Five Things: Mediterraneo Caffe Restaurant, Providence
It's a chilly week, and nothing sounded better than some Italian comfort at one of Federal Hill's favorite go-to spots. Sean DeBobes hit the scene at Mediterraneo, and here are the five things he wants you to know.
One. Cheese & Clams.
Mediterraneo features a sheer anthology of practiced appetizers and antipasti dishes. I settled on two. The Mozzarella in Carrozza took house-made mozzarella wedges and lightly breaded them before pan-frying and serving in a savory San Marzano tomato-basil sauce. The cheese was incredibly delicate and served alongside lightly balsamic dressed greens. If a stronger flavor suits you, try the Zuppa di Vongole. Amazingly tender native littlenecks were sautéed in a classic garlic/wine/olive oil sauce with ample chunks of plum tomato. Chunks of grilled bread assured I left not a drop of the delicious jus in sight.
Accolades indeed to the Ravioli All’ Aragosta. These refined pockets of ricotta cheese were brimming with lobster meat. My server did disclose that the ravioli were from Venda, but starting with great ingredients is half the battle. Mediterraneo finished this fantastic dish with a slightly spicy/wonderfully creamy pink mascarpone sauce that was distinguished in its own right.
Three. Pizzazz? Where are you?
Cocktails and desserts… didn’t do it for me. While there may be room for the classic Cosmopolitan and Tiramisu, I yearned for a little more zing in these menu sections for balance.
Four. Dinner… and some.
Many restaurant portions are simply out of control. I don’t always mind. If the cost is still right and the quality is good, why not have tomorrow’s lunch ready to go? And while I found the entrees over-sized, Mediterraneo didn’t skimp on quality or flavor at this scale. I enjoyed a classic chicken parmesan (Cotoletta di pollo nino on the menu). I particularly liked the surprise layer of fried eggplant and prosciutto lurking just below the flavorful melted cheese. Pound for pound and bite for bite, this standard could stand up with anyone on the block. Another winning entree: roasted pork tenderloin. This little piggy spent time marinating in a honey-dijon and herb mix before being breaded and expertly roasted. An apple-brandy cream sauce provided a sweet accent.
Five. Nice Finish.
I am swearing off fortune cookies. Mediterraneo has the check-freebie beat with a house-made Limoncello. This welcomed digestif did a fine balancing act between sweet and tart while providing just the right punch.
Would I go back? Yes. But as we all know, Atwell’s has some serious competition in the Italian market. So Mediterraneo, ratchet up those cocktails and desserts a bit.
Hit “Save” Mediterraneo Caffe Restaurant, 134 Atwells Ave, Providence. 331-7760. Mon-Thu 11:30am-9pm; Fri 11:30am-10pm; Sat 11:30am-11pm; Sun 3pm-9pm. Reservations encouraged on weekends.