Well worth the trip
By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  December 5, 2007

Vintage | 5 South Main St, Woonsocket | Mon-Thurs, 5-9 pm; Fri-Sat, 5-10 pm | Major credit cards | Full bar | Sidewalk-level access | 401.765.1234
Two non-food notes ring through our tale of dining at Vintage. One is the outlying nature of Woonsocket and the other is a waiter so genuine he made us feel right at home. Woonsocket is a stretch from our home base in Wakefield, but it only took 25 minutes to drive from the restaurant to downtown Providence — half the time it takes to get to Newport for a special-occasion meal.
And Vintage is, indeed, a special occasion. We have visited three times, and each time, the sleek, modern décor welcomed us into a metro-Euro atmosphere. The menu is a well-selected mix of traditional and nouveau dishes, with an expansive wine list. And Seth is the kind of waiter you want to go back and chat with through your dinner (he’s off on Tuesday nights).
Vintage has matching dining rooms and similar lounges on two separate floors. Although it looks as though the restaurant is a refurbished mill building, I was told that the original structure was torn down before this one was recreated. Brick walls, wood-plank ceilings, and visible overhead heating vents set a historic tone. But chic touches, such as high-backed gray-green upholstered chairs, brushed copper tables, and amber-toned resin lamp shades and sconces, drop you definitively into the 21st century. 
Our first visit was a leisurely wine dinner, with imaginative dishes served with each wine, but we realized that none of these would be on the regular menu, so we returned for a late September lunch (on the second-story balcony overlooking Market Square) and for a recent wintry-night dinner. As luck would have it, the winter menu had just begun, with entrées heavy on beef — three kinds of steak, plus filet mignon and prime rib — but also five seafood dishes, two chicken dinners, and two veggie pastas.
Before we made those decisions, however, Seth had become part of the evening’s experience. Bill ordered a ginger martini, and Seth was eager to know if he liked it, since he had created the mixture of vodka, orange juice and a ginger-infused simple syrup. He was as enthusiastic about all of our food questions as he was about the martini. It was his attentiveness to detail and his obvious love for his job that made our conversational moments with him so engaging.
The next example of this was his description of the carrot-coconut soup ($6). Admitting that he didn’t ordinarily like carrots in any form other than straight boiled rounds — no carrot cake, please — he nevertheless found this soup quite delicious. The same was true of Bill, who did not even mind the very slight texture of coconut flakes, and the green swirl of parsley oil on top.
We also shared an order of lobster summer rolls ($13), a generous portion of lobster meat in each of the four pieces, with crispy shiitake mushrooms contrasting wonderfully with soft slices of avocado. The sesame dipping sauce was too heavy on soy sauce, but it had a nice bite to it. 

As for the entrées, the sides were a key factor for Bill, lured by wild mushrooms, fingerling sweet potatoes, and winter greens accompanying the 16-ounce sirloin ($24) from Wolfneck Farms, a natural beef source in Maine. He asked for “medium rare,” but was disappointed when it arrived with no visible pinkness. Seth swooped in, heart¬ily agreeing with him, and had it re-done to Bill’s satisfaction. And he did enjoy the veggies, though the winter greens, especially their stems, were quite tough.
I passed over the romano-encrusted chicken and chose instead the Giannone Farm chicken breast ($19), from upstate New York, with an olive, artichoke, and potato hash. Tiny diced bits of sugar-cured lemon dotted the succulent chicken. I also ordered sides ($5) of sweet potatoes (sitting in too much oil) and green beans (too underdone for me, though Bill liked them just fine).
Dessert time rolled around, and once again, Seth’s descriptions led the way. We picked the malted chocolate mousse cake, winning out over crème brulée, cookies with ice cream or an angel food, ice cream, and toffee sauce concoction. The mousse sat atop a wafer of chocolate cake, next to a grilled wedge of marshmallow. Don’t ever attempt this alone; it was almost too much for the two of us. 
Bill asked for a tall glass of milk with dessert, and Seth admired that unusual request. What can I say? We bonded. But I’m convinced he would do that with most diners: he was never obsequious, never intrusive, just genuine and gregarious. 
As for journeying into the wilds of Woonsocket: call for directions and don’t hesitate to ask someone if you get twisted around. The food and service at Vintage are worth the adventure.

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