After 25 years in business, Perella’s Ristorante underwent a widely publicized makeover. Sandwiched between Metacom and Arlington avenues in Warren, Perella’s has old-school dedication and commitment to quality. But with a red, wood-paneled dining room filled with green booths, for many years, it lacked a modern touch. So one year ago, when the Food Network show Restaurant Impossible came knocking, owner and chef Lou Perella opened the door. Celebrity chef (and reality show restaurant-fixer-upper) Robert Irvine took his crew to the East Bay to see how they could help out at Perella’s Ristorante.
After a $10,000 renovation courtesy of the show, Perella’s is a whole new restaurant. The dining room is now a thoughtful mosaic of gray and white tones, with glimpses of their old wood paneling to conjure up memories of the OG dining room. Distressed white decorative panels on the ceiling brighten while a backlit wine rack on the main wall adds elegance.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the food quality. First up was a Perella’s staple, the calamari. While Irvine updated many aspects of the menu, chef Lou put his foot down when it came to doing away with calamari. Traditional Rhode Island-style calamari is alive and well in all its crispy splendor at Perella’s. The mix of garlic butter, banana peppers, and fried squid is perfect, with their slightly thicker batter that soaks it all in just a little more than your run-of-the-mill fry.
A new menu item, the Burrata, Beets, and Belly Salad, is a superb balance of nuanced, diverse flavors. I don’t usually jump at a salad, but this is arugula topped with a honey vinaigrette, fresh sliced beets, burrata mozzarella, and chunks of pork belly, finished with crushed pistachio nuts. The textures here are as important as the flavors. As an appetizer, it’s deliciously light and refreshing, and provides an excellent symmetry to a heavy entree.
Speaking of entrees, Lou Junior’s Rigatoni Bolognese is my main course of choice. The dish is a hearty mix of pork and beef in a signature bolognese sauce, served with dollops of whipped ricotta over housemade mezzi rigatoni. With a slightly alternative mix of spices and a subtle sweetness to the sauce, this dish is a home run for those of us looking for a modern take on classic Italian.
Ideal for sharing, The Northern Exposure is an appetizing smorgasbord of shrimp, littlenecks, and chourico over ziti with a thinner tomato-based sauce, bringing a delightful trace of Portuguese influence to the menu. Among Perella’s best surprises is their new mushroom rigatoni special: a simpler plate with fresh pasta, big bold meaty bites of mushroom, and small pieces of thick-cut bacon throughout.
“I don’t even really like mushrooms, but this is delicious,” chef Lou confides in me after dinner. “I don’t want those button mushrooms – we’re using cremini mushrooms, king oysters, porcini. The good ones! This was originally supposed to be a vegetarian dish, but the bacon fits it so well. I can’t take it out!”
Somehow, even with a whole new modern look and contemporary menu for this Warren favorite, Perella’s welcoming charm feels exactly the same.
Perella’s Ristorante • 311 Metacom Ave, Warren • 401-245-0150