Mew’s Tavern is a long-time favorite of locals in the Wakefield area. They’re famous for their huge tap list of craft beers, their awesome burgers, some fantastic pizza, and the tree in the main dining room. But it doesn’t stop there: there’s comfort food galore coming out of this kitchen, everything from gourmet mac’n’cheese to seafood, sandwiches, and creative appetizers. Have a peek below and head into the kitchen with us in our “South County Sampler” episode.
Twenty five years ago, when Cafe Nuovo opened in downtown Providence, it heralded a new era in the city’s culinary evolution: modern, creative, artistic creations using locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients. To be sure, there was a lot of wonderful food already in Providence and elsewhere in the state, but these mostly consisted of Italian, Portuguese, and classic New England seafood type places serving chowder, fried seafood, and lobster dishes. The chef-driven, farm-to-table organic movement hadn’t quite reached these shores. But Cafe Nuovo changed all that, and today, downtown Providence is home to not only some of the best restaurants in the state, but also in the entire United States, as chefs here have access to some of the highest-quality seafood, meats and vegetables in the country thanks to the myriad small-scale, non-industrial fishing and farming providers found here in Rhode Island. With a location directly on the Providence River – the perfect spot to view the famous WaterFire summer celebrations – and with a sophisticated, upscale atmosphere in a modern, sleek building, Cafe Nuovo quickly became a favorite among those seeking stylish food in a stylish setting. Twenty five years later Cafe Nuovo still serves some of the most beautiful, colorful, and flavorful food in Providence.
When we filmed at Cafe Nuovo recently for our upcoming “Elevated In Downcity” episode, we were blown away by the food. This place definitely draws the “suit and tie” crowd, with its location near the heart of the downtown business sector, but the menu was progressive and adventurous, combining classic Mediterranean cuisine with New American and Asian influences. A quick glance at the appetizer options gives you a sense of the varitey here: crabcakes with pineapple-ginger relish, corn chow-chow, and cucumber kimchi, a long-time favorite; octopus carpaccio with white bean ragout, citrus vinaigrette, olive caramel, fennel, and pesto; lettuce wraps with korean bbq sirloin, julienne vegetables, and mango chutney; and crispy spring rolls stuffed with spinach and feta. It’s an unsual combination of food traditions, but it works because, well, everything is delicious and exquisitely prepared. This is truly modern cuisine, not bound by any traditional conventions.
Executive Chef Manny Largo is originally from Texas and has trained and worked with the likes of Bobby Flay, brings a wealth of cooking knowledge and traditions to the kitchen at Cafe Nuovo. He prepared for us an incredible duck dish that we are still dreaming about: chai tea marinated duck is prepared two ways: the breast was seared perfectly, the confit duck leg was baked to crispy perfection but was still moist and fall-of-the-bone. It was served on a bed of braised winter greens, along with cauliflower and celery root mousseline, roasted carrots, brown butter almonds, beets, pomegranate, and finished with a luscious duck jus. It was a remarkable dish, with so many textures and flavors, unctuous and savory, bright and sweet with a crunchy pop from the toasted almonds and pomegranate.
While home to a variety of lovely, small plates and salads, there is also a wide selection of pasta and meat dishes such as the short-rib tagliatelle with house-made pasta; braised steak tips with root vegetables, fresh peas, and port-mushoom reduction; a lamb shank braised for 6 hours and served with toasted orzo, san marzano tomato braising sauce, parmigiano reggiano; and a gorgeous stuffed rigatoni of veal, prosciutto + portobello, endive, radicchio, fresh mozzarella, portobello-madeira sauce. Check online for their new fall menu, but definitely don’t overlook this iconic eatery in the heart of Downcity.
For more info: cafenuovo.com
Tucked away in an unassuming building in a shopping plaza on the outskirts of Westerly is one of the best Italian restaurants in the state of Rhode Island: Casa Della Luce. At the heart of the menu here are delicious pasta dishes using pasta that is hand-made fresh daily in small batches from the finest ingredients possible. There are very few restaurants these days making all their own pasta in-house, but Casa Della Luce is one of them. The house favorite, a cavatelli with sopressata made locally at Westerly Meat Packing gets sauteed broccoli rabe, garlic, olive oil and parmesan, and it is one of the best pasta dishes you will ever have outside of Italy. The texture of the cavatelli is perfect – springy and tender, and the salty-sweetness of the sopressatta (known locally here as “soupy”) perfectly offset the bitterness of the broccoli rabe.
Owner and founding chef, Mark Lacz, also made us a fresh spinach and cheese stuffed ravioli with a decadent sun-dried tomato and cheese sauce, topped off with toasted pine nuts, that was just out of this world, bursting with flavor and savory richness.
In addition to the pasta dishes, Casa Della Luce is home to some of the best NY style pizza and calzones anywhere, with wildly creative varieties like taco and cheeseburger pizzas that attract a rabid local following.
The menu varies seasonally, and also features other dishes like steaks, fried fish and chips on Fridays, and a clam chowder topped with clam cakes that is delicous. This is Rhode Island, after all. Do yourself a favor and head on down to Casa Della Luce for some amazing, hand-made Italian food in a cozy, friendly space. And don’t miss our upcoming “South County Sampler” episode where we’ll feature Casa Della Luce plus other local gems.
For more info go to: casadellaluce.net
Last night we had the pleasure of filming – and eating – at Mill’s Tavern, in downtown Providence, for our upcoming “Elevated In Down City” episode. Like all the other spots we’ve filmed for this episode, the food was out of this world. Billing themselves as “modern American meets classic French technique”, the menu is more of an ecclectic assortment of classic meals with modern, exotic twists, or what Executive Chef Edward Bolus says is “a reflection of the diverse backgrounds and influences of our cooking team.” Edward himself is of German and Lebanese descent, and he brings these influences into dishes such as their phenomenal Tandoori grilled rack of lamb, which is marinated in yogurt and spices in a Lebanese style, then dusted with Tandoori before grilling and served with beet hummus, chick peas, Israeli couscous, and a tatziki sauce made with thick Lebanese “labheh” yoghurt. Needless to say, the dish is sublime, with subtle and not-so-subtle flavors and textures blending into one of the most interesting and delicious dishes we’ve had anywhere in the past year.
Mill’s Tavern sits at the base of college hill in downtown Providence, and is surrounded by lovely old historic buildings lined with cobblestone streets and mature trees. While they try to evoke a cozy, rustic, tavern feel, the space is also stylish and sophisticated, a great blend of comfortable and elegant, with dark wood and burnished steel accents and subdued lighting. Along the back wall is the open kitchen, and in the corner of the kitchen is the wood-fired oven, the “heart and soul” of the restaurant, which castes a warm flickering light over the dining area. Some of the mouth-watering specialties coming out of the oven on the current autumn menu are pizza with with smoked chicken, buttermilk chive crema, spaghetti squash, crisp bacon and fontina; harissa dusted Atlantic swordfish with black sesame caramelized turnips and yellow pepper ketchup; and seared Long Island duck breast with parsnip mash, sweet and sour cabbage, pickled cherries and orange duck demi glace. We did try the pizza, and it was fantastic: rich and tangy, and similar to Edward’s description of it as a “really really good ranch chicken pizza.” The spaghetti squash on top was a great touch, adding a unique texture and savory sweetness.
Mill’s Tavern also has a beautiful raw bar, with fat sweet littlenecks and Walrus and Carpenter oysters along with house-made smoked bluefish pate and other delicacies from the sea. The charcuterie platter was phenomenal as well, the star of this show being the house-made pheasant and pork terrine with pistachio and fig, which was delicous along with touches of fig jam, mustard, house-smoked blue cheese and other house-cured meats.
We also tried a wonderful autumn mushroom risotto, laden with truffle-flecked cheese and cured forest mushrooms and topped with crispy puffed rice that added a nice crunchy texture. And although not technically a “steak house”, the steaks here are famous throughout town and are gorgeous: thick cuts basted with a herb-seasoned butter, sprinkled liberally with salt and pepper then grilled to perfection on the wood-fires grill. All the food here looks amazing, and the chefs, mostly graduates from Johnson and Wales culinary program, know their stuff and push the flavor envelope well past what most timid palates would expect. But the superlatives don’t stop at the kitchen; Mill’s Tavern has received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence five years running, and have a fantastic wine selection to pair along with the dishes. And this is just the kind of elegant, flavorful food that begs for the right wine, be it a muscular cab, a buttery chardonnay, or a bright pinot for the more delicate dishes. And they also have an amazing seasonal, creative craft cocktail menu that is delicious. This rustically elegant tavern is serving up some seriously extraordinary food and drinks. Stay tuned as we add more photos and video, and check out the episode “Elevated In Down City” when it hits PBS in mid-winter.
For more info go to the Mill’s Tavern website: www.millstavernrestaurant.com
George’s of Galilee has one foot in the past, and another in the future. The Durfee family, which has owned and operated this spot since the 1940’s, can trace their local heritage, and even some family recipes, back to the 1600’s. For years George’s has been one of the most iconic seafood restaurants in the Ocean State, serving up authentic clam cakes, classic Rhode Island clear-broth chowder, and fresh seafood sourced directly from the fishing docks just steps from the restaurant. And today, George’s continues to set the standard for quality seafood by making a big push towards utilizing local, sustainable fish species such as skate, sea robin, and scup.
A few minutes from Charlestown Beach is the Breachway Grill, one South County’s favorite local restaurants and watering holes. They take their food very seriously at the Breachway, and all ingredients are sourced with a great deal of thought and care. Originally founded on their signature fish tacos, which are now legendary amongst locals, they expanded the menu to include everything from fish and chips to gorgeous pasta dishes and some of the very best New York style pizza we’ve tasted. This is the social epicenter of Charlestown, in Rhode Island’s laid-back southern side of South County, and when you come here it’s as much for the company as it is for the food. Both are excellent.
These two award-winning restaurants are both owned by the DeQuattro family. Pane E Vino, on the west end of Federal Hill, was opened fifteen years ago and features authentic, classic, Southern Italian cuisine inspired by the DeQuattro’s grandmother, who emigrated from southern Italy to Narragansett back in the early 1900’s. On the other end of Atwell’s, Massimo dishes up modern, regional Italian cuisine from all over Italy, or what the family likes to call “Italy to Table.” Pane E Vino is rustic, dark, and cozy, Massimo is open, bright, and modern. Just like good food with the right wine, they are a perfect pairing and wonderful addition to Federal Hill.
Camille’s is the oldest operating restaurant on Federal Hill, and is absolutely a culinary landmark in the Ocean State. While they have stayed true to their roots and offer some of the best classic Italian-American options on Fed Hill, don’t think for a second that they haven’t been keeping up with the times. Executive Chef Michael Pennachia is forging a stunning new menu that combines authentic, Old World flavor with a modernist twist.
Ask anyone where to go on Federal Hill and you’ll get lots of advice, and lots of different opinions on which places are the best. Which is not a surprise considering the neighborhood’s hundred-year plus history as the epicenter of Italian culture in Rhode Island. But almost everyone will agree on one must-visit place: Venda Ravioli. Venda Italian market an deli has been the center of the neighborhood for over seventy-five years, and has recently expanded to include Constantino’s Venda Ristorante and Wine Bar, just across the expansive outdoor courtyard and fountain that draws hundreds of diners each night in the summer months. Venda is obviously famous for their homemade pasta, which comes in every single variety imaginable. But that’s just the beginning: within the market and deli you can find almost every single ingredient you could ever want to make an authentic Italian dish, most of it imported directly from Italy. Take a tour of this iconic spot with owner Alan Constantino, who gives us insight into the Italian way of cooking and food. After head over to Constantino’s Venda, where executive Chef Anthony Chiero prepares a couple of their most famous dishes.
For more go to: vendaravioli.com
Flo’s Clamshack, located in Middletown right on the border with Newport at Easton’s Beach, is a Rhode Island institution. It is THE clamshack on Aquidneck Island, and one of the most popular in New England.