Stephen Travels

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Ristorante Il Massimo, Providence, Rhode Island

Ristorante Il Massimo (Providence, Rhode Island)

My stroll through Little Italy in the Federal Hill neighborhood of Providence, Rhode Island, progressively put me more in the mood for an Italian dinner. Along Broadway, I admired the Columbus Theater (built in 1926 and holding, appropriately, 1,492 seats) and some of the 1,000 wood-frame buildings from 1840 to 1920 that were built as private residences, many of which are now occupied by the legal and medical offices of professionals with Italian surnames.

Turning onto Atwells Avenue, the heart of Little Italy and route of the annual Columbus Day parade, I stopped to see Holy Ghost Church (1909), the mother church of Rhode Island Italians. Menus from Italian restaurants began to tempt me, and the aromas floating out of Italian grocery stores were too seductive to resist entering them and picking up some treats to enjoy in DePasquale Square, a small plaza with a fountain, a trio of colorfully painting buildings, and plenty of seating around tables with umbrellas. At the end of this cultural artery, the Welcome Gateway, decorated with pine cones, leads to Giuseppe Garibaldi Park, and, one block past that, to Ristorante Il Massimo.

Voted the best restaurant in Rhode Island for the past two years, this trattoria features sliding glass doors that open onto the avenue for al fresco dining during fine weather. Inside, the glass-enclosed second-floor dining room is perfect for large events; on the ground floor, dark woods and bright yellow chairs provide a soothing atmosphere to enjoy the seasonal Italian menu.

Fork and KnifeTry This: Relish some complementary bread with eggplant tapenade while listening to Italian-language songs, mixed in with some Sinatra and Martin. Order a glass of fine Italian wine from Veneto, Piemonte, or Toscana, and an appetizer like the homemade meatballs with Sunday gravy and locally produced Narragansett Creamery ricotta. Savor some delicious pumpkin ravioli with butternut squash cream, pancetta, goat cheese, sage, and toasted pumpkin seeds for your entrée. Accompany that with a side of brussels sprouts with pancetta and honey. Sweeten up the end of your meal with traditional cannoli or tiramisu.