When I first moved to Rhode Island, more than two decades ago, I heard that 20 percent of the population spoke Portuguese. Now, although first- and second-generation immigrant communi-ties have shifted in many ways, it’s still heartwarming to have a very young waitress at the Portuguese-American Galito Restaurant who is obviously fluent in the mother tongue.
This meant that she didn’t have to scurry to the kitchen every time we asked a question about a menu item. It also helped all of us when she tried to explain one of the desserts: “bean” cake with no beans. She told us the Portuguese word for its main ingredient (farinha), and we finally understood that could mean “farina,” either ground wheat or corn.
|Galito Restaurant | 401.312.2200 | 214-216 Columbus Ave, Pawtucket | Daily, 11 am-10 pm | Major credit cards | Full bar | Sidewalk-level accessible|
But I’ve jumped ahead. Bill was drawn to start his meal with camarao alhinho (shrimp in garlic sauce, $9.50) and I with the traditional caldo verde (kale and potato soup, $3). Though we were familiar with these dishes, we found both a bit different than we remembered.
The shrimp sauce was more dominated by butter than garlic or hot pepper, less spicy than some we’ve had, but absolutely delicious, especially for dipping pieces of the light Portuguese rolls into it.
The soup had a tasty potato broth that was thicker than many others, with shreds of kale all through it, and yellow olive oil pooling along the sides, a true comfort food. I had asked for the sliced chouriço to be left out of my portion, though that would have given it another heft of spiciness.
We looked over the “specialties of the house”: a bouillabaisse-like seafood stew, a barbecued Cornish hen, and a 12-ounce steak with a fried egg on top. Bill considered other meat possibilities, including the popular carne de porco a Alentejana, which are marinated pork cubes roasted in a sauce with littlenecks.
But the two drawing cards for both of us were the bacalhau (salt cod) dishes and the special that evening of grilled squid ($11.95). (I tried to talk him into the octopus stew, but no go.)
Cod that’s been dried and salted to preserve it — which the Portuguese were the first to do when they fished the Grand Banks in the 15th Century — must be carefully soaked in water or milk to re-hydrate and desalinate the fish. It’s tricky to know just how a restaurant will handle this, but chef and co-owner Daniel Gomes came through with flying col-ors.
Bacalhau options were broiled with garlic and olive oil, fried with an onion and green pepper sauce, or boiled. Wanting to keep it as simple as possible, I chose boiled, with po-tatoes, chick peas, vegetables, and a hard-boiled egg ($14.95).
Although the potatoes did not materialize on my plate, a duo of cruets with olive oil and white vinegar appeared next to it, to season the fish with, if so desired. I liked the mildness of the fish (not the gasping saltiness of some bacalhau in my dining history), and the carrots, broccoli, and garbanzos were good accompaniments.