When Chef Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares” came to my neighborhood to reconstruct Cafe Tavolini (now viewable here), I was filled with hope. I had been a steady customer since it opened, and I could sense its decline.
What a disappointment that the restaurant folded soon after the episode wrapped.Tragic for the owners, of course, but a big letdown for the neighborhood as well. Black Rock could have used the boost, and I was looking forward to their promising new menu.
I had never watched “Nightmares” until I learned that their cameras were coming to town, and now I find myself watching every week. Those cameras were also trained on another struggling eatery about two hours up the road — DownCity in Providence. This episode had a much happier ending.
I was in Providence this weekend for the Society of Professional Journalists‘ conference, and when I had a little free time, I found myself checking out the place.
The restaurant is obviously proud of their association with Ramsay, even if the show didn’t always cast them in a flattering light. An autographed portrait of the famed chef hangs in the front window. And it appears Ramsay’s reworked dishes are still on the bill of fare.
The Bridgeport boy in me had to try the calamari. It’s a popular dish close to home, and it often resembles DownCity’s previous incarnation. Ramsay gave it a “salty spicy” coating, a peppery mix with lots of cornmeal. The dipping sauce is a surprise — a retro green goddess sauce, basically herb-infused Caesar dressing that’s hard to find these days. I loved it. Paired with a glass of wine, it was a nice light lunch enjoyed at the bar.
The wait staff comprised the same people I saw on the program. I even spied the owner counting receipts, looking very businesslike and engaged.
I’ll look forward to returning to DownCity next time I’m in the neighborhood. But for now, I’m happy that I got to sample just one Gordon Ramsay dish — the type I was hoping to enjoy back home.