Cucina Twist

High volume, high quality
By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  January 21, 2009

Cucina Twist | 401.789.5300 | 2095 Kingstown Rd, Kingston | pinellimarrarestaurants.com | Daily, 4-10 pm | major credit cards | full bar | Sidewalk-level accessible
In the eight-restaurant empire owned by Bob Pinelli and Steve Marra, Cucina Twist has a special place in the hearts of Wakefield and Kingston residents. It can be counted on for some warming pasta and sauce on a cold winter's night, and it's a convenient spot to meet up with friends before a URI basketball game. Indeed, once tip-off time passed last Thursday night, we had the place to ourselves.

But even when the restaurant was still packed, our no-nonsense, wise-cracking waitress was unflustered by the pace, unfazed by our many questions, and quite attentive to our requests. Want to split a Caesar? Fine. Would you like your salads first, while you wait for the pizza? Great. We knew we were in good hands with Nicole.

The kitchen at Cucina Twist is overseen by executive chef Jimmy Gallagher, and the "twist" in the title of this particular restaurant comes from some of the non-Italian appetizers (crab cakes and chicken quesadillas), plus the steaks and burgers on the menu. It also relates to the two sides of the restaurant: one a large bar/lounge area; the other a more intimate bistro.

On the bistro side, where our party of five sat, the dècor is minimal but comfortable: brown butcher paper over the tables, black cloth napkins, shades of beige and chocolate in walls and banquettes, wall lights with a graceful S-shaped flourish.

The menu here is extensive, with a dozen appetizers, half a dozen salads, and a baker's dozen pasta choices before the second page details the chicken, seafood, veal, and grill items (sirloin, pork loin and a grilled vegetable Napoleon). Under the pizza heading is an unusual mashed-potato-crusted one, with diced bacon, scallions, cheddar and Monterey jack cheeses. In a corner labeled "Cucina favorites" is a ravioli dish with a sun-dried tomato cream sauce, a meat lasagna, and a grilled sausage and polenta dish.

Our gang of five, despite the fast-and-furious conversational distractions, made quick decisions: stuffed sirloin for both guys; scrod, shrimp, and a chicken/sausage pasta dish for the gals. We also shared Caesar and house salads, and a large Twist pizza ($13), one with grilled chicken cubes, spinach, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, and Gorgonzola and mozzarella cheeses. The pizza was as loaded as it sounds, no mere samples of ingredients but almost a full complement of them on each piece.

The stuffed sirloins were, as described, backed up by Gorgonzola and scallions, topped by a grilled portobello and surrounded by a puddle of garlic cream sauce. The presentation was elegant, but both Bills mentioned the large amount of gristle to cut through to reach the meat.

The steaks were, nonetheless, medium rare, as requested, and the flow of words slowed down as these two dug into their hefty plates of beef. One Bill chose the garlic mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli to accompany his sirloin, the other a side of penne with marinara sauce, a mild and mellow version.

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