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San Vivaldo Trattoria

In Chef Alfie we trust
By CHRIS CONTI  |  July 7, 2008

Terms like “destination dining” and “authentic Italian” take on new meaning at San Vivaldo Trattoria, which is tucked away in the middle of West Warwick with Tuscan-born culinary mastermind Chef Alfiero Bigazzi at the helm.

San Vivaldotrattoria | 401.828.8100 | 570 Providence St, West Warwick | Wed-Sat, 5-9:30 pm; Sun, 5-9 pm | Major credit cards | Full bar | No sidewalk-level accessible
“Don’t be difficult, relax and drink lots of wine!” trumpets the restaurant’s Web site. Chef Alfiero Bigazzi has built quite the “in-the-know” fan base here over the past eight years.

By the early 1970s, Bigazzi was sharpening his skills in Florence and Genoa. Following the death of his father, he eventually found his way to New England, garnering acclaim as a personal chef to high-rollers (“whales”) at Foxwoods.

Bigazzi ultimately purchased an affordable and accessible spot, a tiny red house on Providence Street in West Warwick, less than one mile from the base of Bald Hill Road. “Too many places in Providence, and too expensive by the water,” he explains.  

The interior of the red house is tiny at best (in restaurant-speak, we’re talking six at the bar, along with five four-tops and one six-top). A bay window is lined with bottles (Bi-gazzi boasts more than 600 wines, ranging from $18 to $750), and Italian soccer jerseys on wire hangers adorn the walls.

The Web site declares that “this is a one-man operation, so please order quickly.” He ain’t kidding. The busy weekends usually require a bartender/server helping him out, but on Sundays Bigazzi rolls solo, ably serving as host, waiter, and chef.

“I feel bad because everyone comes at once on Friday and Saturday, and I can’t seat everybody, so if you don’t have a reservation, don’t bother showing up,” he informed us during a quiet Sunday night visit. Then came the inquiry: “So whaddya wanna eat this evening, gentlemen?”

“Um, well, we saw on your Web site that you have — ” I sputtered, and received an aspetta, or “that’s enough out of you,” in Italian. There is no printed menu on the premises, because Bigazzi will recite whatever is fresh that day, the golden rule in Italian cooking.

We placed our gastronomical trust in the chef, a wise decision from start to finish. Fifteen minutes later, two small plates arrived as Bigazzi described the visually alluring offer-ings: a small mound of mesclun greens dressed with homemade aged balsamic, a slice of bruschetta topped with chick peas and his own smoked mozzarella, and a cold stuffed tomato with couscous topped with a rectangular slab of raw tuna.

Words cannot describe the color scheme and flavors bursting off this plate. My buddy Tom summed up the sense of discovery succinctly: “I can’t believe I’m eating this — in West Warwick.”

Tom’s filet mignon was accompanied by risotto and roasted fingerling potatoes, accompanied by a small helping of marinated eggplant. The steak knife wasn’t needed, a situation akin to mom’s fork-tender pot roast, and it had a delicious, flavorful char (a coffee rub, perhaps?), which triggered another highly entertaining Alfie discourse about his dry-aged filets.

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