Review: Cresta Bar & Ristorante

Diamond in the rough
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  February 15, 2012


Cresta Bar & Ristorante, the new restaurant in Pawtucket, is really classing up the place. Its home in the old Apex building may soon have additional company, but until then the Morris Nathanson-designed space will be a sparkling contrast to its humble setting.

There's a large patio outside, well-lit space inside with bold red chairs against the bar, and namesake crests of Italian cities for decorations. Attractive.

We were there midday, but first I checked out the dinner menu for future reference. The appetizers ($9-$14) offered Prince Edward Island mussels and Maryland blue crab in the crabcakes. Some of the pastas are made there, including the gnocchi. A long list of house specialty entrées range from panko-and-Parmesan-crusted chicken cutlet ($16) to a pricey 14-ounce sirloin ($38).

And there's a $9.99 Blue Plate Special before 5 each weekday, from meatloaf to fish and chips.

Call me a fuddy-duddy but, considering the upscale decor, the midday menu card seemed pretty eye-rolling, with headers such as "Vealy Good Deals," "The Carving Board Sangweech," and "C.V.S. 'L' Cheapo Lunch" (not a drugstore promo, but chicken, veal, or shrimp — $10, $11, and $12, respectively). It made me worry that a food fight might break out as the place started to fill up.

Considering that under the C.V.S. listing you could get chicken cacciatore or Parmesan for 10 bucks, their eggplant and chicken Parm grinders being $9 and $10 seems high. But on the same list is a "3 Martini Lunch," a trio of 3-ounce glasses, for only $9, so you can easily distract yourself from such trifling concerns. Besides, a sub is not called a grinder here but rather a "spucky," so we're probably talking regional locution research surcharge.

Anyway. Our focus was on the $29.99 twofer with wine, served weekdays 11 am to 6 pm and weekends 11 am to 5 pm, so those were the choices we were perusing. It's that C.V.S. offer re-presented with a bottle of Mondavi. The pricing is in your favor: if both of you go for a shrimp dish rather than chicken, you'll be getting the bottle for $4 rather than $8.

So, hmmm . . . . I considered the eggplant Parmesan, but I'm so fussy with that dish. I want the breaded eggplant fried to order so that it's still crisp under the tomato sauce when it arrives at the table. Chicken broccolini and macaroni? Nah, I get enough greenery at home. Shrimp scampi? Maybe.

But first we looked at the dinner menu again and selected a soup and a salad. Good decisions. My $4 Caesar salad was massive, with lots of thick cheese shavings on top as well as gratings. There was anchovy in the dressing, but I got half-dozen more for another buck. If a Caesar were this good everywhere, I'd never fail to order one.

They make their own ravioli at Cresta, with pumpkin and lobster fillings in addition to plain cheese, so there were many mini-cheese versions in my dining partner's cup of raviolini en brodo ($3). Lightly tomatoed broth, fresh spinach on top, delicious.

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