Our stomachs were grumbling as we pulled up to Pat’s, which is a good way to begin an evening of serious sampling. Pat’s strip-mall location may be unimpressive, but as we entered, we were soothed by the comfortable, nicely-decorated and surprisingly spacious interior.
Pat’s has expanded to take up the entire strip mall, making room for not only plenty of dining tables and booths, but also a lounge with a large bar and lower seating area, as well as a banquet room which seats over 50 people. Though the parking lot was full on a Friday night, we only waited a few minutes to be seated.
As we ordered appetizers, I eagerly attacked the bread basket and could have eaten a loaf of the whole-grain bread myself. It was just a delicious, old-style slice. The Arancini ($7.95) were served four to a plate. I liked that these fried rice balls had plenty of cheese and incorporated fresh spinach in place of peas. The Mozzarella triangles ($7.95), also an order of four, were a fantasy version of the mozzarella sticks of our childhood, giant and fresh. Both appetizers were served with a saucer of Pat’s signature tomato basil sauce.
The Polpette ($8.95), a special, featured three giant meatballs swimming in sauce with a dollop of Narragansett Creamery ricotta. The meatballs were airy, as if whipped, with a soft, velvety texture. Pat’s famous tomato basil sauce enhanced all three of these appetizers. Once named “Best Sauce in Rhode Island” by readers of the Providence Journal, it is light and uniform with a hint of sweetness. This lightness was appreciated; we must have had a jarful with our appetizers alone!
To drink, we shared one bottle, and then another, of the Sensi Cupido Sangiovese ($27). It was dry and smooth, able to cut through rich food. Pat’s entrees come with a choice of soup or salad. The rest of my table chose the salad with creamy Parmesan peppercorn dressing. I tried the chicken soup, a traditional version with plenty of small Acini di Pepe-type pasta.
For my main, I ordered the Vitello alla Sorrento ($21.95), a breaded veal cutlet topped with mozzarella, ricotta and breaded eggplant, served in sauce. The size of this dish was impressive, the cutlet pounded to the size of a dinner plate. My husband’s Inferno di Pollo del David ($19.95) had plenty of character. The large chicken breast was topped with prosciutto, tomato, fresh mozzarella and scattered with hot pepper rings. One of our friends had the Cotoletta di Pollo Parmigiana ($16.95), which you probably know as chicken Parmesan. This, too, was served with melted mozzarella and tomato-basil sauce.
These three entrees came with a choice of pasta, potato or vegetable. I recommend upgrading to one of the homemade pastas ($1.95 surcharge): radiatore, bucatini, rigatoni and pappardelle. I loved my radiatore, which were playfully large, almost the size of ping-pong balls. This quirky pasta shape is named after a radiator. Just like a radiator’s folds increase surface area to provide more heat, the squiggles of this pasta increase surface area to soak up more sauce. Both my husband and our friend chose the pappardelle. It arrived on a platter, family-style, with a huge scoop.
Our fourth dining companion had a pasta dish for her entree. The Butternut Squash Ravioli ($17.95), a first-time special, were not only filled with butternut squash, but also had squash in the dough. The brilliantly orange ravioli were tossed with slices of grilled chicken breast. She was happy with her choice, and jealous glances from nearby tables told me this special might make a repeat appearance.
We shared two desserts. Our Spumoni ($4.95) was a classic version of the layered ice cream treat made with chocolate, pistachio and cherry ice cream, drizzled with melba sauce. The Mud Pie ($7.95) had a chocolate crust filled with coffee and chocolate ice cream, topped with milk chocolate. We enjoyed these with cappuccino ($4) and coffees ($2, free refills).
Our young server, who was exceptionally attentive, was a highlight of our experience. We also appreciated the restaurant’s commitment to source local ingredients, including meat.
Pat’s Italian’s tagline is “nobody leaves this kitchen hungry,” and they certainly deliver on that promise. Not only did we leave full, but carrying bags of leftovers.
Pat’s Italian Restaurant
1200 Hartford Ave, Johnston