[Sidebar] August 3 - 10, 2000
[Food Reviews]
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Fish Stories

Seafood that's worth a jaunt

by Johnette Rodriguez

629 Succotash Road, East Matunuck, 789-2864
Open daily, 2-10 p.m.
Major credit cards
Sidewalk access, bathrooms not accessible

Summertime visitors come to South County for the surf and the sand, but they stick around for a good cup o' chowdah, a few "stuffies" and a cold beer at the end of the day. A newcomer to the seafood scene, Fish Stories offers all three and much, much more.

Just up the road from East Matunuck State Beach, Fish Stories is perched on the edge of Potter Pond, with glorious views of the water and wildlife from the dining room's back tables. On a recent outing with friends, we took in the whole range of summer life at the shore: kids scrambling down the bank to cast fishing lines; a guy in a wet suit boarding his Jet-ski; a graceful white egret walking along the rocks where the sun was starting to sink.

The stories unfolding outside our window, along with new stories from our out-of-town friends, made it hard for us to focus on the menu. But when we did, we were pleased to see far more than fish and chips. In fact, there is no fish and chips at Fish Stories, nor fried seafood of any kind. The seafood is either grilled (with a choice of four marinades), baked (with or without stuffing) or sauteed (in white or red sauces).

Reading the menu more closely, we quickly detected the Portuguese and Italian influences in Fish Stories' kitchen: snail salad marinated in garlic, oil and vinegar; olives and peppers simmered in the sauces; even eggplant parmesan or meatballs over linguine for those who don't want seafood. We started off with clams zuppa ($5.95), littlenecks in red or white sauce (we chose white), and sauteed calamari ($5.95). The littlenecks were tasty, with plenty of garlic in the sauce (great for dipping our bread), but our attention was quickly diverted by the deliciously tender squid rings in a thick tomatoey sauce. This, too, had plenty of garlic, along with hot pepper rings and black olives.

There were varying appetites around the table, so two of our party chose from the salad column: grilled tuna salad ($8.95) and jerk shrimp salad ($9.95). The latter featured six jumbo shrimp grilled with jerk spices, served over fresh mesclun greens. Bill enjoyed the shrimp and salad, and we all had a nibble of our friend's tuna -- grilled and then chilled and dressed with a perky lemon vinaigrette.

I was in a try-everything mood, and the seafood cioppino ($12.95), with clams, mussels, scallops and shrimp, offered me that opportunity. I was somewhat anxious about the linguine and red sauce, because of my ineptness at swirling linguine into bite-sized portions without splattering myself with sauce, but I persevered, with the aid of strategically positioned extra napkins.

The sauce was tasty, with a hot pepper nip to it, and the scallops were cooked just right. The clams, mussels and shrimp, however, seemed a little over-cooked to my taste.

The fourth member of our party, moving as far away as possible from hot spices and/or garlic, chose stuffed flounder ($10.95). He liked the chunks of real crabmeat in the stuffing and the creamy lobster sauce on top. But unfortunately for him (a windfall for the rest of us), his red bliss potato slices were pan-fried with garlic. He did like his mixed summer vegetables, zucchini and yellow squash.

Most desserts at Fish Stories are not house-made, so we opted for the one that was: strawberry shortcake ($4.50). The pound-cake under the strawberries was delicious, and the strawberries had been marinated in balsamic vinegar, which mysteriously brought out their sweetness. An unusual and thoroughly successful variation on this dessert.

Despite its name, Fish Stories also offers three chicken dishes; a porterhouse steak; a selection of burgers; a veggie pocket; meatball or sausage "grindas" and grilled Saugys. There are a dozen wines, a fistful of beers and a few unusual beverages, such as hard lemonade and "twisted tea."

The dining room at Fish Stories is filled with light from the many windows on two sides, the light blue decor makes you feel as if you're snorkeling underwater and our waitress was as cheerful as the walls. The Asquino family, who for years owned a popular East Providence restaurant called Asquino's, has put its best foot forward in South County. Fish Stories is bound to generate some stories of its own.

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