Rosmarin at Vinya flies deliberately under the radar, a quiet experiment by Chef Stefano Mariotta and his father Massimiliano, self-described as “elegant yet approachable Swiss cuisine.” Since it’s so inconspicuous, you may be surprised to find it serves some of Providence’s finest dishes, imaginative and impeccably plated.
The small space at 225a Westminster Street has hosted several concepts and chefs under the Vinya Test Kitchen moniker. Rosmarin, which moved from a larger space in Hotel Providence, has been resident for over a year.
A few of this restaurant’s qualities really stand out. It’s tiny (less than 20 seats), BYOB fine dining, and its Chef de Cuisine is only 24 years old. It’s the only restaurant in Rhode Island that serves a Swiss-inspired menu, and as far as I know, the only one with a 12-course tasting menu.
Vinya isn’t heavily advertised. Most diners discover it during a walk downtown Providence or by word of mouth. And word has spread quickly – the restaurant has already had many visitors travel from out of state for tasting dinners. Owner Massimiliano (who goes by Max) told us that he’s seen a shift in their business. At first, most of their diners were walk-ins ordering a la carte. Now, the majority are reservations for the six-to-twelve-course tasting menus.
Since Vinya is BYOB, we stopped by Eno next door to pick up a bottle of wine. Their recommendation was an efervescent light red from the Basque region, Ameztoi “Stimatum,” versatile for pairing with a variety of dishes.
Our tasting menu immediately impressed with a gravlax amuse bouche followed by a first course of smoked mackerel with earthy sunchoke chips. I loved the Rindstartar (steak tartare) with the distinctive flourish of hazelnuts, and was equally impressed by the vegetarian dishes. My favorite was the Carrot Panna Cotta – milky carrot cubes decorated with a carrot-cilantro emulsion and a peppery crumble. In another dish, seared duck was paired with smoky cabbage, pureed parsnip, and pickled cranberries. It reminded me of a mini holiday dinner. The Scallop Roulade was an inventive sous-vide creation, rolled with salmon stuffing and a swiss chard wrapper, then sliced like a sushi roll. Sous-vide cooking features heavily in the restaurant’s winter menu, a practical method for a small kitchen.
Though most of our tasting menu dishes also appeared on the a la carte menu, there were two exceptions. One was a roasted artichoke quarter topped with pickled mussels, grapefruit, and tapioca squid ink crackers. The other was a bowl of crispy shallots topped with a slow-poached egg, frothy potatoes, and ample shavings of black Oregon truffle. Both of these were wintry, the mussel dish like a brisk outdoor adventure and the creamy bowl a cozy indoor comfort.