wife team of Paolo and Carolyn Lepone has overseen the year-long redevelopment of the English Presbyterian Church on Oswald Road, and has helped to preserve a piece of the town’s heritage.
While the church’s impressive exterior remains largely untouched, it has been complemented by a stunning re-design of the interior which utilises many of the 19th Century building’s original features.
The as yet unfinished renovation already shows promise and features ornate arched windows, a reclaimed wooden pulpit and the pipework of the chapel’s organ on a wall adjacent to the bar.
The extant features of the church have been combined with bold chandeliers to form elegant focal points throughout the dining area.
Cavernous high ceilings, resonant acoustics and tasteful lighting bring a sense of occasion to the restaurant with a mezzanine-style cocktail lounge overlooking the dining area, while two terraces replete with tables and parasols will provide outside dining space at the front of the building.
Mr Lepone said: “It feels great to have saved this beautiful old building, which was empty and run down when we bought it a year ago. It feels like we’re bringing new life to the church and creating an exciting new restaurant for the town too.
“The church was built in 1888 and it is part of the town’s heritage. We were delighted to be able to go ahead with the purchase in February of last year, which was pretty straightforward with no objections raised at all in terms of our planning application.”
The current Lepone’s restaurant on Salop Road will close next month once their new eatery opens to the public.
Asked how they planned to replicate the success of the older restaurant after 12 years at an established site, the couple confirmed they would stick with a winning formula.
Mr Lepone said: “With our customary authentic Italian food, we feel like we’re offering a little piece of Italy to the people of Oswestry. We’ll also be introducing a broader breakfast and lunch menu too which will reflect a truly Mediterranean cuisine.
“Our ethos is to offer quality food combined with a personal service in an ambience in which diners feel comfortable.”
The renovation project has been supported by the Marches Redundant Building Grant Scheme which is funded by the government’s Regional Growth Fund.
The new Lepones restaurant will open in mid-March.