Federal Hill is home to a strong Italian-American community that is a product of massive Italian immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Providence reaps the benefits of this population through top notch, albeit relatively expensive, Italian food that cannot be beat by anywhere in at least a fifty-mile radius. One of the most famous restaurants is Mediterraneo that is known not just for its quality, but possibly more so for its patronage – it was the favorite of former mayor Buddy Cianci before he was imprisoned.
The owner Gianfranco Marrocco also owns Caffe Dolce Vita and Gepetto’s Pizza both on Federal Hill. Marrocco got his establishments off the ground with the support of the former mayor and while still in office, Cianci was known to frequent the café often and have a regular table at the restaurant. The prices of Mediterraneo reflect its famous reputation, but locals say it is worth the price for the excellent service and menu.
Image: Wikimedia Commons mediterraneo
Federal Hill isn’t just good for dinner but also for fine Italian desserts including cannolis, tortes, and cakes. Pastiche Fine Desserts and Café is a highly rated bakery serving all of these staples, plus a plethora of its own specialties. It too lies atop Federal Hill among the myriad of Italian restaurants. Another native, Luigi Scalo arrived in Providence from Italy in 1916 and started his longevous bakery that arries his namesake. The Scialo Brothers Bakery is a family run operation that produces homemade, from-scratch pastries in original brick ovens that date back to the 1920s.
Image: Pastiche Desserts
In sharp contrast to the old town charm and history of Federal Hill is the up-and-coming Jewelry District that is the home of new restaurateurs and culinary experimentalists. As a result of a downward spiral starting in the 1970s after once being called the jewelry capital of the world, the Jewelry District was left with empty red brick factory buildings waiting to be reinvigorated. Since the late 1990s though, more than 15 restaurants, bars and clubs have popped up.
A favorite in the Jewelry District is CAV Restaurant that offers superior food and a lot more in one of the district’s revamped factory spaces. Dishes on the menu are not the only items for sale, as everything in the
restaurant can be bought at the right price. CAV stands for Cocktails/Antiques/Victuals, which tells you exactly what you can consume – an original drink, unique home décor, and scrumptious food. Although considered a new American restaurant, North African art and kilims (tapestries) cover the walls, homemade oil lamps light the room, and sculptures and bronzes from around the world lie on the tables waiting to be bought. Don’t be fooled by the décor though, the cuisine is by the far the main attraction and has received multiple awards and rave reviews. Check out their menu that will whet your appetite in a second.
Image: CAV Restaurant