Saturday, October 22, 2011

O Dinis in East Providence

It’s no secret that Providence has become something of a Mecca for foodies. From the rather tired, jaded atmosphere of Atwell’s Avenue to the incredible food prepared by the young turks Downcity and on the East Side the food scene here can be quite spectacular.

But there is more to this city than the traffic jams of Atwell’s, the bright lights of Washington Street or the chic casual flair of eateries along Hope Street. There is East Providence where the food caters to families and to Portuguese families in particular. Two places have developed a bit of a reputation, one of which, “O Dinis,” we had the pleasant experience of enjoying last Thursday evening.

Located along the rather tired Warren Avenue and in a nondescript building with no parking (on the street please) the singular giveaway that you are about to enter another world is the large, brightly lit sign hung over the front door. We walked in and found ourselves in a slice of Portugal right here in the New World. The d├ęcor reminded us both of so many faceless cafes, bars, oseterie, ristorante, bistro scattered around the Mediterranean, places that we popped into on a whim or at the suggestion of someone who knew someone who we met, places that offered delicious food at a reasonable price, places that reminded you that restaurants, in some cultures at any rate, are meant to be an acceptable substitute for home.

That’s “O Dinis.”

A young woman who had just started balancing a large table of women preparing for a Halloween fest greeted us and quietly informed us we could sit wherever we liked. We scooted across the room past families, couples, and single men and found a table for two not far from the bar, by the front window.

The warm cacophony surrounded us, putting us in a cocoon of comfort and letting us relax in a restaurant for the first time in I don’t know how long. In one corner a TV tuned to a Portuguese channel,, at several tables around us men my age, older and younger, speaking Portuguese, occasionally slipping into English or something else altogether, it wasn’t always clear. But it was most pleasant.

Our server was Michelle. Lively, friendly but without that feigning intimacy so common in American restaurants, she was there when we needed her but otherwise off on her other appointed rounds.

Susie and I both ordered beef: sirloin grilled with a friend egg on top sandwiched by rice on one side and French fries on the other, pretty standard fare for the local Portuguese to find out later. Our starter was homemade grilled chorizo sausage. Our starter was washed down with a delicious Portuguese white, crisp and to the point, whiel the beef was compliment by a nice half bottle of red – from the same vintner as the white in fact.

I should say that I didn’t recognize any of the Portuguese wines on the list, at least they didn’t look familiar to any of the ones we’ve seen at Bottles on the east side of Providence,, where we now buy our wines.

The food was tasty – I’ll skip the rice next time we go -- and the fries were basic, probably out of a large bag – but the meat! Whoa! It was tender, succulent and perfect. We had a homemade flan caramel for dessert, also very nice. Service was impeccable and the price was right -- $58 for the two of the us, tip not included. We’ll definitely go back. And you should definitely go.