From tapas to tortes, a cuisine that spans the Continent
by Johnette Rodriguez
21 Pier Market Place, Narragansett
Open Wed - Sun, 5:30 to 9 p.m.
Major credit cards
When a small breakfast cafe in Westerly started serving dinner almost three
years ago, it was the buzz of foodies in South County. The problem was that the
dinners werre offered only on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and we never
got there on the right day before we heard that the restaurant had closed.
Well, the buzz about Woody's (named for a fictional dog) has started up again,
because owners Ted and Kim Monahan have reopened, this time in Narragansett.
We're glad they're back, and we're glad they've taken over the location of the
short-lived Cucina Casalingua.
They've kept the lace curtains and cream-colored walls with spring-green
ceiling accents, the sconces framing plates with fruit motifs, the marble-tiled
floors and black enameled chairs. They've also kept the standards of the
previous inhabitants: friendly, attentive service and a careful, creative
Although the first of the appetizers (called tapas) nods toward the Southwest
(squash-and-red-pepper quesadillas with a chipotle creme fraiche) and a
Provençal broth provides the base for two seafood dishes, most of the
Monahans' specialities are Italian or, more specifically, Tuscan, as in a spicy
white bean sauce, a Tuscan relish served with grilled scallops, and the Tuscan
bread salad, which we couldn't resist.
We actually started off with the Provencal shellfish roast -- P.E.I. mussels,
clams, and scallops in a very light but deliciously savory tomato broth
($8.81). It was a generous portion for two, with bread slices thoughtfully
provided to absorb some of the broth.
Next came the Tuscan bread salad ($8.77) with Greek olives, red pepper, wide
slivers of freshly grated Parmesan, mixed baby greens, and the requisite large,
soft bread chunks soaked in a vinaigrette -- a completely different experience
from a few crunchy croutons. A theme had begun to appear in this meal.
My entree choice had thick slices of grilled pizza as its first layer,
sundried tomato couscous as the second, and a mound of roasted vegetables
decoratively placed on top. This vegetable papoli ($14.14), as it is called,
can be ordered in a "traditional cafe" portion for $1.50 less, as can five
other items on the menu, primarily pasta dishes.
The veggies were capped with a roasted red pepper wedge and a parsley sprig
(still thinking in holiday colors?), and spilling out of the pile were wax and
green beans, asparagus spears, and large slices of eggplant, zucchini, and
yellow squash. All were deliciously roasted, except for the beans, which were a
bit underdone for my taste.
Despite the temptations of grilled duck, pistachio-encrusted lamb, free-range
chicken, and Napoleon-style salmon (atop mashed potatoes and vegetables), my
partner was in a meatless mood as well. His whim was Mediterranean ravioli with
white bean sauce ($16.01). Filled with grilled eggplant, roasted red pepper,
and ricotta, these six large ravioli had whole, stewed tomatoes, as well as the
white beans, to complement them, and they had a tasty pizzazz.
In keeping with the bread/starch theme of this meal, for dessert my
half-Italian partner chose "Tuscan lime doughnuts" ($4.50) from a list of
house-made, scrumptious-sounding options (new in Narragansett, since desserts
at the old Westerly location were from a Pawtucket bakery). These included
open-faced apple crostata with vanilla ice cream, plum pudding with hard sauce,
pumpkin cheesecake, and a chocolate torte with warm raspberry sauce.
The "doughnuts" were akin to beignets, sopapillas, or that Rhode Island
festival favorite -- doughboys. My partner explained that fried dough with
sugar had been traditional fare in his house at Christmas, and these had the
added kick of lime zest in the sugar. Served piping hot with a glass of cold
milk, they were a comfort food extraordinaire to cap this meal.
So although the Johnson & Wales-trained Monahans have cut out breakfasts
and lunches at Woody's and now concentrate only on dinners, it's as good for
their patrons as it is for them. They can focus more effort on the things they
love best: the fancy twists and turns of continental cuisine, from tapas to