For over 20 years now Pizzico Ristorante on Hope Street in Providence has survived and flourished, even as other restaurants in the neighborhood continue to come and go. One reason is its truly extensive, world-class wine cellar. Another more obvious reason has been the consistently high caliber of Pizzico’s food.
Now, Pizzico has brought its fresh, time-proven version of what it terms “Italian fusion” to downtown Barrington on County Road. This March, they moved into the space vacated by Chiazza, another Italian restaurant that had recently closed. Chiazza’s former chef, Dave Firto, has remained at the helm in Pizzico’s bustling new open kitchen.
The restaurant’s roomy interior has a casual but energetic atmosphere. Large, almost billboard-size blackboards display the daily specials on the wall, along with the names of some of their most-trusted local food purveyors.
By 6pm on a Thursday night, the dining room was just about full. The menu here in Barrington is the same as the one at Pizzico in Providence, with starter items like Roasted Pear and Gorgonzola on baby spinach; Cranberry and Baby Arugula salad; Tuscan Grilled Pizza (made in their own brick oven); Roasted Tomato and Basil Bisque; plus several antipasti and pasta dishes. We opted first for a very spring-like Potato Leek Soup with bits of chorizo and arugula mixed in. Rich but not too filling, it had plenty of little tangy bits to keep things interesting.
I had the multi-level experience of tasting one of Pizzico’s many beautifully blended Insalate ($8-15), with six plump, sautéed ocean scallops topped with a fresh crop of three or four different salad greens doused with a light vinaigrette sauce. I chose this item because the menu said the salad was peppered with “crispy-fried prosciutto” and I wanted to see if toasting up this classic Italian meat would add anything. Flavor-wise, the salty taste of the toasted prosciutto was no longer detectable, but it did add a nice little extra crunch.
Through the years, Pizzico has continued to add more dimensions to its menu. It now offers a half-dozen different Antipasti with combos like Grilled Jumbo Shrimp stacked with Portobello Mushroom in a brandy and shallot cream reduction ($15.99); Calamari Fritte with black olives, scallions and hot banana peppers in a marinara sauce ($11.99). There are also five different Tuscan Pizzas ($12.99 to $14.99) grilled in Pizzico’s own brick oven – one amenity their Providence kitchen doesn’t have.
If you can’t find an enticing pasta dish here at Pizzico, maybe you should be dining at McDonald’s. There’s a dozen to choose from, including: Penne ala vodka cream sauce ($17.99); Pasta de Zucca, pumpkin-stuffed pasta in a creamy pesto sauce ($19.99); Strozzapreti, “priest-strangler” pasta tossed with spicy lamb sausage in a tomato sauce ($24.99); and Lobster Gnocchi stuffed with roasted red pepper and goat cheese, baby spinach, and prosciutto, with a brandy and cream ($26.99).
I chose my entree, Spigola, from the Frutti Di Mare section: a Pan-seared Chilean Sea Bass served over lobster risotto with a saffron shrimp broth ($33.99). The Sea Bass was a generous size and would have made a perfectly fine entree by itself. The addition of the lobster risotto was almost too richly delicious and in fact, overpowered the milder fish. I took half the risotto home for lunch.
Our other entree, Pollo Limone ($21.99), was thinly-sliced chicken breast lightly floured and then pan seared, accompanied by a wedge of grilled polenta, and finished with a delicate sauce of sun-dried tomatoes, capers, lemon and white wine. What I especially liked about this dish was that no one flavor overpowered the others. It was a lovely, balanced blend of tastes, each of which complimented the others.
Other meat dishes on the menu I expect to return for include Risotto al Duck Confete served over creamed spinach and wild mushroom risotto; Funghi con Vitello, tender veal sautéed with garlic and fresh herbs in a mustard brandy cream sauce; or maybe if I’m feeling carnivorous, Pizzico’s signature Bistecca Pizzico, a 14oz. serving of “all natural, Certified Angus NY strip grilled, and finished with a roasted garlic red wine reduction and herbed compound butter.”
Desserts are different every day at Pizzico. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to try some of their gelato with flavors like pistachio and hazelnut mocha. With the addition of Pizzico to its neighborhood, Barrington now can boast one of Rhode Island’s most favored and respected Italian restaurants.