This is my 2nd installment of my RI Blog, the smallest state with a million reasons to live here. I previoulsy wrote about the State itslef and how it is divided into a bunch of very different counties that varies from coastline to country. And then my first blog about the individual towns would start with the small town I was brought up in, North Smithfield, historically significant in so many ways. But, But, tonight I was watching my favorite TV chef, Lidia Bastianich who was in St Louis, another great small/big city, and her show featured an Italian section of the City called 'The Hill." I was instantly salivating and thinking about our own great city, the City of Providence.
As you may recall from my previous blog, I was mentioning the great diversities of Providence. Home to Ivy League Brown University, RISD, JOhnson and Wales, colleges that have borne great minds, thinkers, and huge success stories such as Emeril Lagasse who graduated from J&W and lived in nearby Fall River, MA. But what is really reaching out to me to talk to you about is our own "Hill" and that is Federal Hill.
Now I love food and love the story of the Italian immigrants who moved here to for opportunity and jobs. They came to America to contribute and that they did. Our "Hill" is called Federal Hill and it it home to some of the best restaurants in the country thankfully to the contributions of the immagrants to took unimaginable risks to be in the U.S. I am so enthralled by the notion that while assimilating into American culture, they never let go of their own. Holding on to their heritage and adopting new traditions.
I married into an Italian immigrant family. I am fortunate enough to have met my husband's grandmother. She reigned from Sicily and lived a humble life in Sicily. Every Sunday Nona cooked. I was 16 years old dating my how husband and took it all in. I am French but somewhere things got mixed up. I was supposed to be Italian. I cooked Italian, I spoke Italian, and read every Italian cookbook I could get my per-Internet hands on from a very young age. I watched Nona's think palms knead the pasta dough and lay it out to dry on bedspreads. I memorized her Sicialian meatball recipe and to this day, 30 years later, am the only one who can make Nona's meatballs. Ok, I amy be digressing, but maybe I am not. It is an appreciation for the struggles and the beauty they made of their lives. After all, Nono, Nona's husband walked to and from the mill every day for paltry wages. Buer here in America, they were rich and I will never forget Nona's high cheekbones and vigorous snile. And try as I might, my meatballs will never taste like hers.
Walking down Federal Hill is a smorgasboard of wonderful aromas. If we are there to just shop for gorceries to take home, we go to Venda Ravioli, a Italian Food Emporium run by the Cosantino's. You will find the store broken doen into charcuterie, fresh homemade sausage, pirme steaks, cheeses, cued olives, and ready made foods. Thir breads are to die for and you can buy desserts and gelato. Dine inside or out from spring to fall.
Restaurants to visit for sure are , Siena for Northern Italy fare, Camilles Roman Garden, Mediterraneo Grill, Pane e Vino. Ok, you are thinking these are touristy places. Normally that would be true, But the Hill is authentic and as Italian as it gets. During the day, you can visit, .... and in the back of the store will be a small group of locals drinking espresso and speaking Italian. It is like being in Italy. There is nothing touristy about Federal Hill. In fact, the strangest thing is that we have found the best Mexican and Asian food on the Hill too. It's as if the word got out that if you want real, then you need to be here.
Let's not forget the other very significant part of Italian food is the bakeries. Home to Scialo bakery as seen on Lidias Italy. They featured the zeppole that is part of the St Joseph's Day tradition where locals line up outside the door when it is zeppole time, a crusty eclair lie exterior and creamy custard center topped with a cherry, only found in March-April.
Visiting RI is very easy and staying in the city offers lots of great options.Providence is big enough to have a Westin Hotel with high end suites, the old and lavish Biltmore Hotel, and a boutique hotel, Hotel Providence. All have top of the line restaurants that will rival any food fare in the country.Close to entertain,ent