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Alforno Providence- It Must Be Nice Having Such Great Food That You Can Be Rude

Alforno is for sure a real treat. The food is wonderful, inventive and creative. We were in Providence looking at schools. They do not take reservations so it's a first come first serve situation. We finished our school tour early and decided to go for an early dinner. The restaurant opens at 4:00. We got there a few minutes before 5:00pm on a Saturday night. I walked in and the host who has been there for years was at the host stand. I very nicely asked if he had a table for two people. He curtly said "I have nothing until 8:30" I then asked if we could eat in the bar area and again he curtly said" It's full" then he looked down a sheet of paper with reservations and would not look up at me again. I was more disappointed that I was treated so insensitively than I was about not getting in at 4:50pm.
So we headed to Federal Hill for a blow out dinner at Zooma. What a great place! It's really bright and beautiful with funky decor. The food was stellar and the service was gracious and warm. They were packed too but they found room and graciously led us to a table. Oysters, Beet and May Tag Salad, Lobster Fra Diavlo, even good bread! My point is that I felt badly that someone was so rude and displayed himself as a real snob. It wasn't nice.

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Zooma
245 Atwells Ave., Providence, RI 02903

Alforno Restaurant
577 S Main St, Providence, RI 02903

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  1. You lucked out. Alforno has to be the most overrated restaurant in RI. The last two words I would use to describe their food are inventive and creative.

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    Alforno Restaurant
    577 S Main St, Providence, RI 02903

    4 Replies
      1. re: ajh05004

        While the meals I've had there have been "fine" (not better or worse than anywhere else in town), I too have been turned off by their attitude.

        For example, I tried to book a reservation for a group dinner in honor of a visiting VIP in my industry (who asked to go there) and they wanted my credit card. When I asked why, they said that they have a policy where if we're over XYZ minutes late (I think it was 35), they cancel our reservation and charge my card $60 per person fee!

        Commit to that with a speaker flying into town scheduled to land 2 hrs before the dinner? Nooooooo thank you! We had a wonderful meal with this group instead at Siena.

        So, who eats Alforno? I don't know anyone who actually lives IN the city who goes, so is it all out of towners?

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        Alforno Restaurant
        577 S Main St, Providence, RI 02903

          1. re: invinotheresverde

            Funny, my husband and I were just talking about this the other night. We've lived in RI for 7 years, and have never even felt compelled to try it! There are so many other fantastic restaurants in town that are much more welcoming and much less of a pain to get into. And we eat out a lot!

      2. Speaking of good bread, does anyone know where Venda get's theirs from?

        1. I've had a similar experience there. Gracious they are not! We ended up eating there anyway despite the snobby attitude from both the host AND the wait staff. Seemed like they thought they were doing us a favor by serving us over priced food....

          The food was good, but in a town with as many good restaurants as Providence I can't imagine how this place remains successful. It's been a few years, but as I recall the food was pretty standard Northern Italian fare, with a few creative twists, but nothing so inventive that you couldn't find it's equivalent at 10 other restaurants within 2 miles!

          I'm all about giving restaurants a few chances before fully making up my mind, but I'm not looking forward to going back!

          I'd much rather spend my hard earned money at an establishment that appreciates my patronage.

          14 Replies
          1. re: ezra9876

            I have not been there in 20 plus years. Food and service go together I think but their arrogance to people will bite them someday. The staff only takes orders from the top. Most are college kids and they are trained to be jerks its not their fault. The fish stinks from the head down.

            1. re: ezra9876

              At one time, they were THE restaurant in New England. Cucina Simpatica is a good place to start in order to appreciate just how phenomenal they WERE at one time. The chefs become stars and being star overcame being chefs. But, they WERE unbelievable at one time.

              1. re: gabagool

                Not sure why everyone lets the snobbery bother them. I could care less if the host is being a jerk.

                As for the food, the grilled pizzas, baked pasta in the pink, and fruit tarts are still amazing and worth going back for time and time again.

                1. re: R.N.

                  I agree. I still feel the food is great there. We always sit at the upstairs bar. Kyle the bartender is very nice. I do not enjoy the atmosphere in their dining room. It is snobby.

                  1. re: R.N.

                    I don't go out to be treated badly, I think most people would agree. And I've NEVER had an amazing anything there.

                    1. re: JaneRI

                      Agreed, no one enjoys being treated poorly. In my experience this does not happen regularly.

                      I must have thicker skin... Im not bothered by it because its comical to see a 20 something who makes $15 an hour try to act like they are so important.

                      IMHO, and I have witnessed dozens who will agree, Alforno does still put out some pretty tasty dishes. Perhaps you ordered the wrong thing?

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                      Alforno Restaurant
                      577 S Main St, Providence, RI 02903

                      1. re: R.N.

                        To the best of my recollection, Jane and I both had the same subpar experience with their baked pasta (dry, burned, bad value), which is one of the things they're known for, besides the pizzas, dirty steak and tarts.

                        I will say the patio is gorgeous for drinks and the aforementioned pizza.

                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                          That is unfortunate because the baked pasta is usually delicious. I have been to Alforno and Cafe Louis (Boston, now closed) over a dozen times and make the drive atleast once a year from Southern CT. My favorites are the grilled spicy oil pizza, baked pasta, and the apple crisp tart. Those dishes have never let me down. Alforno has been in business for over 30 years. That should speak for itself. A restaurant that is a "fad" does not stick around for this long. Im thinking about jumping the in car and taking a 1.5 hr drive up for dinner tonight. Anyone care to join?

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                          Alforno Restaurant
                          577 S Main St, Providence, RI 02903

                          1. re: R.N.

                            Very cool that you've had good experiences there. I always prefer to hear the positive than the negative.

                            I just find Al Forno to be a tourist destination and a big has-been. I mean, no one I know in the city goes there anymore. When it was the only game in town? Sure. But now there are so many better options.

                            1. re: R.N.

                              invino, yes....I will continue to go once or two a season to have drinks & pizza on that beautiful patio.

                              But that pasta.....small shells....I had maybe a total of 18 or 20 of them? I thought it was just the top layer, but it turned out it was a weird dish that gave the illusion of depth but was really shallow...just the one dried out layer! So pissed!

                              1. re: JaneRI

                                We admit to being tourists, sure -- we go to Providence to visit our daughter and grandhildren -- but we're from Philly (now a great restaurant town) and originally from New York City. We enjoy Al Forno very much. The grilled pizxza is really great, as are the dessert tarts and crisps. I'll pass on the baked pastas, but my husband likes them. We haven't found the attitude to be particularly bad. We've had to wait, yes, and we've eaten at the bar, which we enjoyed. But we'll continue to visit Al Forno once for every trip to Providence!

                                1. re: Beulah

                                  Nothing wrong with being a tourist and looking for a great meal. We are all tourists at some point. I plan my vacations mostly around where we will be eating.

                                  The difference nowadays is that tourists are informed. Many don't just read the guidebooks, they read chowhound, yelp, tripadvisor..... Alforno is still always busy. Tourists or locals, they are are obviously doing well enough to generate interest and keep things up. IMHO, they haven't skipped a beat.

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                                  Alforno Restaurant
                                  577 S Main St, Providence, RI 02903

                                  1. re: R.N.

                                    I find being famous and being good two very different things. YMMV.

                  2. I can understand people's frustration. We were there the other night and didn't want to wait for a table...we met another couple from providence and decided to stay and eat at the bar. The food was delicious...i guess it depends on your level of tolerence. While we love the hill...the parking is tough. This was fun and different from our usual trek to the hill. Sorry to all the naysayers...but there's a reason why there Is always a wait and its consistent. I wouldn't do it every weekend...but now and then .....its perfect!

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                    Alforno Restaurant
                    577 S Main St, Providence, RI 02903

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Roadislander

                      I'm confused by your reference to "The hill" since Alforno isn't really in the College Hill neighborhood nor is it anywhere near Federal Hill, or any other hill, for that matter, being in the bottoms.

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                      Alforno Restaurant
                      577 S Main St, Providence, RI 02903

                      1. re: kcward

                        What I should have said is - "We usually go to a couple of restaurants on Federal Hill, and the parking is not very good".

                        1. re: Roadislander

                          There is usually parking to be found on Federal St., just west of De Pasquale Ave. It's just a short walk over...the valets do use Federal quite a bit, but they tend to use up the eastern end more... just a tip.