Friday, November 14, 2014

Enoteca Umberto on Federal Hill

There are lots of Italian-themed restaurants on Atwell's Avenue but Enoteca Umberto is the only one that can claim to be authentic and regional.

Husband-wife team Lia and Umberto make you feel as if you're sitting in their dining room, just off the kitchen, and you've just dropped over for dinner after the evening passagiata. The food they prepare and the wines they serve are all from southern Italy -- and in true southern Italian style eating is all about being together, sharing a lust for flavor and life, with gusto.

Go with no expectations and don't think traditional menu or seating arrangements; the place is small to be sure (you have to walk through the kitchen to get to the bathroom) but go and just enjoy what they offer you.
the kitchen is small but Lia seemed at ease and unruffled by all the commotion in the dining room

La Collina antipasti -- formaggi e salumi

Rosalina's in Providence

Having eaten recently at another local restaurant than can truly claim to offer authentic Italian-regional, I'm always curious as to what constitutes an "Italian" restaurant. When our server at Rosalina's brought the bread along with olive oil and noted the oil came from Greece, well right away I had to question the restaurant's right to be "Italian," whatever that means.

By-and-large our food was OK. The antipasto -- a baked eggplant dish -- and our pasta dishes (gnocchi and spaghetti con Bolognese) we all thought were simply too sweet. Otherwise we had not complaint about the food itself.

The wine list offered far too many American wines but the prices seemed reasonable.

Rosalina's is nicely decorated and well laid out but we were curious as to the value of a large TV set behind the bar.

Service was straightforward and a bit formal but I much prefer that to someone too friendly.

baked eggplant antipasto -- generous portion

spaghetti with Bolognese

Monday, September 15, 2014

Al Forno in Providence, Dante's Kitchen in East Greenwich, Boat House in Tiverton and Sofra in Cambridge

One of the longtime stalwarts in Providence, Al Forno is upscale with a wonderful menu and decent wine list.
zucchini blossoms

pan-seared sea bass
Caesar Salad
A much more casual place, Dante's Kitchen in East Greenwich has real potential: imaginative menu, a cool space, good service, but the food was a mixed bag and the very small space was way too loud.

Susie had the fried green tomato BLT with hand-cut fries, which was tasty.

I had pulled pork hash with poached eggs and a grilled buttermilk biscuit (homemade of course. The BLT with hand-cut fresh fries was spot on but the hash was basically shredded pork on top of a handful of small, diced fried potatoes. Hmmmm. And then the eggs were small with very little yolk (an odd thing I thought).

The Boat House in Tiverton serves up fairly standard fare in a gorgeous location overlooking Narragansett Bay. I had the tuna salad (flavorless) with their own handmade chips (tasteless and oily). Susie had the Jens & Marie veggie burger, which was also bland. Not an exciting meal to be sure but it was a gorgeous day to sip a glass of Rose by the water.

Then there is Sofra Bakery & Cafe in Cambridge. We'd been here once before and after a stroll through nearby Mount Auburn Cemetery Sofra is just the place to have a delicious lunch. It's chaotic to be sure and the seating can be interesting to say the least. But it's worth the wait and patience.

Even if you don't want lunch you have to try one of their incredible and incredibly delicious pastries, most of which are Middle Eastern in origin, like the twice baked brioche (left below) with custard actually baked into the filling (how'd they do that?). I had the chicken Shwarma stuffed flat bread and Susie had a concoction of three cheeses with grated fresh squash on top wrapped in a burrito-like hint of dough.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Parkside downtown

Susie and I went here recently for dinner and had a wonderful meal.

The staff was friendly, the menu innovative and interesting, the food scrumptious and the wine list exceptional. In fact, I'd argue it's one of the best lists we've seen in Providence: a whole page of half bottles alone makes this place unique. The wines were well-chosen and reasonably priced.

We started off with chilled Lillet rouge, which we though pretty uncommon in a city that prides itself on the number of local mixologists.

For our meal Susie had the Chatham cod on shrimp grits and I ordered one of the specials: a jerk fish dish consisting of tuna and salmon chunks with shrimp in a cocoanut broth, finished off and served in a cast iron skillet. I also opted for their fresh, handcut frites. Everything was simply delicious.

We would like to go back and try one of the rotisserie dishes, something you can't find anywhere else in this city.

Oh, and the valet parking was free.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Loie Fuller's in Providence

My wife and I have been to Loie Fuller's restaurant a number of times over the years. Living close by on the west side it's been a source for drinks at the bar, an occasional dinner and one less-than-stellar brunch (some years ago, now).

Well, we returned recently for dinner and enjoyed ourselves immensely.

It was quiet with just a hint of Carla Bruni (how fitting) singing in the background, when we sat near the fire. The place is one of those truly rare gems in Providence: a French bistro that actually looks like one -- although it would be nice to see a picture of Loie Fuller hanging in a place of prominence.

The service was friendly and engaging without being cloyingly so -- a pleasant young woman whose answers to our questions and conversation hinted at a more interesting backstory.

The food was, in a word, delicious. Beginning with bread from Foremost bakery (they're out to topple Seven Stars, no doubt) we moved quickly to the Cajun Shrimp, which came in a sauce that called for more bread, much, much more. This was comfort food at it's finest.

 My wife had the veggie pot pie and I had the short ribs -- both dishes were well-prepared with just the right portions to get you back home on a winter's night. For dessert we opted for the Gateau Basque -- one of the few (maybe only?) place in the city you'll find Gateau Basque and it was just a delectable as each main course. We washed it all down with a French chardonnay by the glass.

Prices are reasonable and in line with other neighborhood eateries.

Parking is off-street right next door.