[Sidebar] August 13 - 20, 1998
[Food Reviews]
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The Schoolhouse

A tasty education in dishes from around the world

by Johnette Rodriguez

14 Narragansett Ave., Jamestown, 423-1490
Open Mon-Fri. for lunch
11:30 a.m.-5 p.m., dinner 5-10 p.m.
Sat & Sun brunch, 7:30 a.m.-noon,
lunch, 12-5 p.m., dinner 5-11 p.m.
Major credit cards
Sidewalk access

In the summertime, life on our New England islands becomes as languorous and luxurious as any St. Thomas or St. Bart's -- witness Newport and its more modest cousin, Jamestown.

Indeed, on any given summer evening in downtown Jamestown, music drifts out of a half-dozen doors, residents linger on park benches, and tourists stop to read menus at restaurants that have moved outdoors. And it was on just such an evening that my husband, Bill, and I decided to visit the Schoolhouse, whose building has gone through several incarnations, including that of housing schoolchildren.

Photos and artifacts in the dining room carry through this theme -- the menu is cleverly divided into sections titled "opening bell, the primer, and dinner bell," and an old-fashioned school desk sits out front, below the posted daily specials. Behind these is a list of "Did you know?" facts, including the interesting service at the Schoolhouse of teaching people how to cook any of their menu items.

Owner/chef Tufan Oral came to the States more than 15 years ago from his native Turkey, and he is proud to offer several Middle Eastern dishes, including kofte (ground beef and lamb patties), shish kofte (ground sirloin and lamb grilled on a skewer), and doner kebab (those succulent, spicy slices slivered off a tall vertical skewer).

In keeping with this ethnic emphasis, we chose stuffed grape leaves ($4.25) to begin our meal, as well as New England clam chowder ($3.50 a bowl). The grape leaves were stuffed with rice, pine nuts, and bread crumbs, and served with plenty of olive oil and lemon. The chowder, true to its name, had more clams than potatoes and was dreamily creamy.

From the large selection of entrées (Wiener schnitzel to veal parmigiana, baked cod to lobster ravioli, veggie couscous to sautéed duck), I chose a variation of the seafood sauté (a "special" at $18.95), while Bill had the sautéed chicken breast ($13.75). Both of them turned out to be more than their "sauté" description would suggest.

Bill's, for instance, was topped with blue cheese, roasted garlic, black olives, fresh tomatoes, and spinach. The boneless breast had been lightly dredged in flour and pan-simmered in olive oil, making it tender and juicy. The cheese did outsing the other ingredients, but Bill was pleased with the sound. As a side dish, he opted for scallion mashed potatoes (Turkish rice pilaf or bulgur wheat pilaf were also available) and found them spiked with garlic as well as scallions.

Tempted by all the seafood possibilities, including entrées with squid, mussels, and littlenecks, I settled on one with shrimp, scallops, and smoked salmon in an alfredo sauce with capers and artichoke hearts over fettucine. The pasta was perfect and the seafood was delicious, but the sauce seemed too thin to stick to the noodles. However, a small portion of freshly grated parmesan was served on the side for those who wanted more of a good thing.

Desserts that night included peanut-butter pie, lemon mousse cake, and a fresh berry tarte, but we chose not to indulge. Our senses were too flooded already with the summer night: green accents on the red-bricked patio (fence, table trim, chairs, and umbrellas), pink and purple petunias hanging in windowboxes on the weathered gray shingles of the Schoolhouse, mellow jazz classics drifting from the duo across the street, and pink clouds streaking the sky as the sun set.

Friends frequent the Schoolhouse for its Caesar salads and grilled pizzas. Sunday brunches are also popular, with specials for the kids. There is a romantic table for two on the restaurant's tiny balcony, a full bar, and a slew of magazines to peruse on the divider next to the bar. What's more, even well-behaved dogs seem welcome on the patio here. Truly, there is something for everyone at the Schoolhouse.

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