The latest eatery at Pawtucket's Hope Artiste Village is Rosinha's Restaurant, offering Portuguese cuisine — Cape Verdean, to be specific. Not wanting to give the wrong impression — music hipper and hoppier than fado sometimes reverberates from the Blackstone down the entrance corridor — a kind of manifesto stands at the door. "Casual Elegance," it declares. "Proper Dress Required — NO Hats, NO Do-rags, NO Baggy Jeans, NO Boots." A signature rose is at the top of the announcement, and proprietress Rosinha knows how to use it.
I was accompanied by a couple of regulars, Ed from the neighborhood and Stuart, known to chat in Portu-guese, so I didn't bother to hitch up my pants. There were no complaints from the lovely and cordial Rosinha Almeida, who greeted us at the door. At the 2008 Taste of Pawtucket, I'd enjoyed their Cape Verdean preparation of rice and seafood, so I was primed.
This space is vast and well-lit with tall windows, since the building complex used to house mills and warehouses. A modest number of tables are widely distributed among tall supporting columns. The exterior wall is rough brick with white paint mostly scoured off, which contrasts smartly with crystal chandeliers dangling prisms, kind of like a tuxedo top worn over dungarees. The gentle singing of Benvindo Cruz greets you by 7 every evening.
The menu headings are in Portuguese but clearly translated. The appetizers, all $7.95 and $8.95, contain familiar items plus a few surprises. A Portuguese restaurant has to have camarão con alho (shrimp in a spicy garlic sauce) and pastéis de bacalhau (fried codfish cakes). But Rosinha adds shrimp cakes, and I hadn't seen cogumelos recheados (baked mushrooms filled with crabmeat) before. The soup of the day ($4) was the familiar kale with chorizo, to enjoy with the traditional sweet rolls that come to every table.
To start out, we tried those garlic shrimp. They were sautéed in a butter and wine sauce and chilied up to spicy redness. I could have used more garlic and hotness, but I still found myself sopping up the sauce with my bread. There are two preparations of littlenecks among the appetizers, one with garlic sauce and one more elaborate. We went for the latter, ameijoas à Espanhola. This Spanish version adds onions and peppers in a tomato sauce — mmm, more sopping up — and can't help but throwing in lots of spicy chorizo. Very good decision.
The menu also contains lunch items, just four omelettes ($5.95-$7.95) and a couple of sandwiches ($5.95). The pork sandwich sounded the most Portuguese to me, but Stuart said that the real treat and bargain is the steak sandwich, a generous and tender portion. When he is at the bar and just wants a snack, he usually orders the codfish cakes, so I'd seriously consider them as well.
As with two preparations for the clams, there is a choice for the dried cod. The traditional style is bacalhau codizo à Portuguesa ($17.95), boiled and served with potatoes, chickpeas, cabbage, and hard-boiled eggs. I sometimes order it as a nostalgic treat, since it's so much like the Sicilian version I grew up with. But Rosinha also has bacala that's reconstituted and grilled, bacalhau assado na Brasa ($16.95). It was served with mixed vegetables on one side and egg-shaped fried Portuguese potatoes on the other side, a version I'd never had before. All was well-enjoyed, especially with the supplied lemon wedge and bottle of Tabasco sauce. Our last entrée was also a modest dish, frango no churrasco ($12.95), marinated and barbecued but with a slightly spicy seasoning that was far from any barbecue sauce. The chicken was nicely cooked and delicious, served with the same accompaniments that I had.
The desserts, which we didn't indulge in, are $4 and $4.50, and included flan and both chocolate and passion fruit mousses. Next time.
Suggestions? Our server was quite friendly and attentive, but he should have been trained to remove the extra place setting at our table and also to replace rather than set back flatware left on dishes to be taken away. A little more polish like that and Rosinha's Restaurant can shine.