Italian restaurants in Rhode Island are, for the most part, abundant and inexpensive. It seems like every region of the state, right down to almost every community, has at least one, and in Narragansett there are several. Right in the middle of the town, in one of the more central and busier parts of the area, lies Arturo Joe’s. Long a staple of Narragansett – it even burned down and came back from that – Arturo Joe’s fills the bill for Italian in southern Rhode Island.
When I say Arturo Joe’s is a staple restaurant, it’s not simply for its location and cuisine. It’s also because the place is open seven days a week from 11:30am- 1am. They serve lunch and dinner and also offer a Late Night Menu, as well as a special low-priced Stimulus Menu from 4-5:30pm on Monday through Thursday, and that doesn’t include their catering menu or the fact that their large back room can accommodate private parties. The amount of food they serve is also staggering: appetizers, salads, soups, sandwiches, of course there are many pasta dishes and Italian meat and fish specialties, along with wood-grilled pizzas. One could dine at Arturo Joe’s every day for weeks and not eat the same thing twice, which is a nice thing for a neighborhood restaurant to offer to those that may very well do exactly that.
When you walk into the front dining room at Arturo Joe’s the neighborhood comes through in the décor. Being an Italian restaurant of course there are a lot of warm earth tones giving that American-version-of-Tuscany feel, but the walls are covered in large prints of old black and white photos of Narragansett. They’re great looking images to tie in the town. Being a busy Saturday night when we went we were led to a table in the back dining room where there was a group of around 20 enjoying a big family meal.
While our server brought us a great bread plate with several types of bread and some olive oil with roasted garlic cloves, I perused the wine list as we were seated right by a good looking wine room. As you would expect there was a nice selection of Italian wines, but also a large choice of some of the more well-known United States wine brands. There’s also a large selection of wines by the glass, a bunch of half-bottles, which is always good to see, and at least 28 beers as well as over 30 martinis. There’s no shortage of drinks to be had at Arturo Joe’s.
For dinner my wife and I ordered some things that we thought were typical of an Italian restaurant and some we felt were more unique to Arturo Joe’s. First up were the Fig Mascarpone Phyllo Purses ($10) with balsamic vinegar cream sauce with sun-dried tomatoes, scallions, hints of garlic, tarragon and dill, finished with a balsamic reduction. The dish sounded intriguingly different and since it’s a good time for figs we gave it a try. It was definitely different, very elaborately presented with swirls of the reduction almost painted on the plate. There was a lot going on with a great sweetness to the dish, but cut back by the tomato and vinegar. We also had the Gorgonzola Bread ($7.50) which is house-made focaccia bread stacked, then covered with gorgonzola cheese, a touch of cream, garlic and Italian herbs. This dish was lighter than we expected, with just a hint of that Gorgonzola punch. The garlic and herbed focaccia absorbed a lot of creamy cheese so that you never felt the bread was swimming in it.
For dinner my wife had the Chicken Mascarpone ($15.50) while I went with Pasta Bolognese ($14), a staple to judge the staple on.
Entrées come with your choice of pasta and like most Italian restaurants, there’s always plenty of pasta. Arturo Joe’s also offers gluten-free pastas and many of the dishes can be completely gluten-free this way. The Chicken Mascarpone was chicken breast sautéed with caramelized onions, mushrooms, fire-roasted red peppers, sweet mascarpone cheese, butter, garlic and white wine. It was a big dish, one of those that my wife was happy to take home for continued eating the next day. There was a ton of garlic flavor and thankfully not too much of the cheese to make it a heavy sauce dish. There were also plenty of mushrooms and peppers for variety. The Pasta Bolognese, which I got with penne, had ground beef, pork and veal in a tomato sauce with a splash of cream topped with Pecorino Romano cheese. Again, it was not an overpowering sauce, which let the other flavors come through. I wouldn’t describe it as a traditional Bolognese sauce, perhaps slightly more New World with a lighter touch for healthier eating.
All in all, it was a good neighborhood restaurant dinner for any day of the week. I’m sure Arturo Joe’s will continue to feed Narragansett for many more years to come.