Seafood that's worth the wait
by Johnette Rodriguez
411 Thames St., Bristol, 253-4500
Open Wed-Mon, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.
(Closed Mon Oct-April)
Major credit cards
Lesson No. 1: Don't go to Bristol the night before the Fourth of July unless
you're going to the drum-and-bugle corps competition. You'll find long lines at
all of the restaurants, including Quito's, the wonderfully funky fish-and-chips
Lesson No. 2: Carry board games and old magazines to help bored nephews and
husbands pass the time while waiting for a table (although Quito's did move 15
parties ahead of us in about 25 minutes).
The bottom line is that the food at Quito's, running the gamut of fried
seafood platters to white and red seafood dishes over pasta, is well worth the
wait. In fact, the fried items and the lobster seemed to appear within 10
minutes after being ordered.
But, alas, at our table, we made the mistake of ordering two "special orders"
-- baked scallops and pan-seared scallops -- along with two fried seafood
dinners. The former, according to our waitress, was what made our wait between
appetizers and dinners approximately 40 minutes. I'm still perplexed by this,
but be forewarned (these were regular menu items, not "specials" for the
The best aspect of the first wait was the chance to study the menu and compare
it to the platters moving past us: My, those littlenecks in red sauce look
good. Let's get one of those. Hmmm, what about that seafood stew we had on a
windy Saturday last fall? It was as good as we remembered. The stew ($5.25 a
bowl) was stuffed to the gills (forgive me) with fish, scallops and shrimp, in
a tomatoey broth both herby and briny. Two of us could barely finish it.
On the other side of the table, the red sauce on 10 littlenecks ($8.95) was
appreciated as much as the clams, with everyone reaching for bread chunks to
dip in the rich, garlicky gravy (as they say here in Rhode Island, and
especially in Portuguese/Italian Bristol).
The seafood at Quito's is as fresh as can be, coming from Bristol's local
fishermen. The tiny restaurant sits on a pier smack in the middle of Bristol
Harbor, with only a half-dozen tables inside and another dozen at each end of
the building. We lucked out and got one in the group right beside the water
(though the wait staff rolled down the plastic awnings at one point when the
sea breeze became too damp and too chilly for most customers).
The nephew ordered the clam strips seafood dinner ($13.95), the husband the
whole clam seafood dinner ($14.95), for comparison purposes, although that
turned out to be more theoretical than practical for these hungry hombres. They
could scarcely look up long enough to say, "really, really good," and "the
lightest batter I've ever had," and "get your hands off that shrimp!" Along
with the clams and shrimp were sizable portions of scallops and fish, plus
yummy, creamy coleslaw and French fries.
My friend and I, on the "special order" side of the table, savored the sea
scallop casserole ($12.95) and the pan-seared scallops ($13.95). Both dishes
came with plenty of steamed broccoli and French fries on the side. The
casserole had a lemon-butter crumb baked topping and was as satisfying as it
was generous. I loved my scallops for not floating in butter or wine, just
being themselves after stir-cooking to a delicate doneness. There were white
scallops and dark pink-orange ones, and when we asked about the difference, we
were told it's a matter of gender; The white ones are male and the pink ones
female. Is this just the cook's joke or a biological phenomenon that we've
never before noticed after all these years in the Ocean State?
Quito's has a few bottled beers and four wines (including an intriguing white
zinfandel from Turning Leaf Vineyards), plus a large assortment of
non-alcoholic beverages, including Nantucket Nectar lemonade and Mad River
ginger ale. So everyone in your group can find something to sip while they wait
at the outdoor picnic table to be seated. And if you've brought along a
Scrabble board or a deck of cards, so much the better for leaning back and
enjoying the sunset on Bristol Harbor.