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Best Italian in Providence

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I know it's a silly question, but it's been a long time since I've had Italian in Providence (Al Forno). Please give me the names of one or two restaurants with killer food and sophisticated ambiance. We'll be there Sat early evening after picking up our son from TF Green. Price is not too much of an issue, but I don't want to pay $35-40 per entree. Thanks.

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  1. If you're going to be at the airport, I'd suggest La Masseria on Main St. in E. Greenwich, although you'll be bumping up against the top of your price range.

    1. La Masseria was good when they first opened. All the chefs went back to NY. I just used up my gift certificate and the food was just typical italian restaurant food with the staff doing you a favor. Thats why do a drive by and the place is half empty. Your in the USA restaurants are designed to turn and burn not like Italy. If you want decent food, great service and nice ambiance try Capriccos in the city. If you want simple typical real italian food try Venda for lunch. Sal is right from Naples and serves the real thing.

      12 Replies
      1. re: Frank Terranova

        I wish Venda were open for dinner. I haven't been to Capriccio in many years, but I remember it as a little formal (stuffy?). Am I wrong? What about Cafe Nuovo? Siena? Trattoria Zooma? Gracie's?

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        Zooma
        245 Atwells Ave., Providence, RI 02903

        Cafe Nuovo
        1 Citizens Plz Ste 1B, Providence, RI 02903

        1. re: pamE

          Nuovo, Siena, Gracies all IMO excellent but I was under the influence you wanted Italian. Siena in East Greenwich is easier to get around. Federal Hill can be a nut house. Yes Capriccios is a bit stuffy but for service and attention to detail nothing better. Real Italian food is simple if you have been to Italy you can attest to this, In most restaurants espically in RI they try to up it to the point where is sometimes it becomes not traditional and its not the fault of the restaurants its what the patron drives. The restaurant business is for the most part driven by the customer in Europe they dont wander much from tradition.

          1. re: Frank Terranova

            Capriccos is not only stuffy, the interiors are so out of date and there is that odor of old restaurant when you walk in the door.
            I would go for Siena or La Masseria If you order the right things off the menu it is still very good.

            1. re: Frank Terranova

              Frank - I finally got a chance to try Siena on the Hill. Great rec! Food was great, service was superb, prices were a good value for the protions and quality received. Only draw back as others have noted was it really was loud. The server was on the other side of the table from me and it was difficult to hear her reciting the specials.

              Highly recommend the risotto, probably the best i have ever had.

              1. re: joe777cool

                Joe,
                I love Siena I usually go to the one in EG just for parking reasons. But I have to say Anthonys Tagliatelle Bolognese is the best I have had and I can say when I was in Bologna I think his was just as or even a bit better. Try the Arincani if you like Risotto.

                1. re: Frank Terranova

                  That is the exac dish I had for dinner. The sauce had great flavor and the pasta was cooked to perfection but I found it to be a bit on the greasy side. Next time I will try the arancini and the polpette with ricotta.

            2. re: pamE

              Gracie's is excellent but it isn't Italian and is out of your price range. Siena (on the Hill) and Zooma are loud and at least as much of a bar scene as a resto; at Zooma I've had borderline inedible food coupled with a "we don't give a crap" attitude, and will never return. Capriccio is great if you want to travel to the 1950's and don't have a time machine. Nuovo is OK, but priced higher than the quality of the food would indicate, at least to me.

              1. re: Gin n Tonic

                So, G&T, what's your reco for where we should go?

                1. re: pamE

                  I gave you a rec at the beginning.

                  Unfortunately I think you set impossible-to-meet or at least mutually exclusive conditions: Italian, Providence, "killer" food and sophisticated ambience. Like the old saw about "good, fast, cheap", you can meet two or three but never four.

                  I'll put on my asbestos underwear for the rest of this. First of all, I don't think you can get good Italian food in Providence. You can get good Italian-American, but even that, like, say, Chinese here, is stuck in a time warp. People want the food they grew up with, not anything new. The creative chefs in town, and there's a good number, aren't doing Italian. And certainly, as Frank has noted before, there is nothing anywhere in town resembling current cooking in Italy. What you get, mostly, is red-sauce stuff like Mama used to make. That isn't bad, necessarily, but it's not what I'm looking for most of the time when I go out.

                  That said, the good Italian-American is either not in Providence (Caffe Itri, Trattoria San Vivaldo, La Masseria) or doesn't have what I'd call sophisticated ambiance (Siena on the Hill, which is loud, or Angelo's, which is out of the 1960's) or both (Mike's Kitchen, which really does have killer food, but it's a VFW hall in Cranston.) The other Hill favorites that you might find mentioned, like Mediterraneo, Pane e Vino, Blue Grotto, all have their fans, but they don't do it for me.

                  1. re: Gin n Tonic

                    After all this time I think we might have agreed on something.

                    1. re: Gin n Tonic

                      I will back you up on Caffe Itri....went there this weekend and it was fantastic. The baked three cheese pasta special was a standout. Very reasonable prices. I agree that the best Italian can be found outside of the city.

                      1. re: Mrs Carroll

                        Agreed on Itri. The Chicken Gorgonzola Gnocchi is a must have for me. You may also want to try L'Osteria across the street, the Chicken under a brick is a great dish or anything with their pesto.

            3. I like Siena really well...also, I enjoy Zooma and Pane Vino...that said, beginning with food costs, operating costs for restaurants have gone up in the past couple of years; I think you will be hard pressed to dine for under 45.00 per person with wine, tax, and gratuity at any of the really good places.

              -----
              Zooma
              245 Atwells Ave., Providence, RI 02903

              Pane Vino Restaurant
              1431 Post Rd E, Westport, CT 06880

              1 Reply
              1. re: AikiLou

                Note. OP did not say 35 per person, he said 35-40 per entree.