Anthony’s Cucina

Keeping it real
By CHRIS CONTI  |  August 9, 2006

Over the past year or so, Father Time has forced my hand from the ball court to the golf course. This evolution, from whacking a bucket of worm-burners to playing the back nine at Triggs in North Providence, placed my friend Francisco and I near Anthony’s Cucina. Although proprietor Anthony Hill recently opened a restaurant on Hilton Head Island, offering old-world dishes to the golf set, he also keeps it real closer to home. “Fine dining and a friendly lounge,” as the sign reads outside, barely scratch the surface of what goes on here.

Although Anthony Hill is no relation to the GoodFellas’ protagonist of the same surname, framed pix of the latter’s criminal brethren — Gotti, Montana, and the Soprano clan — line the white stucco walls, adding a dash of gangster panache to the otherwise romantic alcoves making up the main dining room. 

Most of the seats at the bar were filled on a busy early Thursday evening. We spotted friends Donna and Kevin, who thankfully introduced us to Hill’s brand of authentic Italian cuisine more than a year ago, in their familiar corner seats. Their recent wedding reception in the aptly named Party Room (which holds up to 40 guests) was a blast, hosted by cordial house manager Helen Arlia, Anthony’s sister, serving up a vibrant yet intimate setting, complete with a panoramic moonlit view through surrounding sliding doors.

During recent visits, the typically unadventurous Frank had talked me into some basic apps (alas, he still won’t budge and delve into their fantastic snail salad) like fried mozzarella ($7.95), sliced fresh and pan-fried. This time, he went for the bruschetta ($8.95), something I usually stay away from, and while the crunchy, char-grilled bread held up the luscious diced tomato topping, the accompaniment was a molten pool of melted cheese and olive oil.

The Calamari Tuscany ($7.95), however, was a winner, with the increasingly popular “balsamic reduction” style — not too sweet, with a flash-fried crunch complementing the tender squid, with a colorful medley of roasted red peppers, olives, and mushrooms, providing more than just a tossed-in afterthought. The same could even be said for the accompanying house salad, with julienne carrots, pepperoncini, and diced black olives. When oily bruschetta is pretty much the only whiff during a year’s worth of repeat visits, it’s no wonder the bar is full of regulars.

Our natural weeknight inclination had us heading straight to the buy one-get one menu insert, with 16 selections offered Monday through Thursday after 4 pm, along with a full wine list, including $8 (!) bottles of red and whites. Frank went with his perennial favorite, chicken Parmigiana ($16.95). If $17 sounds a bit pricey for the ubiquitous entrée, think again. The platter was enormous (certainly no skimping portions here), with the bird smothered in Anthony’s excellent marinara and melted provolone atop a mound of penne, with easily a midnight snack and leftover lunch to be had. I opted for something a bit lighter, forgoing the veal saltimbocca ($18.95) mainstay for the inspired simplicity of the signature Peasant Pasta ($15.95), a paradigm of old-world cuisine combining broccoli rabe and sliced prosciutto with cannellini beans, and plenty of bread from nearby Sal’s Bakery for absorbing the deliciously piquant broth. 

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