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Dec 6, 2008 10:29 AM

Authentic Italian/Providence

Daughter is soon returning from semester in Florence . Any recommendations for a restaurant that will taste like 'home'? Italian speaking waitstaff would be a major plus.
Many thanks for suggestions.

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  1. For honest, "home-style" Italian in or near Providence, try Angelo's Civita Farnese on Federal Hill (Atwells Ave.) and Mike's Kitchen in the Tabor-Franchi VFW on the Cranston-Johnston line. Both are more Southern Italian/Sicilian; I cannot recommend a good Florentine restaurant in the area, although Capriccio does a good job, plus your daughter might enjoy the waiters and their Christmas decor is delightful.

    1. I know nearly nothing of current Italian cooking, but several individuals in Providence that I know who are natives of Italy and return regularly insist there is absolutely nothing here which even begins to approximate Italian food of the last 30 years, let alone the Italian food of today.

      It's apparently not just a Providence failing but an American one. A few of these individuals argue that there are a few restaurants in NYC which stay current with Italian dining trends, but that otherwise everything existant North of Manhattan is Italian-American-themed American food at best... This is confirmed by a neighbor of mine (American) who just finished a six-month sabatical in Italy and says the cuisines are worlds apart.

      All of the restaurants mentioned in the previous post are decent restaurants for what they are (ye-olde-red sauce Italian-American) but I doubt your daughter would be anything other than completely horrified you'd think Mike's Kitchen or Capriccio, for example, would resemble anything in Italy and she would probably never dine with you ever again...

      Better to probably welcome her home with a dinner at one of the area's excellent New-American themed restaurants...

      12 Replies
      1. re: Garris

        Pretty well said.

        I will say that some of the higher end(michelin starred restos) in Italy are much more similar to some of the better restos in the states.

        1. re: Wursthof

          I agree we won't food like Florence (or Rome or Cinque Terre). We visited and will never look at Italian food in the same way. And Garris, you're right, that said daughter will probably appreciate non-Italian food, for a change. Never-the-less, I'd love all thoughts on places that try hard to get it right, and I know encountering Italian speakers would delight her.

          1. re: elle

            elle: what about Caffe Itri in the Knightsville section of Cranston? I am 99.99 percent sure there will be Italian speakers there. And the food is supposed to be very good (I still have not made it there since I get to RI so rarely). The neighborhood was settled by a mass migration from the town of Itri. Plus there are little cafes in the area that look very promising for espresso, etc, and that I am 100 percent sure will be populated by Italian speakers.

            here's the web site:

            Mike's Kitchen (I ate there last month and loved it) is great for what it is, which is indeed home cooking for Italo-Americans (as they say in RI). Plus the place is a trip.

            1. re: Bob W

              I've never had an Italian speaking waiter at Caffe Itri. I love, love their food, though.

              1. re: invinotheresverde

                I was thinking just of people in the place in general. If elle tries it I hope we get a full report!

                Next time I'm up in RI this place is a must for me. The menu is mouthwatering.

              2. re: Bob W

                Caffe Utri sounds like what I'm after and is a place I've meant to try. We'll see if daughter can smoke out any Italian speakers.
                Thanks to all for the help.

                  1. re: elle

                    Went last night. Food was wonderful, Florentine daughter agreed. Great pasta which passed the authentic test, foccacio and bread that was better than Florence (Their bread is unsalted, an acquired taste) and good, but decidedly unauthentic, from an Italian perspective Cesaer salad. No Italian to be heard from staff or patrons, but that bit of homesickness was addressed earlier in the day at Tony's on the hill, where we went for our fix of 00 flour, olive oil and espresso beans; Much Italian spoken there. Thanks, Bob, for the suggestion. Caffe Itri was a winner.

                    1. re: elle

                      Glad you had a great dinner!

                      As an aside, isn't the Ceasar salad traditionally Mexican?

                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                        Yes it is. Had a great one in Mexico. Why is it that it's always on Italian menus here?

                      2. re: elle

                        A very belated you're welcome!

          2. And remember even in Italy "Italian" food is very different from region to region. Eating in Venice is very different from eating in Genoa which is very different from eating in Bologna.

            1. I, of course, would go after fried clams instead for her!<G>. But, having said that, and not having set foot in Providence in about 30 years, there used to be a place in East Providence called Asquinos. I suspect it is now gone, but it used to have the most wonderful food at reasonable prices.

              Which, i realize is no help to you if it is gone, but thanks for the memories and Happy Holidays

              PS.i lied We got to to Providence last summer for the Fire-Water show. Spectacular! But we ate Brazilian, not so good.

              1. As someone who has lived in Italy, the only thing close to authentic in Providence would be eating at Italian Corner in East Providence on Fri/Saurday. The place isnt a restaurant except they have special dinner in a seating area on Friday nights and Saturday nights where they serve pretty authentic dishes. The chef is from Northern Italy and the server also spoke Italian (fluently with a nice northern accent).

                Otherwise, probably any recommendation you will find anywhere will be Italian-American food that bares absolutely no resemblance at all to food in Florence or anywhere North of Naples. As for Cafe itri, I have never been, but looking at the menu it looks pretty americanized. For example, real pasta amatriciana is made with guanciale (Italian Corner) not pancetta (as it is made in cafe itri) Also, serving meatballs with pasta can be used as a litmus test...for the most part its exclusively an Italian-American thing.

                Anyways, I see you went to Cafe Itri and it seems like you had a good time but Italian Corner is probably the only place within an hour of Providence that serves food that resembles what you might eat at a restaurant in Italy. Just make a call first and a reservation and its BYOB which is also nice.

                Italian Corner
                10 Boyd Ave East, Providence, RI

                1 Reply
                1. re: Sambossanova

                  "Otherwise, probably any recommendation you will find anywhere will be Italian-American food that bares absolutely no resemblance at all to food in Florence or anywhere North of Naples. "

                  I've never traveled below Rome so I'm asking; is it true that what we think of as Italian-American food in America is similar to what's served today in say Naples, Italy?