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Aug 4, 2006 06:17 PM

Best italian in Providence?

Whats great on the Italian food scene in Providence? Last meal I had at Epicurio was dreadful, food was medicore and the service indifferent. I've always had good meals at Pizzico but it's a bit boring... Need help.

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  1. I'm a fan of Cassarino's over on the hill (though I haven't been over there in a while) - nothing particularly innovative, but you get all your standard Italian American fare done well and at reasonable prices. Their pasta dishes are not bad, and they usually have a nice veal chop special (I like it with a side of broccoli rabe).

    Some people swear by Mike's Kitchen, over in a VFW hall over in Cranston. Again, pretty standard Italian American dishes, huge portions at low prices, but you have to wait on line for like 45 minutes and the atmosphere is what it is (maybe a step up from a hole in the wall).

    Pizzico, to me, is overrated and overpriced. If you don't mind driving a bit farther, to me the best Italian place in Rhode Island is Roberto's, down in Bristol. The pasta dishes are top notch (not oversauced and overly salty like most other Rhode Island Italian joints), and the Tuscan bread salad is to die for. The service is outstanding, too. Make sure you make a reservation, however, as the restaurant is tiny (maybe 10 tables total). 401-254-9732.

    I don't know if anyone has checked out the restaurant portion of Venda Ravioli (only open for lunch, I believe). I've heard good things, but never managed to check it out. I have, however, been over to Constantino's (across the square and owned by the same people), and that was pretty good.

    7 Replies
    1. re: abstractpoet

      Venda Ravioli has what I consider to be a very pleasant/traditional Italian lunch menu - light salads, scallopini, stuffed chicken breast, that kind of thing. It's a bit chaotic because you're literally eating in the middle of the market, but there's something very enjoyable about sitting at a small table and looking at the shoppers browsing the goods. The food is light and quite good, for a reasonable price. I think ideally, you'd probably want to be strolling around Federal Hill, perhaps shopping for some Italian goods, and have a nice lunch at Venda Ravioli. In other words, it's a great distraction and fun experience, but maybe not a destination in and of itself.

      1. re: TPistrix

        Venda's outdoor patio however is one of the nicest spots to have lunch on the Hill.

        1. re: JaneRI

          Ah. I would imagine so. To clarify as well, I greatly enjoyed my times going to Venda's. I think what made it most enjoyable was the spontaneity of it.

      2. re: abstractpoet

        Mike's Kitchen at the VFW Hall in Cranston is fantastic. Zero atmosphere though as you mentioned.

        1. re: JaneRI

          Um...I would have to disagree about atmosphere at Mike's. Frankly, it just the kind of place on which Chowhound was founded. Any "lack of atmosphere" is in the eye of the beholder.

          1. re: a l i c e

            True, true. However, I found the necessity to wait for almost an hour offputting (the meal would have had to be truly spectacular to make it worth it), as was the abundance of extremely obese elderly people (but that's certainly not unique to Mike's Kitchen).

            1. re: a l i c e

              I ate dinner at Mike's on a folding card table. Since the thread began w/some well-known fine dining spots, I don't think saying "zero atmosphere" is entirely off the mark, but perhaps I should have clarified that it has no fine dining atmosphere?

        2. I have fond memories of Raphaels in downtown Providence, but have not been in a while.

          1. I'll second the nod to Constantino's. (I'm far from an expert on the area, but have just sampled a few places along Atwell's with mixed results.) Been here twice and loved it both times. From the first visit, I remember the carpaccio, which was perfect, and a tagliatelle carbonara, with truly homemade noodles a rich egg-yellow color (can't really find this back in L.A.) I'd been thinking about that meal for weeks so was glad to return the other night, where we sat on the patio on a warm evening listening to a jazz duo and watching the people go by.

            You start with warm rustic bread and a dish of olive oil, both of which arrived fast. [Actually, the service both times was excellent - they run a tight ship.] I ordered the spinach salad which was served with the leaevs lighly sauteed, along with another tagliatelle in a light porcini and prosciutto sauce. My SO ordered the gnocchi, (which I have to say, were not "fluffy" as described, but dense and chewy as they almost always are. But then, she's a vegetarian and used to being disappointed at restaurants : ). She started with a crostini topped with mixed mushrooms, which was rich, non-oily, and very tasty as we battled over the last of it.

            Seating is 1st-come/1st-served out on the patio (we waited only about 15 min. on a Friday night), but inside you need reservations. Also, everyone at the table got pasta, which is in the $12-14 range - the meat and seafood dishes go well into the $20s, and I guess I'm still cheap.

            1. I and my Mother and Sister really like Zoomah. The food is good, and so is the wine list. More importantly, the portions are appropriate...they are not overwhelming; but, they are adequate. I have been a number of times and have enjoyed it each time. Also, the pizzas there are great.

              1 Reply
              1. re: nidanlou

                I'd like to try the pizzas at Zooma if they're as good as people say (heard the pizza chef is either from Italy or at least apprenticed there). I went during Restaurant Week, though, and was disappointed, at least with the offerings available on the pre-fixe. Thought the pastas were oversauced and much, much too salty - more Italian-American fare than authentic Italian (as advertised). The only thing I liked was a very, very delicious bread pudding for dessert. Didn't compensate for the mediocrity of the rest of the meal, though.

              2. Hmm. I just dined at L'Epicurio for the first time last night and greatly enjoyed my meal. I had a pork tenderloin dish, served with fava beans over a parsnip puree, that the waitress boasted was the best pork she'd ever tasted. It wasn't far off. The pork was incredibly tender, and the parsnip puree and fava beans added a complexity of flavors that I very much enjoyed. My wife had a veal bolognese that was also solid - simple, but very flavorful. The sauce garnished the fresh parpadelle without overwhelming it. We also had a lovely creme caramel for dessert.

                Service was slow, but enthusiastic. We were the last customers in the restaurant and didn't feel rushed at all. The restaurant is a bit pricey, however, with entrees ranging between $20 and $40 each. Tasting menus start at $75 a person. Still, I was quite pleased with my dining experience and can see why Gourmet Magazine listed L'Epicurio as one of the top five restaurants in Providence.