Review: Billy's

Philanthropy for foodies
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  December 1, 2010

Prominent in Billy's is the sort of plaque and menu notation you expect to see in a tavern that has "Ye Olde" in front of its name, only this one declares "Est. 2009." Optimistic. In a business that has the mortality rate of migrating salmon, it's approaching its second anniversary and appears healthy, as the "Reservations Recommended" suggestion on its website implies.

It's quite an attractive place inside, by all appearances an upscale bistro and bar yet with nothing over $18 on the menu. White paper over tablecloths, but cloth napkins. Salt and pepper grinders. Hip blowups of Marilyn and Elvis on the rest room doors (he looks in a hurry to get in), a solid mahogany bar, and classy art on the walls. (Is the tri-sected thoroughbred in the large triptych a subliminal reminder of butcher shop charts, to pique meaty appetites?)

Billy's | 401.289.2888 | 286 Maple Ave, Barrington | Tues-Thurs, 5-10 pm; Fri-Sun, 4-10 pm | Major Credit Cards | Full Bar | Sidewalk-Level Accessible

Actually, the burger descriptions are quite appealing and horse-free, important for a limited menu with only a half-dozen entrées. They're $9-$12, with fries, and include a towering "Cowboy Burger" with barbecue sauce and onion rings, and a Marsala burger with wine sauce and sautéed mushrooms.

An unusual appetizer item is the huge U-10-size grilled shrimp, served in teriyaki sauce, $4 apiece and listed as "Rocket" shrimp. There are Blue Hill mussels ($11), in a cream-finished white wine sauce, and Jonah crabmeat cakes ($12) with remoulade sauce. Requisite bar menu starters are Buffalo chicken wings ($9) and fried calamari ($12), an appealing variation from the standard preparation by being tossed with garlic and olive oil as well as hot cherry peppers.

There is New England quahog chowder ($8) and baked French onion soup ($6), and salads, from iceberg wedge to Cobb (both $12). But we were drawn to the five pizzas ($13-$16). Our waitress recommended a popular one called "The Hill," with sweet Italian sausage and red and yellow Peppadew sweet peppers, and there were both BBQ chicken and grilled veggie pizzas. But we chose our server's favorite, the "Sophisticado." And we were glad.

It was hands down (actually, hands eagerly outstretched) the most delicious non-tomato pizza I've had recently. Pieces of Parma prosciutto, caramelized onions, and figs were covered with smoked Gouda and a balsamic drizzle. Johnnie wanted more perceptible bits of figs for isolated bursts of taste instead of their mostly being blended into the onions, but I was blissful. Each ingredient was a smart flavor complement to each of the others, and the fig lagniappe was a sweet bonus.

The entrée offerings start with egg plant Parmesan ($14) but not chicken parm, although the next item is chicken pomodoro ($16), both with tomato sauce. There is also chicken verdicchio ($16), with artichokes, roasted red peppers, spinach, and mushrooms in a white wine sauce. Sautéed shrimp ($18) in a Grey Goose vodka sauce is served over penne, as are all the above dishes. A must on every Rhode Island menu where diners are reminded of Italian food is linguine with clams ($18).

Johnnie chose the priced-to-market Atlantic salmon ($21). The thick filet was darkly seared but not overcooked and topped with a sun-dried tomato tapenade. On the side were roasted peppers and the vegetable of the day, spinach, nicely sautéed rather than steamed. All well and good.

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