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|Your Table Is Ready
A Very Good Year
by Bob Mariani
The Rhode Island dining scene was an exceptionally good one this year, with one of our restaurants, Bristol’s own DeWolf’s Tavern, making it to the Esquire magazine "Best New Restaurants in the Country" list. A well-deserved honor, I’m sure you’ll agree— especially after you’ve tasted their lobster popovers.
Bristol added another star to its roster with the arrival of Chef Shempe Speidel at Persimmon where he produces some of the most interesting dishes featuring every day’s freshest ingredients.
In Providence, Lot 401 continues to set the bar higher for creativity with amazing new and re-invented dishes like their Steak and Egg, an 8 oz. filet served with pomme purée, poached asparagus, bordelaise, and a truffle-fried egg.
Jamie D’Oliveira’s high energy Red Stripe on the East Side is a very welcome addition with its eclectic array of dishes including a crispy duck roulade paired with a mixture of rocket greens and lingon berry chutney; and their venison in a tomato ragu sauce with paparadell pasta ribbons.
My belated discovery of Newport’s Salvation Café on Broadway was an unexpected delight. The fun atmosphere here does not overshadow the food, which is consistently good. I liked especially their grilled Thai BBQ pork loin marinated in a sweet/hot sauce laced with basil, mint, lime and chili paste, and their crunchy leaflets of "fried spinach" that exploded softly in your mouth with a mild buttery flavor.
When it comes to Asian food, Jackie’s Galaxy and Sushi Bar on Metacom Ave. in Bristol offers a really outstanding array of choices from all over Asia including Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Hong Kong and more. Yet despite the wide-ranging menu, each dish is given great attention and the ingredients are all first-rate.
Yet another addition to Atwells Ave.’s constantly burgeoning restaurant row is Pane e Vino with its traditional Italian food as it’s meant to be— honest, straight forward and made with the freshest ingredients. "We create all of our cuisine with a high respect for the longstanding and highly admired traditions of Italian regional cooking." And by "regional," they mean mostly Neapolitan with a few ventures just a bit further north.
Also on Atwell’s there’s Zooma. Zooma has the look of a chic dating bar it’s replaced, but the food will quickly bring you back to nonny’s kitchen and home-made heaven without a hint of pretense or overstatement. I’m a particular fan of their Ravioli Con Grancho, a dish of house-made, marvelously al dente ravioli pillows, with a paper-thin dough mixed with lump crabmeat in a light orange, tomato sauce that reminded me of the sunlight in Florence. The sauce’s juxtaposition with the decidedly seafood-y taste of the crabmeat was a combination that just seemed meant to be.
L’Epcureo, which has been an Atwell’s Ave. standout since its inception, moved down city to the wonderfully restored Hotel Providence, where Tom and Rozann Buckner continue with their superb take on classic Italian and continental food. I love their Artichoke and Bacon Tart appetizer made with a rich, mild Gruyere cheese base and served over baby greens.
I’m pleased to say that some of my all-time favorites continue to warrant adulation. I’m speaking specifically of Bruce Tilinghast’s New Rivers where the food is always interesting, never trendy and always perfectly prepared. Also Chez Pascal where they’ve brought French cuisine at its best back to Providence’s East Side, and Pizzico for its continuing devotion to freshly made, delicious Italian cuisine, still with a few hints of their Sardinian background.
If you’ve discovered some new favorite dining establishments this year, or want to tell us about the restaurant(s) you adore, by all means send a comment by clicking on the link below.
Bob Mariani is a Southeastern New England freelance author. Besides his "Your Table is Ready" restaurant reviews found here, he also writes jazz articles on allaboutjazz.com.