Set on Spruce Street, the parallel neighbor to Atwells Avenue, Trattoria Del Mare provides the cachet of Federal Hill with less hype and a shorter wait time. The first floor of this non-descript building has housed a number of predecessors in the last decade: the legendary BYOB restaurant Casa Christine, which I still can’t believe I never tried, Thornton’s and, most recently, D’Vine On The Hill.
Why not seize the opportunity of a warm early-fall evening and dine al fresco? Trattoria Del Mare has an ample back patio, and as we walked to our table I was reminded of a favorite Federal Hill memory. Several years ago, as we strolled out the rear of Federal Hill’s iconic piazza, a friend who had recently moved to Rhode Island exclaimed, “Wow! You can even see the water from here!” We had a good laugh; the valley that lies beyond Spruce Street was carved out by a highway instead of a scenic river, but it does provide a pause in the landscape that bends like a body of water. Dining on Trattoria Del Mare’s terrace, you probably won’t notice the highway below, and the open expanse is inviting as you gaze out over the old mills and distant rooftops. Consider it a unique Providence experience.
Don’t discount the outdoor seating here as the weather cools. Much of it is covered, and the heat lamps and a large brick fireplace will keep you toasty. Of course, the restaurant’s interior has plenty of tables too.
Before we ordered, a treat arrived from the kitchen: the house pita bread. Drizzled with a tangy garlic cheese sauce, it woke up our palates.
Our waiter reminded us of the dollar raw bar specials that run from four to six on weeknights. We started with a half dozen oysters and two shrimp which were most definitely jumbo (all $1 each). The happy hour special also includes littlenecks. The Mionetto Prosecco Brut ($9/glass) was a decent pairing for our raw selection.
We continued with the Ceviche ($10), large enough to split with two or more. Generous cubes of tuna and salmon mixed colorfully with shrimp and plump orange mussels. This ceviche wasn’t as puckeringly acidic as some, and the ingredients tasted fresh.
Our two salads were the stars of this dining experience. My husband had the Burrata Salad ($9). Three slices of tomato were each topped with a generous slab of burrata and drizzled with a truffle balsamic glaze. I had the MED Crab salad ($14). Both halves of a just-ripe avocado were piled with crab meat. These were served, along with three jumbo shrimp, on a bed of baby greens dressed with a simple lemon vinaigrette. I expected a dainty appetizer salad, but this was huge and would have made a great dinner salad for a healthy eater. The Del Mare Salad is a similar offering which substitutes ceviche for the crab meat.
For our entrées, we switched to the crisp Harbor Town Sauvignon Blanc ($8/glass). My husband ordered the Lobster Fra Diavlo ($26), a classic dish with lobster, tomato-based sauce and plenty of spaghetti. I liked that this was spicier than other local versions of the dish (though not overly so, and I’m sure the kitchen will tone it down on request). My entrée choice was the Seafood Risotto ($24), a large creamy dish of risotto with salmon, scallops and shrimp. I appreciated the richness of the flavor and that it was looser than some brick-like risotto dishes I’ve seen recently.
We shared two desserts: the Chocolate Cake and a Peanut Butter Gelato bombe ($6 each). The cake was, to my delight, the reverse of a typical layer cake, with sponge cake layered thinly between a thick fudgy mousse. We both vied for the gelato’s caramel center.
Though the menu doesn’t follow cutting-edge food trends, the food was well prepared with fresh ingredients, and I would gladly try more of the menu based on the quality of our sampling. It’s especially welcome to have another seafood-focused option in town, considering they are less numerous than you’d expect from the capital of the Ocean State.
Trattoria Del Mare
145 Spruce Street