Dining Review

Big Flavor on Westminster Street

Vinya takes tapas dining in a sophisticated, new direction


Vinya is the latest restaurant to spring up in the small space of 225a Westminster Street. Like the Arcade’s microlofts, tiny restaurants have a cozy allure, especially in a compact city like ours. If you’ve been around Providence for a few years, you might have visited this address when it hosted Flan Y Ajo, also a tapas restaurant. The layout is similar, but Vinya’s configuration is entirely seated, with room for 20.

Since Vinya is BYOB, we browsed the shelves at Eno, conveniently located next door to the restaurant. Though it’s also fairly small, Eno is practically stacked to the ceiling with a large selection of wine, and the store’s knowledgeable staff are always ready to help you find the right bottle. We ended up with the Mustiguillo Mestizaje Bobal ($15.99). A Murtia Monastrell and the Lechuza Garnacha, both under $12, were also recommended for tapas.

Stepping out of the crisp night and into the welcoming warmth of Vinya, we found two seats at the bar. My preference is to choose a seat overlooking the kitchen – it’s fun to get a glimpse of what’s cooking. We’ve stopped by fairly early and have always been able to find seating for two, but if you’re worried about getting in, they do take reservations.

The driving force behind Vinya is Massimiliano Mariotta, a Swiss chef with an impressive background including some time at Providence’s The Dorrance. Every time we’ve visited Vinya, he’s eager to talk about the menu and get feedback from diners.

Though Vinya has a printed menu, make sure to read the three chalkboards showcasing the available meats and cheeses, tapas specials and desserts. We started with a Cheese and Charcuterie plate ($16 for 3 items, or $6 each a la carte), choosing Murcia Al Vino, a semi-soft Spanish goat cheese with a wine-washed rind, local spicy sopressata and aged Serrano from Spain (a $2 surcharge). Our cheese and meat plate was garnished with a slice of date cake, quince paste, grapes and honey. We followed with a snack from the specials menu – the Catalan Egg ($3), a smoked hard-boiled egg spiced with paprika.

Another special, the Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Chorizo ($9), was a seasonally appropriate selection. I was surprised by the tomato sauce. It may be an unexpected combination, but the sauce had a light sweetness that complemented the saltiness of the Brussels and sausage. We also enjoyed the Braised Ribs with Red Wine ($9), meaty short ribs cooked to fall-apart perfection. These paired especially well with our wine.

Speaking of wine, we enjoyed talking to Will, who trained as a sommelier and plans to add some tapas-friendly Spanish wine selections to the restaurant’s menu; diners will still be able to bring their own bottles. Currently, there are several non-alcoholic beverages on the menu, including a few unusual sodas and sparkling water. We sipped the large bottle of Vimeiro ($7), a sparkling water from Portugal.

Our dinner continued with the Albondigas with Spicy Tomato Sauce ($8). I’ve never had a meatball that was so light and fluffy; despite their delicate consistency, they were rich in flavor. A dish of Patatas Bravas topped with an egg ($6) was fun to eat but wasn’t my favorite incarnation of the dish. Maybe it just paled in comparison to the more vibrant dishes we’d been sampling.

Even if you carry a childhood disdain for anchovies, don’t dismiss the Marinated Anchovies ($6). In this traditional Spanish preparation, also called boquerones, the fish are not salty like the their pizza-parlor cousins, but pickled and light. These were served on small toasts alongside tasty marinated red Spanish peppers and small olives.

I would have gladly tried every option on the dessert board, but we limited ourselves to two: a Ruby Port Fig with Ice Cream and Arroz Dulce with Strawberry Chutney (both $6). Since we were on our way to the theater, we thought it would be a good idea to wake up with a heady espresso ($3 each).

When I first heard that a tapas restaurant was opening at this address, I thought it was a brave undertaking: Flan Y Ajo was a Providence favorite and arguably impossible to recreate. However, the menu selections and vibe of Vinya take tapas in a different direction, Barcelona-inspired and mature. Since our first visit on opening week, the menu has grown considerably, and the restaurant is clearly finding its groove, with plenty of regular diners eager to sample its small, flavorful dishes.

225a Westminster Street

vinya, tapas, downcity, small bites, providence dining, spanish, westminster street, flan y ajo, flan, patatas bravas


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