Providence, RI: Global Cuisine Reigns Supreme

Providence, RI is one of my favorite little New England cities for food. They have a great variety of food carts, cheap eats, upscale dining, and something from every culture.

By the time we arrived, I was so hungry I couldn’t wait to eat dinner. While I waited for Todd, I used Yelp to find a quick snack near the university where we were parked. There were a couple of options recommended nearby, but I wasn’t interested in a sit down meal, just a snack to tide me over until dinner with our friends. The place I finally settled on was Mama Kim’s Korean BBQ, a food cart in the University District that was raved about on Yelp. It was perfect and it was a healthy, fresh snack as well. We shared the Beef Bulgogi and Pork Kimchi tacos. Oh boy, people, they were full of flavor and a great price, too!

A couple hours later, we met up with our friends and decided on a traditional Italian dinner at Caffe Dolce Vita in DePasquale Square. There were a handful of food options right in the square, so our friends thought that bringing us here to choose would make our choice easy. They were right. There was live music being played in the square – mostly classic rock with a wonderful crowd to cheer them on. The people in Providence are generally outgoing and seem to support their local businesses by participating in fun nighttime events like that one.

We were seated right away and sat listening to the music while people-watching throughout the dinner. It actually reminded me of my days in Florence, Italy, watching people in the busy streets and diners crowding into the outdoor seating areas. Besides the heat, the night was excellent.

As food was being delivered to other tables, I noticed a unique dish: Sicilian Rice Balls. Rice croquettes are filled with ground meat, parmigiano, eggs, tomato sauce, garlic, onion, peas, and fresh mozzarella, then rolled in bread crumbs and fried until golden in color, served with a side of fresh marinara sauce. Obviously, we had to share those. From the first bite of this, I was in love. The texture and flavor exploded onto my tongue. Crispy on the outside and rich and savory on the inside. Absolutely try this one for yourself the next time you’re in town.

For the main course, I had to have their chicken parmigiana. It’s a breaded, boneless chicken breast, fried and topped with a San Marzano plum tomato sauce and mozzarella with a hearty serving of pasta. It had been a long time since I had eaten really good Italian food. There aren’t many places I’ve found in Oregon that even do Italian recipes justice. It’s something strange about the differences in ingredients from coast to coast. But this main dish was outstanding! The sauce was made from scratch and you could taste the Italian seasoning beautifully, but not overwhelmingly.

We sat and talked with our friends, settled up with our server, and made our way to a little pastry and coffee shop right across the square. They bragged that they had the best cannoli, but I was too full from dinner to give that a try. We sat by the fountain with the crowd and took in the music for a while before taking off. I would do it all again for sure, but next time I want to save some room for cannoli dessert.

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