It's one thing when you live in an urban area, and you follow a favorite chef when he or she moves from place to place. But down in the boonies of South County, a lot of restaurant news is word of mouth, and when a local highlight folds, food fans just wait for rumors of where to find it next. Such has always been the case
for Wiley's, which started life as a great little café on Narrow River in Middlebridge. When Wiley's was forced to move from that location about 10 years ago, loyal foodies trekked to East Matunuck, then down to Point Judith, and now north again to Bonnet Shores, where many items from Wiley's menu — i.e., chef Jay DiVicenzo's specialties — are being offered two nights a week.
|WILEY'S NIGHT SHIFT AT PHIL'S | 401.789.1351 | 909 Boston Neck Rd, Narragansett | Dinner Fri + Sat, 5-10 pm | major credit cards | BYOB | sidewalk-level accessible|
DiVincenzo is a painter by day, but he loves to cook, and when he was at the other locations, as a part-owner, he found the restaurant business too uneven and too demanding to keep him hooked. In this new collaboration with Ken Tetzner, who owns Phil's, he shares expenses and overhead but not the entrepreneurial risk. "In this day and age," DiVincenzo told me on a recent Friday, "you've got to be creative."
So old-time Wiley customers come in for supper and consider coming back to Phil's for lunch or breakfast and, similarly, Phil's regulars might grab a bottle of wine and head back to Night Shift at Phil's for a reasonably-priced night out. Nothing fancy — just a dozen booths, a couple of tables, a countertop with stools, diner-style. One wall toward the front had a local photographer's shots of lighthouses. The only other wall decoration were two blackboards with DiVincenzo's nightly specials. Very low-key.
The food is similarly straightforward. All dinners, except for the pasta dishes, are served with coleslaw and a choice of curly fries or rice pilaf (neither of the latter are home-made). But these accompany some of the tastiest seafood dishes around. The fish and chips has flour-dusted flounder. The farm-raised salmon can be ordered with a Thai peanut sauce or a smoky chipotle cream. An old favorite from Middlebridge days is the swordfish with pistachio butter. Another is shrimp Creole, with this description: "Let the holy trinity of authentic flavor bless your taste buds."
Still another is flounder Santa Fe ($12.95), two giant filets coated with crushed blue and yellow corn chips. It's the most crunchy and non-greasy fried fish dish I know of. DiVincenzo mentioned that it's been on the menu since he cooked at Center Café, another dear departed, local hangout from the early '80s. When he suggests to customers from those days who still order flounder Santa Fe that they might like to try something else, they just smile and say, "Maybe next time."
Bill was kicking up his heels at the possibility of blackened tuna, horseradish-crusted cod, even coconut shrimp with Jamaican jerk sauce, because he recalled that Wiley's really knew how to pour the heat into a dish. He settled on a tuna steak with a ginger-wasabi beer glaze, a bit of hot-and-sweet hitting your tongue. He loved it, along with the properly rare tuna, as well as the size of the steak.