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Big on family atmosphere
By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  January 7, 2009

Spumoni’s | 401.726.4449 | 1537 Newport Ave, Pawtucket | | Mon-Thurs, 11:30 AM-10 PM; Fri-Sat, 11:30 AM-11 PM; Sun, 11:30 AM-9:30 PM | Major credit cards | Full bar | Sidewalk-level accessible
In far eastern Pawtucket, almost Massachusetts, sits a 30-year-old family-owned restaurant that's a great hit with locals. We had discovered Spumoni's food at one of the annual Taste of Pawtucket events, and when we found ourselves in the neighborhood for a cheap matinee movie, we decided to check it out.

Spumoni's has a kind of old-fashioned diner feel to its first dining room — almost all booths surrounded by dark wood with burgundy benches. It opens up to two other dining rooms beyond this one, each of them maintaining an intimate feel, a la an old English tavern. And, lastly, there's a private dining room behind the bar area.

The menu also has many sections, with meals ranging from burgers, sandwiches, and pizzas, to seafood or steak dinners. The night we were there, two friends at a nearby booth were sharing (and enjoying) a heaping portion of chicken Marsala; four silver-haired folk wore lobster bibs to dive into their steamed and stuffed crustaceans; and three long-legged teens sprawled out of a booth where they were munching pizza slices. All of these diners seemed like comfortable and happy regulars at Spumoni's.

The appetizers feature several fried items — mozzarella sticks, ravioli, calamari, chicken tenders, onion rings — and there are also steamed littlenecks and crab-stuffed mushrooms. We moved across the menu, however, to start with a small "Mama's veggie" pizza ($8.50), covered with onions, olives, mushrooms, peppers, and olives.

Spumoni's has the thick-crust version, a comfort food for me, though not Bill's favorite crust. Minimal sauce surrounded the veggies, which, though plentiful, were a tad singed on top. Crispy cheese works okay, but not broccoli.

We also had the soup of the day (chicken escarole) and salads. The soup was too salty for me — a European proverb says the cook is in love when this happens — and a bit short on chicken.

Among the entrûes, I leaned toward chicken and made the mistake of not noticing that every dish except the Marsala used breaded boneless chicken breast. As it turned out, the breading was so thick, it all but hid the chicken, despite the cream sauce and cheese that finished off my dish, Milanese style ($13.99). It was accompanied by steamed broccoli. Other side dish choices are pasta or baked potato.

Among the Italian specialties, Bill located a half-dozen combos, meaning you can indulge in lasagna, baked ziti, cheese ravioli, manicotti, or veal, chicken, or eggplant Parmesan in combinations labeled Tuscany, Roman, Palermo, Napoli, Sicilian, and Pisa. Though I'm not sure if the trio of dishes corresponds to their region of origin, Bill homed in on the Napoli, with eggplant Parmesan, fettuccine Alfredo, and baked ziti ($12.99). Spumoni's meat sauce is the default on pastas, so you must specify marinara sauce, if you want it meatless.

We both loved the fettuccine for its firm noodles and a sauce that was not too rich. The eggplant was very thinly sliced, then breaded and sautûed before stacking it with sauce and covering it in cheese. Bill loved it. The baked ziti had ricotta in its casserole, but the ziti themselves had not been fast-cooked or crisped, as we both prefer it. The portions were so generous, however, that this was a real bargain.

Indeed, most of the dishes at Spumoni's are family-priced, and there are other combos that would thrill the chronically indecisive, such as "Grampa's seafood," which includes langoustines, baby shrimp, and chopped clams, in either a red or white clam sauce. This item is in a section called "pasta by the pound," where you can order a half or a full pound of pasta.

Further bargains include the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet, Mondays through Thursdays, for $7.50; the daily specials; and a dozen early-bird (3:30-5:30 pm) dinners, none more than $12, with one side and soup or salad.

Desserts at Spumoni's include homemade apple crisp, a house-made chocolate chip square with ice cream, and on that Sunday evening, homemade grape nut pudding ($2.75). The latter was quite tasty, chunky with Grape-Nuts and topped with whipped cream. The signature dessert, spumoni ice cream, comes from a local vendor.

The dûcor at Spumoni's is minimal but homey, with frosted globe ceiling lamps and dark woodwork setting off cream-colored walls. Wrapped Christmas boxes on a plate shelf in the second dining room underscored the family atmosphere, as did the friendliness of our waitress and our tall pile of take-home boxes.

Johnette Rodriguez can be reached

  Topics: Restaurant Reviews , Culture and Lifestyle, Food and Cooking, Foods,  More more >
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 See all articles by: JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ

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