Nobody seems to remember where Aborn Street is, but if you’ve walked through downtown Providence, you’ve probably passed it. It’s where you’ll find the new Italian restaurant Rosalina tucked behind Gracie’s, just out of view from the ornate facade of Trinity Rep.
With such perfect weather, we had to sit at one of the outside tables and start with cocktails and oysters. My husband had the Tom ($9), a classic martini made with Tito’s, vermouth and a Tomolive garnish. In the mood for something lighter, I ordered the Satin Doll ($9), a refreshing combination of St. Germain, prosecco and club soda with a lemon twist. The drink’s name is a tip of the hat to the last strip club in the bounds of downtown Providence, practically across the street. Opinions vary, but I think these disparate elements add vital flavor to Providence’s signature spice blend.
We came just in time for the dollar oyster special, available weekday evenings between four and six. Our Matunuck oysters were served with a prosecco mignonette and a charred lemon. The charring was not only visually interesting, but also gave the lemon a deeper, sweeter, flavor.
A breadbasket was served with a large spoonful of Narragansett Creamery ricotta and olive oil with pepper flakes. The oil comes from the owner’s family’s olive groves in Kalamata, Greece. The accompaniments were great; the bread was okay but not so good that you’d ruin your appetite over it, which is fine by me.
Though it’s on the Insalata menu, the Burrata Cheese with orange, grapefruit and honey lemon oil dressing ($12) was more tantalizing treat than health food. Burrata is a decadent Italian cheese: fresh mozzarella wraps around a creamy, sometimes buttery, core. The citrus fruit was plentiful and a good foil to the creaminess. We also had the Eggplant Parmesan appetizer ($12), served in a cast iron crock with peppered crostini. It was hearty enough to be satisfying but not grease-laden like some versions.
Earlier, we’d enlisted our waitress’ help to decide between the fried doughappetizer and the Eggplant Parmesan. To our surprise, the chef graciously sent out a sample of the dough. On the menu as Pizzette Fritte ($9), the large pillow of dough is topped with Pomodoro sauce, a touch of cheese, a drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of scallions. The sauce was especially good – fruity but not too acidic.
Rosalina’s chic design features huge family photos and retro globe light fixtures. So many touches evoke family and home cooking: our warm and friendly waitress, the kitchen’s fried dough gift, the bold gingham napkins. It’s clear that owners Lauren Lynch and Tom Bovis take family seriously and want you to feel like part of theirs.
As we worked on our appetizers, we ordered some wine. Along with a bottle and glass list, Rosalina offers two wines on tap ($6/glass). A Chenin Blanc and a Grenache, both from California, are supplied by Richer Pour in Boston. Not only do these stay fresher than recorked bottles, but they also eliminate waste. Apparently, a keg of wine saves 44 pounds of glass and 26 corks. With the enthusiastic after-work drinking taking place at Rosalina’s bar, it certainly makes a difference.
For my entrée, I ordered the Cioppino Seafood Stew ($23), a large, garlic crostini in a shallow bowl was topped with a tomato broth and plenty of swordfish, calamari, clams and shrimp. The broth had a nice subtle spice. My husband ordered the special, a Pine Nut Encrusted Statler Chicken served with broccoli rabe and a plum and cherry relish ($19). It was creative, but I think he preferred the Grilled Thick-Cut Pork Chop ($23) with sautéed vinegar peppers and cherry tomatoes that we tried on an earlier visit.
Too content in our breezy spot, we ordered dessert. A chocolate cake layer round was topped with a cylinder of chocolate gelato, the plate graced with a large dollop of Nutella ($6).
I’m hesitant to admit that I went to Rosalina on opening week and didn’t get it. The menu was homey, the décor almost sexy. A few months and visits later, it makes sense. Imagine this: you’re nine, at a friend’s house after school. His mom throws together the first Italian home cooking you’ve ever experienced. Her perfect coif and cute dress seem just as effortless as the tomato sauce. She puts a spell on you, and you never try a plate of pasta that matches up to hers. Rosalina understands that in a city full of Italian restaurants, it’s this charm that will earn repeat visits.
50 Aborn Street