There are probably very few places where you can play music trivia with a man who goes by the name DJ Big Bill while also hunker down on a thick Portuguese steak. Paquette’s Family Restaurant is one of them. Located on 315 Waterman in East Providence, its baby blue exterior shines brightly, heralding a dizzying – and glutinous – array of Portuguese-American and Italian-American dishes. Walking in under a stone-encrusted podium and past the bar filled with a flock of customers gabbing away, you are pleasantly overwhelmed. Bright red tablecloths pop in the dining room with napkins folded crisply inside wine glasses, and vines decorating the walls. The best way to describe it: The pleasant kitschiness of a Poconos honeymoon resort meets the gleaming fecundity of the Azores.
My friend and I were hungry, so we sat down, opened the expansive menu, and were suddenly overwhelmed by options. The appetizers called to us: Portuguese stuffed quahogs, Theo’s spanakopita pie, chourico flambe, garlic shrimp, portuguese clams, wings. For folks looking for healthier options, the pear and gorgonzola salad and spinach salad with apples, cranberries and some incredible concoction called “bacon vinaigrette” seem stellar. It just wasn’t a salad kind of day.
The pizza immediately beckons. With unconventional toppings like loaded potato, shrimp mozambique and even a build-your-own option, we agreed that a pizza would be necessary. The fish, too, tempted us, with dishes like pan-seared salmon, sole francaise, bacalhau and seafood casserole. Next came the meat: Portuguese steak, surf ‘n’ turf, smothered steak tips, and grilled pork chops. Gleaning over the designated Portuguese and Italian sections, we made mental notes about the chicken mozambique, paella, risotto, eggplant parm, and chicken marsala. For pasta, the shrimp scampi, ravioli, and linguine with clam sauce were particularly tempting.
The pizza was rich and flavorful. A tasty flatbread topped with roasted red pepper, kale, and chourico, we decided to take what we couldn’t finish home to make room for the rest of our feast. A few minutes later, our main course arrived. We ordered eggplant parm that was larger than my head, the shrimp risotto, and a Portuguese steak topped with ham, a fried egg, and a side of fries. The steak was cooked well and bursting with the flavor of the sauce and fried toppings. The risotto was light and tasty, a perfect counterbalance to the richness of the steak and the cheesy eggplant.
After a few bites, though, we realized that the restaurant would be offering some entertainment. Every Tuesday night a DJ hosts a music trivia game where customers have to guess the name of a song after ten seconds. A few stumped us. But my friend, a former 95.5 WBRU emcee, was extremely helpful. As we took our last few bites before throwing in the towel to our indulgent meal, we listened to ten-second bytes of Smashmouth and Rihanna, and asked for a box. Or several.
Paquette’s Family Restaurant
315 Waterman Ave, East Providence • 401-443-4300