Sunday, January 15, 2006

Restaurant Review: Cassarino's

Cassarino's Ristorante
177 Atwells Avenue
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 751-3333

I'm a simple guy, and I tend to distill my restaurant opinions to my favorite dish. In this case, that's easy. Bruschetta is a great Italian appetizer exactly because every chef has his own vision: sometimes the bread's thick, sometimes the garlic is heavy, sometimes the tomatoes are dried. I love the variety; I love ordering it at different restaurants and always being surprised by the presentation — yet by virtue of consistent ingredients, knowing that I'll enjoy whatever I'm served. Cassarino's might have ruined that for me, with hearty piles of freshly diced tomatoes on each piece of grilled bread. It's the closest I've seen bruschetta come to impersonating salad.

Both the appetizers and entrées (and drinks, for that matter) were served in generous portions. It's one of those restaurants where they offer dessert — but if you've done your job through dinner, you won't have any room. I had trouble saving room for the entrée through the appetizer; although I'm glad I did, because the bolognese was a nice mix of sweet tomatoes and chunks of meat with plump cavatelli pasta. I'm looking forward to going back for lunch; the menu includes a meatball sub, and I'm dying to see how they twist that. I guarantee it'll be large.

The Phantom Gourmet breaks its reviews into ten categories including location, atmosphere, portions, and cleanliness. I'm afraid my world is a bit simpler: There's food and there's service, and if I don't get both then I don't see value. I've been to Cassarino's twice. Both times, the food has been great; and both times we've had the same waiter, Joe, who earned a solid tip on both occasions. Last night, we sat a table of three for drinks, appetizers, dinners, and dessert for a total of $112.64 before tip. That's more than reasonable in my book. Cassarino's gets two thumbs up.


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