Friday, November 30, 2007

Cassarino's on Federal Hill in Providence

Cassarino's is one of those places smack in the middle of Federal Hill that have been around for years and people just enjoy coming to for drinks, laughs and lots of heavy Italian food.

We caught up with jack and Pat F. from Vermont the other night and after they watched their son perform at a concert at Providence College, the three of them met Susie and I at Cassarino's. It's literally a five-minute drive for us to Atwell's Avenue and we had the good sense to park on a side street and walk a couple of blocks to the restaurant. (Parking on weekends in particular can be challenging.)

When we arrived Pat and Mike were just inside waiting for jack to park the car -- he soon arrivbed and we all sat down int he middle of the room, bracketed by two tables of half dozen people each, sharing stories, laughing and just having a grand time generally. If nothing else it was wonderful to see so many happy people in such a small space.

Anyway, the food is tasty: the fried calamari was scrumptious, very tender and with the lightest of batter; on the other hand the Cassarino specials were large, lots of layers adding to the bulk and very filling. The wines were mostly non-Italian (odd we thought), but we did manage to find a Primitivo from Puglia for $25. We skipped desserts (everybody had doggie bags already.) The meal was very reasonably priced ($176 for five of us).

Service was the one weak link. When Jack asked our server, "Angela," about a particular wine, she remarked that it tasted like raspberry, fruit and "stuff like that." Of course her black nail polish gave her away but we tried to give her intelligence the benefit of the doubt.

We were unsuccessful.

Otherwise I suppose we could recommend this place but there are so many others along Atwell's. . .

Cassarino's, on Atwell's, just off the corner of Dean Street.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

La Hacienda in Providence

A new Mexican restaurant, or rather a second shop of one of the favorites in the city (according to two couples sitting next to us), is La Hacienda. Located in the frustratingly convoluted Olneyville Square area this very casual and very authentic (I'm told) Mexican eatery does serve great food at rock-bottom prices as well as delicious Mexican beer. Service was prompt and the place was very clean. They were still celebrating their grand opening so there was plenty of wonderful live music as well.

La Hacienda, 1955 Plainfield Street (401-275-2385)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gracie's in Providence

One of the more upscale restaurants in downtown ("downcity") Providence, Gracie's is an oasis of calm and quiet with a distinct air of elegant simplicity. The food is superb: we both had fish (Susie the trout and I had tautog) for the plat; we had aperitifs and then two wines by the glass (a very nice selection of wines are available by the glass). For dessert Susie had the creme brulee, which she thought was some of the best she's ever tasted (and she's tasted quite a few!).

The service is keen but not fawning, and our server confidently suggested a nice wine to go with our fish (the pinot gris blend "Evolution" from Oregon).

The food is not inexpensive to be sure, but hey, life is full of tradeoffs.

Reservations strongly recommended. 194 Washington street, 401.272.7811

Monday, November 19, 2007

Don Jose Tequilas in Providence

We orginally wanted to try a new Mexican restaurant that recently opened near our flat but it was closed -- it being the magical Monday. It was our first night living in Providence and we had to eat out so five of us, me, Susie, Rosemary, our friend from Gerrish days in Maine this past summer who stopped by for the evening, Susie's brother Dick and his wife Dorothy who drove down to help us celebrate settling in, all headed off to Atwell's Avenue to see what was open.

We no sooner got out of the car and started strolling looking for someplace to eat than I spied Don Jose. We remarked then -- and several times during later forways to Atwell's -- that there were in fact quite a few different ethnic places to eat on fedeeral Hill than Italian.

Anyway, the interior was relaxed, the service extremely warm and friendly. The opening Margaritas were delicious and indeed so was the food: burritos mole, enchiladas and the snacking chip were homemade and scrumptious. For five of us with drinks the bill came to just a hair over a hundred bucks (before tip), which included drinks.

Don Jose Tequilas
is also online.

(November 2007)