Little Italy

Little state, many options. Rhode Island offers culinary portraits of Italy in every corner of the state, each with its own take on its regional cuisines. Here are 25 of our favorite restaurants.
Al Forno
577 South Main St., Providence, 401-273-9760,
What It's Like: RISD meets Northern Italy in this Providence mainstay. Downstairs is brighter but the homey upstairs with its warm tones and fireplace is a cozier affair. 
What To Get: Seriously? Pizza. 
Italian Indulgence: The enduring indulgence will always be the Baked Pasta with tomato, cream and five cheeses. 
Angelo's Civita Farnese
141 Atwells Ave., Providence, 401-621-8171,
What It's Like: Ever been to an Italian diner? At Angelo's, people not only respect red sauce, they worship it. 
What To Get: Il Farnese: the house favorite veal and peppers wedged into a sub and covered in melted provolone. 
Italian Indulgence: Eggplant con Ricciolo — even little kids learn to love eggplant when it's served in deep-fried ribbons.
262 South Water St., Providence, 401-751-3700,
What It’s Like: Italian made modern; with two floors and an open kitchen, diners can see how artful food makes it onto the plate. 
What To Get: Antipasti. With more than sixty small snacks, this is a DIY dream: Bolognese stuffed and fried olives, grilled polenta with balsamic onions, homemade potato chips with rosemary and more pork than the Three Little Pigs. 
Italian Indulgence: Bacaro Carbonara, a version far better than even your memories. Pancetta, Parmesan, mascarpone, sweet peas and a poached egg could make a brick taste good but tossed over homemade tagliatelle it's just plain sick. 
Blue Grotto 
210 Atwells Ave., Providence, 401-272-9030,
What It's Like: Federal feel with an updated menu that refuses to let Italian feel old. 
What To Get: Ciopinno. This Italian version of bouillabaisse is served with garlic crostini and plenty of local seafood. 
Italian Indulgence: Bistecca e Gamberi alla Mama: bone-in sirloin topped with shrimp scampi.
Caffe Dolce Vita
59 DePasquale Sq., Providence, 401-331-8240,
What It's Like: Miami meets Little Italy.
What To Get: Salmone alla Griglia: grilled salmon with diced bell peppers, capers, scallions and citrus juice.
Italian Indulgence: Crepes filled with Nutella and bananas sauteed in Frangelico. 
71 Bradford St., Providence, 401-751-4812,
What It's Like: A lavish wedding party of a restaurant; even the drinks at Camille's have bows and whistles. The wait staff will assume it's a special event so consider creating one if need be.
What To Get: Scampi alla Santiago, prosciutto wrapped shrimp flambeed in Sambuca.
Italian Indulgence: Camille's Lasagna, layered with ricotta, mozzarella, Bolognese sauce, sausage and meatballs. 
2 Pine St., Providence, 401-421-1320,
What It's Like: 1960s glam squad: people love Capriccio for its throwback ode to fireplace dining and Chateaubriand. 
What To Get: Veal saltimbocca.
Italian Indulgence: Crepes Suzette. Not technically Italian but Capriccio makes the retro drama dish their own. 
Cassarino's Restaurant
177 Atwells Ave., Providence, 401-751-3333,
What It’s Like: Casual, a good reliable standby; crazy busy on weekends, typical for an eatery on the Hill.
What To Get: Servings are huge so pace yourself. Make an exception for the clams casino.
Italian Indulgence: Calamari in a balsamic vinaigrette. Best. Squid. Ever.
1 West Exchange St., Omni Hotel, Providence, 401-228-7919,
What It's Like: Chef Robert Harrison infuses this hotel restaurant with the earthiness of central Italy without treading into rusticity. 
What To Get: Scallops with preserved lemon risotto.
Italian Indulgence: Black pepper pappardelle with braised beef cheek, mushrooms, Grana Padano and white truffle oil.
Joe Marzilli's Old Canteen
120 Atwells Ave., Providence, 401-751-5544,
What It's Like: The patriarch and cornerstone of Federal Hill, the Old Canteen is a slice of 1950s culture that remains untouched by trends. 
What To Get: Weekend prime rib.
Italian Indulgence: Tripe.
134 Atwells Ave., Providence, 401-331-7760,
What It's Like: A magnet for twenty and thirty-year-olds, Mediterraneo has a flamboyant exterior with an old soul. 
What To Get: Gluten-free Tagliatelle alla Bolognese
Italian Indulgence: Housemade mozzarella pan-fried and served with tomato sauce.
Pane e Vino
365 Atwells Ave., Providence, 401-223-2230,
What It's Like: Old school and romantic. Filled with couples who span the generations; Pane e Vino seems a world away from the bar-centered, weekend warrior venues.
What To Get: Capesante. Pan-seared scallops with honey glaze, crisped pancetta and grilled polenta cake. 
Italian Indulgence: Provola Affumicata, molten Narragansett Creamery smoked mozzarella topped with San Marzano tomato sauce and baked in clay.
Multiple locations,
What It's Like: The Tarro brothers employ earth tones and accessible menus to bring Tuscan ingredients into the American lexicon. Think of your living room with endless food.
What To Get: Gnocchi da Fidenzo: corn-flour gnocchi with Marsala cream sauce, crisped pancetta, peas and Parmesan.
Italian Indulgence: Scripelle con Gelato: fried dough with vanilla gelato and warm Nutella.
477 Broadway, Providence, 401-434-4435,
What It's Like: Housed in a huge Victorian that shares space with the Italo-American Club, Spirito's is the Alice in Wonderland of Old Italy. We still think there's a deal going on in a room upstairs.
What To Get: Shrimp scampi.
Italian Indulgence: An entire loaf of garlic bread stuffed with tomatoes and basil and topped with melted Gorgonzola. 
Trattoria Zooma
245 Atwells Ave., Providence, 401-383-2002,
What It's Like: A reverse mullet: party in the front, business in the back. A young crowd keeps Zooma current but it's the food that draws people back — particularly the pasta, which you can see churned out by hand in a climate-controlled room by the front door. 
What To Get: Tortellini Vino Rosso is still our favorite, with goat cheese filled pasta made from red wine and topped with a brown butter and orange reduction.
Italian Indulgence: Prosciutto di San Daniele: prosciutto with aged cheese and house-made marmalade. 
Basta on Broad
2195 Broad St., Cranston, 401-461-2300,
What It's Like: After a complete overhaul, Cranston's favorite old school restaurant has entered a new century, with an updated menu and a bar that lowers the average age by twenty years.
What To Get: Cotoletta Pazza: a mammoth veal chop, stuffed with prosciutto di parma and mozzarella and covered with lobster cream and gulf shrimp. It's the reason people can't let go of the classics. 
Italian Indulgence: Nutella Pizza with sliced strawberries. 
Caffe Itri
1686 Cranston St., Cranston, 401-942-1970,
What It's Like: The staid black and white interior is usurped by an expansive patio that draws a younger crowd in-season.
What To Get: The heady Penne Puttanesca with San Marzano tomatoes, olives, anchovies, garlic and capers. And a breath mint. 
Italian Indulgence: Gnocchi with cream and Gorgonzola. 
1463 Park Ave., Cranston, 401-943-7649,
What It's Like: The family-friendly restaurant remains uber-casual with wooden booths and servers who know everyone's name. The white picketed outdoor patio pushes Marchetti's into the twenty-first century.
What To Get: Sausage and peppers.
Italian Indulgence: Calamari Siciliano, fried calamari with hot pepper rings, black olives and roasted peppers served over linguini and drenched in garlic butter white wine sauce. 
Mike's Kitchen
170 Randall Sq., Cranston, 401-946-5320
What It's Like: A Veteran's Hall. Oh — it is a Veteran's Hall. No wonder. No need to dress up but an excellent place to thank your local cop for his service. Cash only.
What To Get: What else? Chicken parm.
Italian Indulgence: Polenta with sausage and meatballs.
Potenza Ristorante
162 Mayfield Ave., Cranston, 401-273-2652,
What It's Like: Wherever Walter Potenza puts up shop — this time in the old Sunflower Cafe — he makes you feel like you've just arrived at grandma's house. (If your grandmother could cook with her eyes closed.)
What To Get: The only restaurant in town that offers myriad options for celiacs and diabetics, even the World Pasta Championship couldn't resist the Tiella di Pesce: calamari, tuna, scallops, shrimp and scrod baked in spicy tomato fish broth with wine, saffron and vinegar. 
Italian Indulgence: Tiella d’fregnacce: pasta crepes with sausage ragu and provolone. 
La Masseria
223 Main St., East Greenwich, 401-398-0693,
What It's Like: Tiered Tuscan farmhouse where all of your well-dressed, well-behaved cousins are waiting to serve you. 
What To Get: Scialatielli Quattro Passi, homemade thick fettuccini with eggplant and smoked mozzarella. 
Italian Indulgence: The chef's barely solid burrata. 
1357 Hartford Ave., Johnston, 401-861-3850,
What It's Like: Casual and family-oriented. Booths and small tables give way to banquet rooms but every seat evokes a clams casino crowd.
What To Get: Linguini with clam sauce.
Italian Indulgence: Veal Raffaello, veal marsala layered with eggplant Parmesan. An Italian two-for. 
Trattoria Longo
12 Canal St., Westerly, 401-315-2952,
What It's Like: The Sinatra crowd sidles up to the beach.
What To Get: What else? Sunday pork sauce with pasta.
Italian Indulgence: The Meatball Salad, compliments of grandma.
Mamma Luisa Ristorante
673 Thames St., Newport, 401-848-5257,
What It's Like: Grandma's house. Literally. This barely renovated colonial feels like Sunday dinner with the whole family. Even the wait staff offers good-natured ribbing as well as affection. 
What To Get: Tagliatelle al Pesce: housemade pasta with shrimp, scallops, garlic, basil and olive oil. Simple doesn't always taste this good.
Italian Indulgence: Mamma Luisa's is a vegetarian's best friend. Go for the veggie Bolognese or the butternut squash ravioli with sage and cream.
30 Memorial Blvd. West, Newport, 401-849-6312,
What It's Like: With a handful of private rooms and one of the best courtyards in town, Sardella's manages to keep a current crowd without giving up an ounce of tradition. Bring grandma when she's visiting. In fact, bring the cousins, too. 
What To Get: Brasata al Barolo, short ribs in Barolo wine. 
Italian Indulgence: Eggplant fries with black ketchup.