For more than 30 years, the Italian Village Restaurant has been as much of a necessary, yet taken-for-granted institution in Wakefield as the post office. Actually, the restaurant outlasted the latter, which eventually moved to larger quarters. So it was only a matter of time before advantage was taken of the local name recognition. No, not with yet another brand of tomato sauce on the shelves, but rather with a second IV, as it’s known, in adjacent Narragansett — Catarina’s Italian Village Restaurant.
It opened in May 2006, in a quaint building, an oversized log cabin that over the years has housed everything from a pancake place to a steakhouse, on summertime-scenic but lonely-in-winter Route 1A. Likely as not, locals will keep this place hopping year-round. It is named for and dedicated to Catherine Mollo, the late wife of owner Antonio Mollo.
The menus of the two restaurants are pretty much the same. But Catarina’s doesn’t try to be a pizzeria as well as a restaurant, so no spinach pies and no stack of to-go boxes next to the oven. There is a list of nine “gourmet pizzas,” however, and for Wakefield regulars unaccustomed to such a concept, six of them specify “no tomato sauce” in the descriptions. Thirty wines are served by the glass.
Starters fill the first page of the menu, between those pizzas, soups, salads, and both hot and cold antipasti. In a nod to tradition, tripe ($9.95) is offered, as well as scungilli salad ($5.95/$7.95), declared to be prepared from “an old family recipe.” It’s a favorite of mine from the Wakefield place, the whelk paper-thin and the seasoning de¬finitive, not too hot from red pepper flakes.
Among the appetizers, the pesto cream sauce component of the Cape Sante shrimp ($7.95) sounded appealing. But upon inquiry we learned that the shrimp were from Thailand, even though the frutti di mare and one of the pizzas purportedly contained Gulf shrimp. So we started instead with fried polenta ($6.95). Three greaseless rectangles, flecked with sun-dried tomatoes, were served atop an enormous tangle of fried linguine. The presentation looked appealing, but the pasta was as tough as shoe laces and absorbed too much of the marinara that the polenta needed.
Much more successful was an appetizer special. The superbly tender fried calamari ($10.95) was made into a Japanese dish, strewn with pink slices of pickled ginger and drizzled with green wasabi curlicues that mercifully thinned a bit to reduce the heat. Cucumber slices provided additional cooling. As a variation on our Official State Appetizer, this is the best and most ingenious that I’ve come across in a long time.
I scanned the main dishes for noteworthy items. As well as the obligatory linguine with clam sauce, there was linguine with Point Judith mussels, and among the veal dishes was the traditional but hard-to-find veal and peas, in a brown or red “gravy.” Both were $14.95, and only a couple of the entrées were above $16.95. There are five dishes with eggplant, sliced and diced, as well as served alla Parmigiana.
Johnnie had the chicken Marsala ($15.95) and was pleased. There was a variety of wild mushrooms in the tasty, plentiful sauce. It’s usually served over linguine, but she substituted a side of broccoli, small florets sautéed with fresh garlic. Vegetable substitutions are an extra two dollars, and you can add a mixed green salad or soup for $2.50.