When asked what touristy thing she would like to do during her Thanksgiving week here in New England, my Texan daughter-in-law replied, “I’d like to eat in a real Italian restaurant.”
We have a lot of those here. It was a matter of refining the request. Fancy? Casual? Red sauce? Gourmet?
I asked advice of many friends, all of whom said, “Federal Hill”. Yes, that area of Providence has been the center of Italian dining since it was the home of Italian immigrants in the 1880’s. It was the hub of the state’s Mafia organization, with shootings and killings galore in the wild days of the 1960’s, ’70’s and 80’s.
Federal Hill has always been an area for tourists and locals alike to eat some good Italian cooking from casual to fine dining. In the past years it has become a bit dangerous at night and, aggravatingly, peppered with parking meters. Banjo Man decided that we would drive up there and see for ourselves. We would take the family to lunch next week IF the traffic wasn’t bad, IF we could find a place to park, IF it didn’t feel dangerous and IF we could find the perfect Italian restaurant.
I researched everything, of course. And I settled on a restaurant called Andino’s. It has a colorful Mafia history and great reviews on Tripadvisor.
The traffic was fine. We didn’t get lost. We even found a “free” parking space on a side street. It felt like a long walk up Atwells Avenue, but that was only because it was the first cold and windy day of the season and we weren’t ready for winter yet, even though I’d worn a new sweater and a new coat.
Andino’s was crowded, so we sat at the bar and drank wine until our table was ready. It was a lovely place, with linen tablecloths, flowers and lots of pleasant people working there. Frank Sinatra songs serenaded us.
In other words, it would be perfect for our family lunch next week.
I had butternut squash and ricotta ravioli in a maple cream sauce for an appetizer.
Banjo Man had chicken escarole soup. For my main course I chose eggplant parmigiana.
Does he look happy?
We were quite proud of ourselves for spending a Tuesday afternoon is such sophisticated surroundings. We’d gotten out of the country and were in the big city for the first time in many years.
Our afternoon didn’t end there. We stopped at Sciola’s bakery (everything baked in a 1920’s brick oven) for bread and pastry and at Venda Ravioli to admire the enormous array of cheeses and meats and olive oils. We saved the wine shop for next week’s visit.
Sciola’s bakery window:
I think my little Texas family will like it here.