Old Blue Eyes casts his piercing gaze across the red-walled dining room as the opening strains of “Strangers in the Night” drift into the ears of diners seated at tables dressed in white linens. The aura of a refined 1960s club permeates every nook and cranny of Trattoria Roma, thanks in part to the assortment of framed Sinatra records and photos displayed behind the bar and the ever-present Rat Pack tunes playing throughout the day. Since its opening 22 years ago, the eatery's owners have fostered a cozy-yet-refined atmosphere bolstered by authentic Roman cuisine forged from local ingredients. This tradition continued eight years ago when veteran employee Shawn Mason took over the restaurant’s reigns from the original owners. Though he brought his own brand of hospitality to the mix, he made sure to uphold the kitchen’s tradition of high culinary standards.
As Shawn cheerfully chats with regulars scattered throughout the dining room and at the bar, his partner, chef Matthew Prokopchak, can be found architecting Italian eats with his crew in the kitchen. Having grown up learning the conventions of Italian cooking from his mother and aunts, chef Matthew integrates some of his family’s recipes into the menu, imbuing his dishes with a sense of history and tradition. He assembles his arsenal of fresh produce –from lush tomatoes to fragrant basil– from local farms. While the menu remains largely unchanged throughout the year, each night the friendly service staff sidles up to tables to detail the day's seasonal specials via verbal recitations or interpretive dances.
Amid the dining room’s ruby walls, a series of Orfeo Tamburi lithographs depicting post-WWII Rome––reportedly the only complete Tamburi collection in the United States––hang in elegant frames. The décor works in concert with the savory wafts of garlic emanating from the bustling kitchen to evoke a vintage Italian atmosphere.
India Restaurant's chefs modify iconic South Asian staples to eliminate excess fat, cholesterol, and calories while still ensuring that the dishes are delicious enough to win various accolades. The chefs craft each authentic dish with locally sourced seafood and produce, and they avoid frying any dish, eschew butter entirely, and only cook with canola oil. Yet their nacho-like papri chaat appetizer has been called "truly addictive" by the Providence Phoenix, which also called the restaurant’s biryani “a veritable feast for the senses.” To make their cuisine even more inclusive, the chefs prepare an array of vegan-friendly and gluten-free dishes.
The decor strives to be similarly accommodating, presenting diners with numerous seating options, each with a distinctive ambience. A projection screen playing subtitled Bollywood films dominates the main dining area, smaller tables surround each of the three roaring fireplaces, and more than 200 flickering candles line the bar area. During the warmer months, the garden courtyard tempts patrons with its swings for seats, lush gardens, and bubbling water fountains. The sidewalk seating allows guests to dine alongside their dogs and pet lobsters; a doggie menu offers hamburger-and-rice dishes and yogurt pops for canine companions.
Traditional belly dancers drift throughout the space on Friday and Saturday evenings, and the restaurant's global jazz ensemble entertains diners with its contemporary melodic stylings.
When Gianfranco Marrocco left Italy for America, he had big dreams. But his high hopes for what he’d do with his new life were coupled with nostalgia for the outdoor cafés in his native country. Confident that the people of Providence would also enjoy the cosmopolitan atmosphere he longed for from back home, he decided to open an authentic Italian caffé. His dream was realized with the opening of Caffe Dolce Vita, situated in the heart of the picturesque DePasquale Plaza on Federal Hill.
Inside Caffe Dolce Vita, warm tones of copper and bronze showcase contemporary Italian style, along with sage-green leather banquettes (fondly referred to by many Americans by their pet name, “booths” or "great hide-and-go-seek spots"). The kitchen team brings out brunch, lunch, and dinner feasts of savory Italian dishes, such as veal parmigiana. Double espressos and cappuccinos perk up guests, along with specialty drinks at the bar, where servers pour popular Italian liqueurs such as Sambuca and Limoncello.
Intricate, sketch-like depictions of vines, porticos, and a rolling Tuscan countryside add rustic dimension to creamy walls, while in other dining rooms, elongated mirrors and a marble bar offer an urban anchor to an environment of grayscale and charcoal. It was this very juxtaposition that Jim Harris and Daniel Teodoro sought when they took ownership of Pizzico Ristorante, an eatery mingling components of northern Italian and American cuisine.
White tablecloths populate with tuscan grilled pizzas, creamy risottos, and seafood and veal sautéed in subtle wine sauces. Four days a week, a local menu board offers meats, seafood, and produce from the farms and oceans of local Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Wine dinners escort guests through multiple courses of cuisine and complementary wine, demonstrating how different flavors can enhance each other's vivacity even if they aren't vinegar and baking soda.
The three co-owners of Geppetto's Grilled Pizzeria pair Italian classics and contemporary cuisine at their picturesque Federal Hill eatery, filling a menu with pasta dishes, buffalo wings, and both grilled and New York?style pizzas. Floor-to-ceiling french doors and wood accents imbue the space with Old-World charm, and a European-style courtyard beckons diners to sup al fresco during the summer months or freak January heat waves. Geppetto's group tours and luncheons steep customers in special prix fixe menus and demonstrations, and cooking classes impart students with the know-how to make their own morsels at dinner parties or when a rogue trillionaire kidnaps all the world's chefs to staff his continent-size kitchen.
At Pearl Restaurant & Lounge, diners might find themselves twirling pasta around forks or trapping sushi rolls between chopsticks. Both eating styles are represented in the eclectic menu, which showcases inventive forays into Italian and Asian cuisines. There's pizzas piled with prosciutto and mesclun greens, raviolis stuffed with lobster, and pan-seared pork dumplings ripe for dipping into a spicy Szechuan sauce. And to model the food, there's also two types of dining atmospheres: a romantic outdoor terrace or elegant blue-lit dining room. Following meals, you need only step into the lounge area for a little nightlife; live music fills the 18,000-square-foot space on Friday and Saturday nights until 2 a.m. with the sounds of jazz, low-key beats, and Muzak renditions of the chicken dance.