The latest food truck to hit the streets is Portu-Galo. As the name implies, it serves “Portuguese sandwiches and small bites.” Proprietor and JWU alum Levi Bettencourt Medina is serving up classic Portuguese sandwiches on locally made bread, including Bifana (pork loin with garlic and spices), Prego No Pão (steak topped with a pan-fried egg) and spicy Piri Piri Chicken. Small bites include Iberian style Batatas Bravas (potatoes with garlic aioli and spicy bravas sauce) and Chouriço Empanadas. They’ve been making the usual East Side-centric rounds, but, as always, the best way to find them is to follow them on Facebook or Twitter.
Down On The Farm
Pasture to Plate is a new certified mobile kitchen offering dinners and food workshops at local farms. Director Margiana Peterson-Rockney has spent the past four years developing and managing Rosaharn Farm CSA in Rehoboth, an outgrowth of her family’s dairy goat farm of the same name. The first two events are coming up this month: On June 16, there will be a Father’s Day brunch at Rosaharn Farm, with seatings at 10am and noon; and on June 30 there will be a multicourse farm dinner at Little Compton’s Wishing Stone Farm, with seatings at 5:15 and 7pm.
Welcome To Town
Mile & a Quarter has a new chef. Executive Chef Jose Franco moved to Rhode Island from his home in Los Angeles (his wife is a native Rhode Islander) to take over the riverfront restaurant. Before this, he ran several restaurants in and around LA, where he cooked for a number of celebs, including catering the wedding of Jack Nicholson’s daughter. Look for him to begin revising the menu at Mile & a Quarter over the summer, incorporating more local and seasonal foods.
The season looks promising, with several new bars and restaurants in full swing. Probably the biggest news was the late March opening of The Grange, a vegetable restaurant from Garden Grille veteran Jon Dille. Much like its predecessor, The Grange’s plant-based cuisine is intended to appeal beyond the vegan/vegetarian set and attract all diners – even carnivorous ones. The Kyla Coburn-designed restaurant (she’s responsible for Loie Fuller’s, The Avery and several other restaurants that have caused you to comment on how gorgeous they are) occupies the fantastic space on the corner of Broadway and Dean Street that has sadly come and gone in various incarnations over the past few years. But judging by the work they put into it (the new façade is beautiful) and the early buzz, The Grange is here to stay.
Elsewhere on the West Side, enigmatic restaurateur Mike Sears (Lili Marlene’s, Ama’s) has opened Justine’s, his newest cocktail lounge, in Olneyville Square. The speakeasy style bar is squarely aimed at appealing to women (and by extension, of course, men): you enter it through a curtain in the back of a lingerie shop, and the “ladies’ lounge” (read: bathroom) has its own bar inside. There is a well-curated selection of classic cocktails that are shockingly only $5, and some light snacks. There is, of course, no website and I’m not going to tell you the address because Sears is probably already upset just that this is appearing in print. You’ll have to ask around and find it yourself.
After a long delay, Nami is finally open on Federal Hill, serving sushi and other Japanese fare in a handsomely renovated space. Moving Downtown, Bodega Malasaña is the new wine bar from the …
Daniele Foods and ourselves, are sponsoring this month’s EatDrinkRI Festival. The three-day event (April 19-21) is the brainchild of local foodies David Dadekian, who runs the website EatDrinkRI and is the restaurant reviewer for our sister magazine, The Bay, and Brendan Roane, Director of Marketing and Events at Gracie’s. Key events include Friday night’s Cocktail Couture, an exclusive cocktail and fashion event produced in concert with StyleWeek Northeast at the Biltmore; the Saturday night Grand Tasting (also at the Biltmore), featuring over 40 food, wine, beer and spirit exhibitors, as well as cooking demonstrations from chefs like The Dorrance’s Ben Sukle and Persimmon’s Champe Speidel; and a Sunday morning Grand Brunch at Gracie’s, featuring chefs from Nicks on Broadway and north on the West Side, Warren’s The Sunnyside, the Boat House in Tiverton, and more. Tickets range in price per event, or you can attend the whole festival, including several smaller events and panel discussions, for $200 (standard) or $250 (VIP).
Half Way Tree Authentic Jamaican Cuisine has opened at 44 Hospital Street in the Jewelry District, providing full service lunch and dinner as well as takeout. The menu includes all the Jamaican and Caribbean classics you’d expect. They offer authentic jerk chicken wings and spicy meat patties, plus small and large plates of oxtail, curry goat, red snapper and jerk chicken accompanied by rice and peas, fried plantains and vegetables. On Friday and Saturday they’ll have a special of ackee fruit and saltfish, another classic Jamaican dish.
Autumn’s New Crop
We always expect the end of summer/ beginning of fall to bring us a bounty from our farms and gardens, but this year the restaurant scene is also providing quite a harvest.
Ama’s, the little shoebox of a restaurant across from the Avery in Luongo Square, abruptly closed over the summer. In its place we have north (3 Luongo Sq.), which brings the considerable talents of Chef James Mark to bear. He was formerly of Nicks on Broadway, but also worked at the Michelin-starred Momofuku Ko in New York City. The opening menu looks impressive and ambitious, freely mixing regional, Latin and Asian influences into things like a Green Curry Lobster Roll or Pork and Clams with coconut milk and fermented shrimp. Check foodbynorth.tumblr.com for updates.
In other “tiny West Side restaurants with one-word names” news, Kitchen is open at 92 Carpenter Street, across from the Public Safety Complex. The recently renovated storefront will be serving breakfast from 7:30am-1pm, Tuesday through Friday, and 7:30am- 4pm on weekends.
Bayal Buffet (50 Ann Mary St., Pawtucket – in the former Shaw’s plaza), offers dishes from around Africa and the Mediterranean, but primarily focused on the cuisine of Senegal. We haven’t had the chance to try it yet, but based on previous experiences with Senegalese food, we expect a lot of rich, well-spiced curry-type dishes, heavy on fish, and bearing the distinct influence of French cookery.
Pawtuxet Village got a welcome addition in the form of the Elephant Room (2170 Broad St., Cranston), a teahouse and creperie. The focus is primarily on serving loose leaf teas from around the world, but there is also coffee, wheatgrass shots and “daily specialty waters.” Those looking for a bite to eat can choose from pastries, salads and crepes both sweet and savory.
The old Mile and a Quarter House at 375 South Main Street has been sadly empty since the beloved Barnsider’s …
The local nonprofit Project Undercover, which provides things like socks, underwear and diapers to needy children, is going to have a good day on Tuesday, September 18. How do we know? Because on that day all three Rhode Island Whole Foods locations (601 North Main St., 261 Waterman St. and 151 Sockanosset Crossroad, Cranston) will donate 5% of the day’s sales to benefit the charity. It's a great opportunity to support a great cause while buying things you already need anyway.
Another opening that has previously gone unheralded in these pages is Providence Coal Fired Pizza, which arrived downtown earlier this summer. Its custom built oven is fired with Pennsylvania coal, making it unique among other pizzerias in this state. The result is a crust with that perfect balance of crispy outside and chewy inside, and the menu offers a variety of simple, but well-chosen options. There are the classics like Margherita and Tomato and Mozzarella, and fancier choices like the Clam (rosemary, pancetta, clams, fingerling potatoes and Parmigiano Reggiano) and the Conrad (roasted onion and peppers, sausage, rosemary, mozzarella and Pecorino). The Baby Bella, topped with oyster mushrooms, truffle oil, mozzarella and ricotta, is a textural marvel, with the gooey melted cheese playing off the meatiness of the mushrooms and the crispy crust underneath. The oven is also put to good use on starters like the Coal Fired Wings with sea salt, rosemary and roasted onions. The spacious, comfortable restaurant also has a full bar and is open seven nights a week, as well as lunch on weekdays. It’s a welcome addition to downtown.
August 15 would have been culinary legend Julia Child’s 100th birthday, and in honor of that centenary her longtime publisher Alfred A. Knopf has organized Julia Child Restaurant Week.
From August 7-15, 100 restaurants around the country will participate by with special menus inspired by the woman who taught so many Americans how to cook. Among those 100 is our own Al Forno; proprietors George Germon and Johanne Killeen were personal friends of Child, and contributed recipes to two of her cookbooks. The a la carte menu will include two starters, two entrees, two desserts and a cocktail. Highlights include George’s Silky Peppers with Burrata, Osso Bucco with Orange and Lemon, and a Triple Citrus Tart.
Check out jc100.tumblr.com for info on the 100th birthday festivities.
Gracie’s continues its monthly Star Chef Series, this time with world-renowned bread baker and Johnson & Wales instructor Ciril Hitz returning for his fourth appearance. As always, the series pairs the guest chef with Executive Chef Matthew Varga to collaborate on a five-course meal with pairings. This month’s pairings come courtesy of Peter Egelston, founder of New Hampshire’s Smutty Nose Brewery. The dinners are $100 per person and usually sell out. Call 272-7811 to make a reservation.
One restaurant opening I missed a few months back was Coco Pazzo (165 Angell St.) – probably because I try to avoid Thayer Street while school is still in session. However, now that the college crowds are gone, I recently spent a sunny Friday afternoon enjoying a leisurely lunch there and I’m glad I finally stopped in. The menu is eclectic, but mostly centered around modern Italian fare, with lots of easy-to-share plates like appetizers, tapas and pizzas. It’s the kind of casual, European style dining that relies on simple, fresh preparations that let the ingredients shine through. We sampled several small plates perfect for eating al fresco: a Prosciutto and Burrata Board; Grilled Long Stem Artichokes with Olive Salad and Pesto Crostini; Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese and Watercress with Beet Vinaigrette; Wild Roasted Mushrooms; and Seasonal Vegetable Pizza with spicy tomato puree from the restaurant’s wood fired oven. It’s always refreshing to see a restaurant that respects its vegetables instead of treating them as mere accompaniment to meat and pasta, and the artichokes, mushrooms and beet salad really stood out here. I look forward to going back and trying some things I missed the first time around – in particular the Cantaloupe, Prosciutto and Burrata Salad with Ice Wine Vinaigrette and the Branzino in Cartocio steamed in foil.