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Jun 28, 2008 11:25 AM

Oak in Providence

I just found out that Oak restaurant on Hope Street in Providence was sold. Paul Shire (formerly of Downcity Diner, the old one before it burnt down) sold Oak to someone from the Florentine Grill. I guess they're keeping the same menu for now, but will probably be changing some things up soon...

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  1. tried it out a few weeks ago - big positive change. some of the older eclectic menu items are still available, but the new kitchen/owner brings old-school ital-amer cred to the neighborhood. chicken/egglpant parm combo was great comfort food - sauce tasted homemade. if you've scratched your head on visits wondering 'what happened since this place opened?' it's worth a shot once again.

    16 Replies
    1. re: sk3

      Hey----good to know. I've wanted so much to like Oak, and the place before that, and.....that cursed location has never been what it could be.

      Will give it a try soon.

      1. re: Moonpie1

        I am with you on that - the bad service really put me off, plus the food was never quite right.

        1. re: Jenkins

          I have always liked the food (never disappointed) but the service was always hit-or-miss. Either you had someone who hovered over you while you ate, or you had someone who completely ignored you (until they gave you the bill and couldn't be more gracoius to bring you back 'big bills' in the change).

          I found out Shire is now the chef at Cattails in East Providence - in the kitchen six nights a week.

          1. re: OOliver

            Another update -

            I found out today (by someone in the restaurant industry) that the owner of the foremr "Pat Orlando's" on Rte 44 (Not to be confused with the other restaurants bearing his name) is the new owner of Oak, and willbe gradually changing this to an Italian restaurant.

            "Pat Orlando's" closed last month; a Mexican restaurant is due to take it's place.

            1. re: OOliver

              Oy, just what Providence was lacking-- another Italian restaurant!

              1. re: GSM

                Too true. But this being RI, the only Italian "close" is Pizzaco.

                1. re: Frobisher

                  Yeah, that's not necessarily a bad thing, in that location. If it's good, and doesn't succumb to the curse of that location.

                  I have several family members (Italian, know from food) who always really liked Pat Orlando's. I only ate there once, years ago, but still remember how good the calamari was.

                  I'd go there and give it a try---especially if it's kid-friendly. I like Pizzico, but there's a lot of Italian possibilities that are not just duplicating Pizzico's menu. This could be a good local addition.

              2. re: OOliver

                For the love of God, what does Providence need with another freakin' Italian joint? Honestly, what can they really do that isn't already being done? The nice thing about Hope was that there was somthing different other than Italian. If I wanted Italian I would just go to the Hill.

                No more steak houses, no more Italian and I believe we have some pretty decent seafood joints, so come up with another concept. I give it 18-24 months when it goes "Italian".

                1. re: River19

                  I agree with you on all except the seafood. We really dont have great seafood places in Providence.

                  1. re: basachs

                    I think Hemmenways does a good job depending on the dish, and McCormick and Schmicks is decent for a chain. It all depends on what you are looking for.

                    I define good seafood as a restaurant with fresh fish prepared in ways that don’t absolutely kill the flavor of the fish. The raw bar at Hemmenways is solid and they usually have a decent oyster selection. The restaurant is owned by the same group that run Capital Grille and I have called the Grille the day before reservations for a special occasion to have them get 2 dozen oysters of a specific type for our meal from Hemmenways (obviously just a change in delivery) but it was nice they could accommodate us. They offered, we didn’t originally ask for special treatment.

                    What haven’t you found from a seafood perspective in the Providence area?


                    1. re: River19

                      I think the problem with Hemenway's is that it is inconsistant. I've had some great meals there, and some awful ones. I was there for business in the spring and it was so awful, I swore I would never go back. Seriously bad food and seriously bad service. McCormick and Scmick's is usually consistently okay. I'm not blown away, but the fish is fresh and well prepared. I had a really good albacore tuna at Chez Pascal last week. Unbelievable. Sometimes the best seafood isn't in a "seafood" restaurant.

                      1. re: Sap115

                        I don't disagree about some great seafood being in a "non-seafood" restaurant.

                        We always go Friday-Sunday, maybe the weekend gets the "A-game" vs. the mid week....who knows, we are about 10 for 10 there give or take a couple times......I think we have to have gone there at least 10 times in the past 5 years or so.

                    2. re: basachs

                      Yes, I'll second the no seafood vote. I've had simply awful experiences at both Hemmenway's and M & S.

                      1. re: GSM

                        Strange how people can have such differing experiences. My wife and I have dined at Hemmenway’s at least 10-12 times over the course of 5 years and never had a bad meal there. Some where the service was a little lacking but never a problem with dried out seafood (a common issue among many seafood restaurants) or poorly paired sauces etc. Honestly, if you go in there and order oysters for an app, some chowder and maybe a nice tuna steak rare and bottle of wine I don’t think you will be disappointed, but hey different opinions I guess.

                        I’m curious, what seafood restaurants in the area you guys feel are good? I want to make sure I’m not missing something here.

                        1. re: River19

                          I ate at Hemenways a LOT during college (mid 80s) and when dating the now-husband...and just don't get there at all these days. I had read (maybe here?) that it was still great, but I then met a woman yesterday who said she had a horrible meal there last week. Service took an inordinately long time, she said--and the rug was kind of soiled and greasy.

                          I don't think we have any really kick-ass seafood places right in Providence.

                          And I disagree about the Italian in the Oak location. I think if it's GOOD, then a lot of us won't have to go to the hill (unless we want to), but will have a nice place to go in the neighborhood. And Italian is fairly diverse----if their menu is not like the one at Pizzico, but just sticks w/another style (and Pat Orlando's was pretty straight up Italian, if I recall)---it could be a good addition.

                          I'm open to almost any cuisine coming to the neighborhood----but while any Italian would have to be done very well to compete, it wouldn't be a bad thing in that location. There are two Indian places right near Oak, just a stone's throw from each other. I have a preference for one over the other, but they both do well---there's a clientele for each one. I think it's the same thing if Oak went Italian.

                          And totally agree w/someone upthread, who said there was no good Jewish deli in Providence. This has always surprised me, as I think there's more than enough market for it (between Jewish population and those of us that just really like the food). There was a place called Max's Deli in Chicago----could have been a chain. I remember when Red Stripe was still Newport Creamery, and my husband and I would say that if Max's ever got into that space, it would be great.

                          1. re: River19

                            I've always sworn by Providence Oyster Bar. While it's definetly not cheap, i love the unpretentious service and ambience, and the incredibly fresh (and often locally sourced) seafood. I'd recommend them for apps and drinks at the bar, full service dinner can get pricey. Best espresso martini ever! (i know it's lame, but...mmm!)