December 6, 2023

Food City

The Best Darn Food City Uou Can Get

Where Local Chefs Dine Out in Rhode Island


Pop-up chef Nikhil Navnish Naiker and Pizza Marvin chef-owner Robert Andreozzi hang at the Dolores bar with Joaquin Meza, co-owner of Dolores. Photography by Angel Tucker.


Where do Rhode Island’s best chefs and industry people dine out when they’re not working? We got them to dish on their favorite restaurants and top-secret haunts.

Nikhil Navnish Naiker, pop-up chef


Chef Nikhil Navnish Naiker digs into enchiladas at Dolores. Photography by Angel Tucker.

Why did you become a chef? I was always hanging out in the kitchen with my parents. I was born in Fiji and grew up in California. We moved to the United States when I was ten. I realized how different our food was from everyone else’s. At first, I wanted to eat whatever my friends in school were eating, but then as I got a little older, I realized that when we all hang out together food is a big part of it. Food is community. Then I started taking culinary classes in high school and thought this is something I could do for a job. Going from high school to Johnson and Wales was the legit transition. I was lucky to work for James Mark at north Bakery for three years doing the lunch and dinner program. I learned to really appreciate Rhode Island and met a lot of the seafood and produce purveyors I still work with, including Andrade’s Catch, Lotzzo’s and Wishing Stone Farm. 

Favorite cookbook? Bethany [Caliaro] (Nikhil’s partner and the manager at Oberlin) and I do one of those things where we buy a cookbook and we won’t look at it for a year. Then we’ll be bored and be like damn, there are so many cool recipes. The ones we really fell in love with in the pandemic were the Xi’an Famous Foods cookbooks. It’s a restaurant that started in Queens and they do hand-pulled noodles. 

Signature dish at your pop-ups? We always have some variation of a raw fish whether that be a crudo or ceviche. When Trinity [Auriemma] and I cook together one of the things we do is chicken liver pate. Cooking Indian food at events was something I tried not to do, but then last year, when I started working at the bar at Fortnight [RIP], I thought pakora (crunchy vegetable fritters) are pretty perfect. It’s rice flour and chickpea flour batter that has cumin seeds in it. You can rotate the vegetables out depending on what is seasonal.  

Food you crave? I love the pozole at Dolores. It’s so delicious, especially when we go for brunch. Even if you are a little hungover, it will wake you right up. 

What’s always in your kitchen at home? We have been making a lot of really simple pasta dishes at home late at night, whether it’s frozen pasta from Oberlin or boxed stuff. Simple pasta with anchovies, butter and red chili flakes. We eat a lot of miso soup at home. We have bonito miso from Good Fortune Market. You can add it to almost any dish and it will make it better. 

Favorite breakfast spot? I love the brunch at Dolores. It is so nice to sit at the bar. Horus will make you a cocktail like the Garabaldi, which is a Campari and orange juice cocktail. The chilaquiles are so delicious. I also really love the Colombian bakery in Pawtucket called Caprichos Antioqueños for their empanadas and savory pastries.

Lunch spot? Tony’s Colonial has our favorite Italian sandwich in town. Obviously, Pizza Marvin kills it. When it’s summertime, I love going to Dune Brothers (when it’s open). I love the bait box catch of the day.

Rhode Island’s best-kept secret? Bethany and I look for new taco spots. Recently we found one on Valley Street called El Taco Guerrero. They do a beef cheek barbacoa taco. They are a pillar of the community because they feed people every day. 

If you had a Saturday night free, where would you go eat? It’s hard not to say Oberlin. My favorite restaurant keeps getting better and better. I also think that Bywater needs a massive shoutout. 

Place to celebrate a special occasion? Dolores fits the bill. They make you feel like a part of the family. 

Favorite food city for travel? I am so thankful we live close to New York. It’s a three-hour train ride away. Overstory is one of my new favorites in New York. My favorite taco on the East Coast is Los Tacos Number One. Last time we had New York-style pizza at L’industrie. We went to Mexico City and Oaxaca a couple years ago and it blew my culinary mind. The Meza family from Dolores helped us out with a massive list of recommendations.

Late-night food? In Pawtucket, there is a taco truck called Tacos Don Nacho. They make food until 2 a.m. and the chorizo tacos are awesome. I miss the late-night food Durk’s used to do. Now they have a Monday industry night.

Guilty pleasure? I would definitely be lying if I didn’t end up at Taco Bell or McDonald’s every once in a while. If you want to go the snack route, I love Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.


Jen Davis, beverage director, Durk’s Bar-B-Q, the Eddy

Durk’s Bar-B-Q, 33 Aborn St., Providence, 401-563-8622,; the Eddy, 95 Eddy St., Providence, 401-831-3339,


Jen Davis, beverage director at the Eddy and Durk’s Bar-B-Q, slams sushi in her car at Eastside Marketplace. Photography by Angel Tucker.

Why did you get into the industry? I truly love hosting. If it was up to me, I would have people over our house every night of the week. I’ll never forget coming home from my first bartending shift and the joy I had from feeling like I just got to host a huge party. Even as a kid, I used to play restaurant and force my brother and cousin to participate.

Favorite cookbook or bar book? Cocktail Codex. I really like the way it lays out the basic elements of each cocktail. It’s very similar to how I approach drink-making. For home, I heavily rely on anything Melissa Clark writes. She’s all about easy yet delicious food.

Signature drink at your bar? We are constantly changing our drink menu; however, whatever draft cocktail we have on is super popular. Right now, we have a nitro espresso martini on draft.

Food you crave? The crab roll from Dune Brothers. 

What’s always in your kitchen at home? Always some sort of dip, whether it be cheese-, bean- or dairy-based and something to scoop it up with.

Favorite breakfast spot? I go to Seven Stars almost daily. My son loves the ginger scones and I can’t get enough of those perfect little veggie quiches.

Lunch spot? Pasquale’s for lunch in Wakefield is just so lovely. Ed and I split a pizza and the mortadella and burrata sandwich, and my son Crash gets his favorite: meatballs!

Rhode Island’s best-kept secret? This little spot called Cod and Olive in Pawtucket. It’s a great little Portuguese market that I love to go to when I’m in need of some tinned seafood or some treats when I’m feeling nostalgic.

If you had a Saturday night free, where would you go to eat? New Rivers for sure. I haven’t eaten there in forever because of my schedule. It’s my favorite bar to sit and have dinner in the city.

Place to celebrate a special occasion? Al Forno. I love sitting at the little side bar on the second floor. Pizza bambini, grilled shrimp salad and some pasta, a gin martini to start and a glass of wine with dinner — perfect.

Favorite food city for travel? New Orleans. Good food and drink is so ingrained in the culture there.

Guilty pleasure? Every Wednesday, Eastside Marketplace does $5.55 sushi rolls. They are so good. Now you know where to find me on Wednesday afternoon: in my car, in the parking lot, crushing supermarket sushi.


Max Mendoza, owner, Chilangos

447 Manton Ave., Providence, 401-383-4877,


Max Mendoza, owner of Chilangos, gets takeout from El Rey
de las Pupusas. Photography by Angel Tucker.


Why did you become a chef/restaurant owner? I grew up in the kitchen around my mom, aunts and grandfather. As I got older, I loved trying new flavors and cooking family recipes. I love giving people an experience. 

Favorite cookbook? Tu Casa Mi Casa by Enrique Olvera. It means “my house is your house.” I love how the book highlights the simplest dishes in Mexican cuisine to cooking more complex dishes and showing people that Mexican food is much more than just tacos and burritos. 

Signature dish at your restaurant? If I had to pick one, it would be the camarones a la diabla. The grilled shrimp is smothered in a salsa that’s made from habaneros, mango and papaya. It’s a dish that’s so flavorful and will definitely have you sweating and clean out your sinuses. 

Food you crave? My favorite pasta is carbonara.

What’s always in your kitchen at home? You can always find nopales. Also known as cactus, I love nopales and eggs, chorizo con nopales, and cactus in a green smoothie. It has a lot of health benefits, and you can mix it with anything.

Favorite breakfast spot? The Nitro Bar in Providence has my favorite breakfast burrito and the best nitro cold brew.

Lunch spot? Murphy’s Pub downtown, especially for a Saturday lunch when Liverpool is playing. I get the tuna melt and an ice cold Magners. 

Rhode Island’s best-kept secret? El Rey de las Pupusas on Chalkstone Avenue. It translates to “the king of the pupusas.” It’s the best Guatemalan/Salvadorian food in the state. The pupusas are excellent with their pickled cabbage and house salsa. Get the papaya smoothie. 

If you had a Saturday night free, where would you go to eat? I’m big on bouncing around. I would start off with drinks and some bites at Palo Tapas Bar, then Bayberry Garden for dinner.

Place to celebrate a special occasion? I always end up at Nicks on Broadway. You know you are getting the best ingredients. There’s always good energy. 

Favorite food city for travel? I always go back to NYC. You know you are getting the very best from pizza to Michelin-starred restaurants and cocktail bars.

Late-night food? Duck drumettes or the poutine fries from Slow Rhode. It’s a great spot for late night as the kitchen closes at 12:30 a.m.!

Guilty pleasure? A slice of Death by Chocolate cake from Gregg’s with a huge glass of milk.  


Ed Davis, executive chef, Durk’s Bar-B-Q

Durk’s Bar-B-Q, 33 Aborn St., Providence, 401-563-8622,


Durk’s Bar-B-Q executive chef Ed Davis gathers hickory and oak for the smoker. Photography by Angel Tucker.

Why did you become a chef? My mom got me a job as a dishwasher in a kitchen she used to work in. I loved the people and the work. Still going strong, twenty-three years later.

Favorite cookbook? For the professional cook, The French Laundry Cookbook. For more casual at home stuff, Ad Hoc at Home. Both are by Thomas Keller and both are incredible at explaining the hows and whys of fundamental cooking techniques.

Signature dish at your restaurant? In my mind, it’s the pierogies (I’m sure everyone else would say brisket). Ben Sukle taught me to make them a long time ago and I’ll never take them off the menu.

Food you crave? Italian hoagies/subs/grinders, whatever you want to call them, always and forever. Gotta sub mayo for oil and vinegar, though, and add extra hot peppers.

What’s always in your kitchen at home? Frozen pizzas.

Favorite breakfast spot? Bolt Coffee.

Lunch spot? Sandwich Hut, Dee’s Deli, Charlie’s Deli. All have A-plus Italian subs.

Rhode Island’s best-kept secret? Cheng Du Taste. I think it is still pretty under the radar and in my honest opinion, one of the best restaurants in the state. Also, the Jefferson Speakeasy is a pretty great cocktail bar in Warwick.

If you had a Saturday night free, where would you go eat? Oberlin or Dolores.

Place to celebrate a special occasion? Capital Grille or Matunuck Oyster Bar.

Favorite food city for travel? The Harbor House Inn in Elk, California, is the only place I’m dying to go. Portland, Maine, is really incredible and an easy enough drive for a quick weekend away.

Late-night food? Two Whoppers, add cheese and bacon from the Burger King on West Shore Road in Warwick (they do a really great job there).

Guilty pleasure? Any type of pastry item from a gas station/convenience store.


Nohemi Rodriguez, chef/owner, La Arepa

582 Smithfield Ave., Pawtucket, 401-335-3711,


La Arepa chef-owner Nohemi Rodriguez digs into her own arepas at the restaurant. Photography by Angel Tucker.

Why did you become a chef/restaurant owner? I come from a family with traditional culinary values. Every time I cooked, I said, “When I have my restaurant, I will do it like this.” With a lot of effort, I started a food truck, and a year later, I was in my own restaurant. Inspired by tradition, meals are very close to my heart and I always wanted to share them.

Favorite cookbook? My mother — everything I know is from my family or my mother. Every time I need to know something, I ask her. I don’t have any cookbooks. If I need a recipe, I’ll watch a Venezuelan chef, see how they make it and then create my own version.

Signature dish at your restaurant? Pabellon criollo, a very traditional Venezuelan dish of shredded beef, stewed black beans and rice.

What’s always in your kitchen at home? Colombian coffee — it’s the best coffee.

Favorite breakfast spot? La Sorpresa Bakery for beef empanadas.

Favorite lunch spot? My restaurant. If I’m there, I get my arepas. I love my arepas. I can eat them every day. I fill them with shredded beef — it has a nice flavor without a lot of seasoning and grease.

Rhode Island’s best-kept secret? My salsa verde. It’s made with cilantro, jalapeño — but not too much — onion, tomatillos and a bunch of love.

If you had a Saturday night free, where would you go to eat? The Beach House in Bristol. The chef is from Peru and I like the pork and raw tuna appetizer he makes. I like his frutti di mare pasta, too.

Place to celebrate a special occasion? Chelo’s Waterfront.

Favorite food city for travel? Las Vegas. I had a Matador, a spicy drink with spicy tequila at Paris Las Vegas. For an appetizer, I had onion soup. It was the best soup I’ve ever had in my life. 

Late-night food? Don Jose Tequilas. I like their margaritas. If you celebrate your birthday there, they put on hats and bring you a nice cake and make you drink a shot of tequila.

Guilty pleasure? Chocolate. I’m crazy for chocolate. If I open a chocolate bar, I have to eat the whole thing.  —Dana Laverty


Benjamin Sukle, chef/owner, Oberlin and Gift Horse

186 Union St., Providence, 401-588-8755,


Oberlin chef-owner Benjamin Sukle looks forward to moving Oberlin and opening Gift Horse across the street this summer. Phot courtesy of Ben Sukle, Oberlin.

Why did you become a chef/restaurant owner? When I was a struggling young cook and wasn’t sure if I was taking the right steps and making the right choices, along came a much older cook who was willing to start from the bottom and work his way up. That selflessness and humility cemented my love of kitchens and restaurants. That cook was Ed Davis. I’m only half kidding — but also my parents knew I was getting to the end of high school, and I mentioned the idea of culinary school. They used their power of persuasion to get me a job loading buns into the toaster at Red Robin to see if I liked working in kitchens, and it kind of stuck. 

Favorite cookbook? My first cookbook crush was so cliche, The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller, a seminal book for young cooks. Nowadays, I love cookbooks that tell a story but are also for cooking at home. The Superiority Burger Cookbook by Brooks Headley is a favorite of mine, as is Monk by Yoshihiro Imai. A new classic that I was turned onto is Italian Regional Cooking by Ada Boni. 

Signature dish at your restaurant? Pasta and seafood.

Food you crave? Always chocolate. Caesar salads even more. A very specific craving I get often is the number two, add prosciutto, at Tony’s Colonial. A more generic craving is crabcake sandwiches; that’s from childhood.

What’s always in your kitchen at home? Luckily, my partner Katie Spigner does a great job at keeping the fridge and pantry stocked. Something we always seem to keep around in a pinch is really good butter, sausage (either stuff from my hometown in Pennsylvania my parents brought up or sausages from Wild Harmony or Pat’s Pastured) and expensive tinned seafood. That’s a whole meal right there.

Favorite breakfast spot? Kitchen was always my go-to for the best diner breakfast. My heart still breaks for the loss of Howard Crofts. Serendipity Gourmet has the best bodega breakfast sandwich (its proximity to my restaurant also helps). Seven Stars continues to produce lovely pastries as does Madrid Bakery. Seaplane Diner is full of nostalgia from my days in college at JWU. Sly Fox Den Too is a great spot that’s comforting while also showcasing Native American foods and techniques. 

Lunch spot? Durk’s, Pizza Marvin, King’s Garden, Cheng Du Taste, Asian Bakery, Shish Kabob, Jahunger and Aleppo Sweets.

Rhode Island’s best-kept secret? Big Cheese, Flames, Splash, Asian Bakery, Aleppo Sweets, Thai Star, Apsara, Pho Horn’s.

If you had a Saturday night free, where would you go eat? If Nikhil [Navnish Naiker] is cooking at a pop-up, I’ll make sure to get there to eat his food. Dolores would be my next bet. I’m hard-pressed to find a more talented family of cooks and restaurant people than the Mezas. Would love to finally try Luke Mersfelder’s food at Bywater, too. Luke is a former birch cook and seems to have really fallen in love with the product of our state and the creativity one can get from it all. Pickerel is another spot I can’t wait to try. Scott [LaChapelle] does a great job of keeping with the discipline of ramen and integrating local inspiration and product into it as well.  

Place to celebrate a special occasion? Capriccio, Nordic Lodge, New Rivers.

Favorite food city for travel? Nashville: Locust, Dino’s, Martin’s, City House, Prince’s. Houston: Himalaya, Squabble Time, Nancy’s Hustle, Mala Sichuan, Crawfish and Noodles, Hugo’s. Hudson Valley, New York: Kitty’s, Lunch Nightly, Lil Deb’s Oasis, Stissing House, Top Taste. Portland/Biddeford, Maine: Regards, Crispy Gai, CBG, Eventide, J’s Oyster, Izakaya Minato, Leeward, Elda, Rover Bagel, Fish and Whistle.

Late-night food?  When in doubt, we go to Olneyville New York System. 

Jason Timothy, chef/co-owner, Troop

60 Valley St., Providence, 401-473-2900,


Troop chef and co-owner Jason Timothy is all smiles in the kitchen. Courtesy of Jason Timothy and Troop/Katie Porter.












Why did you become a chef/restaurant owner? My love for cooking shows at a really young age sparked it. Also, Ms. Joanne Goudreau, my high school teacher. Without her guidance, I wouldn’t be here today. The short time I spent at Kitchen also helped catapult Troop, where the opportunity to become a part of an owner group happened.

Favorite cookbook? On Vegetables by Jeremy Fox. It’s super informative and visually stunning. Hands-down, it’s one of my go-tos if I need some inspiration.

Signature dish at your restaurant? Street noodles. I put it on the menu as a vegetarian option that ended up sticking around, five years later.

Food you crave? Dumplings! Anytime, anywhere.

What’s always in your kitchen at home? Hot sauce; as many as I can hoard.

Favorite breakfast spot? I don’t get a lot of opportunities to do breakfast, but one of the last places I went was the Rhody Hen. Really friendly people, and really good food!

Lunch spot? Asian Bakery. Mixed grill bahn mi, chili noodles, nime chow; can’t go wrong! (Shout out to Mikey and fam!).

RI’s best kept secret? If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret! It is in my answers however…

If you had a Saturday night free, where would you go eat? Figidini, small plates and the best pizza in Providence, yes please.

Place to celebrate a special occasion? Metacom Kitchen. I’ve had some memorable birthdays there. With proper notice, Rick has made some amazing tasting menus, and sitting at the counter is always fun.

Favorite food city for travel? Portland, Maine. A bunch of great restaurants within close proximity to each other!

Guilty pleasure? Ice cream! In all its forms and iterations.

Robert Andreozzi, chef/co-owner, Pizza Marvin

468 Wickenden St., Providence, 401-262-3336,

Img 20230219 113409

Robert Andreozzi. Photo by Maurisa Mackey.

Why did you become a chef/restaurant owner? Still trying to figure this one out.

Favorite cookbook? Cucina Simpatica: Robust Trattoria Cooking From Al Forno.

Signature dish at your restaurant? The Crustacean, a seafood tower sourced from Andrade’s Catch with a house cheese pizza on top (we do this on the first Tuesday of every month).

Food you crave? Everything at Bywater. Also mul naengmyeon at Sun and Moon, the Friday buffet at Campino’s, the omakase platter at Miku Sushi, a martini and a lobster roll at Lobster Pot, polenta at Mike’s Kitchen and anything at Cheng Du Taste.

What’s always in your kitchen at home? Champagne.

Favorite breakfast spot? Graziano’s 501 Cafe in Portsmouth (lobster Benny with a side of chouriço and Indian pancakes).

Lunch spot? Riccotti’s in Bristol (spinach pies).

Rhode Island’s best-kept secret? Sessions at Aidan’s on Sundays. Reuben, chips well done, and a Guinness (many). 

If you had a Saturday night free, where would you go eat? Dolores. Not sure there is another restaurant with that much passion and pride for what they do. It should also go without saying that no chef in the city has more potential and promise than Nikhil Navnish Naiker. Getting to eat his food at Fortnight and learn about wine has been a real joy. 

Place to celebrate a special occasion? Oberlin. It gets better every time I go. 

Favorite food city for travel? NYC. L’industrie has some of the best pizza I have ever had. The way that Thai Diner’s executed their concept with both food and design on such a high level and sincere way still has my brain broken. Next up: Ernesto’s, Al Coro, Saga, Rowdy Rooster, Taqueria Ramirez. 

Late-night food? I still have heartburn from my last Olneyville visit a year ago. 

Guilty pleasure? Buffalo wings and crispy beer.

Other places or menu items that deserve a shoutout? The burger at New Rivers, anything Champe Speidel makes, torta at Tallulah’s, Silver Star pastries, Central Meat Market. I wouldn’t survive without coffee at the Shop. Durk’s is as good as any barbecue I have had across the country and should get way more credit for how hard they are pushing. RI Yummy and Apsara: We have a great Cambodian scene. Also, the hibiscus quesadilla at Chilangos. 



Pizza Marvin chef-owner Robert Andreozzi (far right) toasts tequila with Maria (far left) and Joaquin Meza (behind the bar) and Nikhil Navnish Naiker at Dolores. Photography by Angel Tucker.


Luke Mersfelder, chef, Bywater

54 State St., Warren,


Bywater chef Luke Mersfelder gathers fruit at a local orchard. Photo  courtesy of Luke Mersfelder, Bywater

Why did you become a chef? Growing up around my mother’s cooking and a love of food were definitely the largest influences for my career as a chef. 

Favorite cookbook? Bouchon Bakery. The recipes are bulletproof, especially the chocolate chip cookies. 

Signature dish at your restaurant? Squid cacio e pepe. It’s been a fixture on our menu for almost a year now. We try to retool our menu pretty consistently, but after doing this for a year, we still really enjoy putting it together. Also, Prica Farina makes incredible pasta, and it’s been an absolute joy to work with them. 

Food you crave? Being from Syracuse, New York, the default is chicken wings. Spicy and crispy. 

What’s always in your kitchen at home? A small corgi named Clementine. She’s (perhaps) more food-driven than me. 

Favorite breakfast spot? Hungover, and strung out from a long week, West Side Diner rejuvenates the soul. 

Lunch spot? I think I’ve been to Pho Horn’s about eight times in the last two months, and it’s always delicious. 

Rhode Island’s best-kept secret? Sous chef Jeffery Orsino of Bywater restaurant. He truly is one of the most talented, hard-working people I’ve been around, and Rhode Island will be very lucky the day he’s ready to venture out on his own here. 

If you had a Saturday night free, where would you go eat? Cheng Du Taste has been consistently my favorite place to eat in the state.  

Place to celebrate a special occasion? Matunuck Oyster Bar. They just kill it every single time. A true Rhode Island institution. 

Favorite food city for travel? I need to travel more, but probably New York. 

Late-night food? James Beard Award recipient Olneyville New York System. 

Guilty pleasure? Whiskey and bath time. Maybe with a lava lamp and some incense.


Natalia Paiva-Neves, chef/manager, O Dinis

579 Warren Ave., East Providence, 401-438-3769,


Natalia Paiva-Neves of O Dinis cooks on a wood-
burning outdoor oven. Photo courtesy of Natalia Paiva-Neves, O Dinis.

Why did you become a chef/restaurant owner? I started O Dinis with my dad in 1997. I worked in the restaurant first, then went to work in the wine industry for eleven years. When I had my second child, I left the wine business. Somehow my father reeled me back in. I wasn’t willing to put my children into day care. I found the most phenomenal Portuguese woman who would come to my house twice a week, stay with my boys, and I would come to the restaurant. Little by little, my kids went to school full time, and then I would bring them here. Both boys worked here. We’re a third-generation, family-owned restaurant. 

Favorite cookbook? Cozinha Tradicional Portuguesa by Maria de Lourdes Modesto. My mother gave it to me. It’s broken and battered and has handwritten notes from my mother. 

Signature dish at your restaurant? One of our signature dishes is the grilled cod, bacalhau na brasa. Bacalhau takes twenty-one days to properly dry and salt it from start to finish, then we have to de-salt it in water in the fridge for three days, changing the water every three hours.

Food you crave? I can instantly get an idea of something I want to make simply from a memory that was evoked that day. In the summer, I’ll grab some fish and we’ll grill it. Today, because it’s a rainy day, I’m torn between two things: lasagna or shepherd’s pie. If I have leftover roast, I pull apart the roast and use that for the filling.

What’s always in your kitchen at home? Onions, garlic, olive oil. Always. Because that could be the base for anything.

Favorite breakfast spot? For a traditional Portuguese breakfast, I go to Taunton Avenue Bakery for the bolos levedos, which are Portuguese English muffins crammed with butter and cheese and jam. Or papo secos with ham and cheese and butter. In Portuguese, it’s called tosta mista. Sometimes they will put it in a panini press. Cafe Zara in East Providence makes the best tosta mista with São Jorge Cheese.

Lunch spot? O Dinis. I get the whole fresh fish of the day. This month, it happens to be black sea bass, so three times a week, I’m eating whole, local Rhode Island black sea bass. All of our fresh fish comes from local waters. 

Rhode Island’s best-kept secret? Metacom Kitchen. I love that ragu pasta [chef Richard Allaire] makes with rabbit and duck. I love his bread. I also love that I can go in there and get a nice Portuguese bottle of wine. 

If you had a Saturday night free, where would you go eat? I love Oberlin. I get the smoked mussels. They had a gnocchi that was amazing. The menu changes according to what he has. 

Place to celebrate a special occasion? All of our special occasions are celebrated here. My father asks, “What do you want to eat?,” and he’ll make it. My sons’ birthdays happen to be on Dec. 23 and Jan. 3, so it’s a Christmas and New Year’s celebration. 

Favorite food city for travel? Lisbon, Portugal. The first thing I do after landing at the airport is hit a cafe and I get an espresso, I get a tosta mista and two pasteis de nata. I wait for them to come out of the oven. I like Time Out Market and Solar dos Presuntos restaurant. Another restaurant I love is Restaurante Praia Lourenco in the Algarve. They have not changed anything with tourism and serve grilled fish of the day and whole squid. 

Late-night food? I love Palo for pickies and tapas. I’m obsessed. 

Guilty pleasure? Pizza. I have three favorites. It all depends on availability and time. My number one? Al Forno for grilled pizza. My next go-to is Jeff’s wood-fired pizza in East Providence. What’s always available and I love: Fellini’s. I like artisan-style crafted pizza. 


Jacob Jasinski, executive chef, Cara at the Chanler at Cliff Walk

117 Memorial Blvd., Newport, 401-847-2244,


Chef Jacob Jasinski of Cara. Photo courtesy of Jacob Jasinski, Cara at the Chanler at Cliff Walk.

Why did you become a chef? I love food, teamwork and making people happy. I have always been fascinated with the way things taste and how introducing heat and other elements can transform an ingredient. 

Favorite cookbook? Joel Robuchon’s Le Grand Larousse Gastronomique or The Elements of Taste by Gray Kunz.

Signature dish at your restaurant? We don’t have a signature per se, as we always change the menu to highlight the ingredients that are in season at their peak. 

Food you crave? I moved away from New England when I was younger. Each time I would return, one of my first meals would be swordfish, scallops or handmade pasta. I’ve always loved the old-world Italian influence in the Providence area. 

What’s always in your kitchen at home? Mustard, coffee, citrus fruits (specifically grapefruits) and cheese.

Favorite breakfast spot? I usually don’t have time for breakfast, so Empire Coffee for a red eye in the colder months and a nitro cold brew in the summer.

Lunch spot? The roof deck at Midtown Oyster Bar is a great spot for looking at the water.

Rhode Island’s best-kept secret? Rebecca’s on Block Island for the best scallop rolls in New England.

If you had a Saturday night free, where would you go to eat? Restaurant hopping in Newport for a small taste of each restaurant would be my ideal Saturday night.

Place to celebrate a special occasion? Castle Hill Inn. They have a great team and their chefs are always pushing the envelope.

Favorite food city for travel? Stateside, I enjoy taking short trips to New York City; a recent favorite is Le Jardinier or taking a trip through some of the city’s many food halls and markets. Internationally, I find inspiration in travels to Paris, eating at anything from Michelin-starred restaurants to simply grabbing a baguette from a boulangerie.

Late-night food? Benjamin’s Raw Bar in Newport.

Guilty pleasure? On the East Coast, meatball or eggplant parm from Via Roma.


Mitch Mauricio, executive chef, Agawam Hunt (private club)

15 Roger Williams Ave., Rumford, 401-434-0980,


Chef Mitch Mauricio in the kitchen at Agawam Hunt. Photo courtesy of Mitch Mauricio, Agawam Hunt.

Why did you become a chef? I loved going out to eat when I was a kid. The buzz of a well-run restaurant was always electrifying to me, and I still feel that way today.

Favorite cookbook? Cozinha Tradicional Portuguesa by Maria de Lourdes Modesto. It’s the bible of Portuguese cuisine and very hard to come by (especially in English). Luckily, I found a copy at the incredible Portugalia Marketplace in Fall River.

Signature dish at your restaurant? Our menus change very often, but we love making handmade pastas. Right now, it’s a lobster-filled agnolotti in sauce Américaine, sprinkled with a bit of smoked paprika.

Food you crave? Definitely Portuguese food. I sometimes sneak off by myself and crush a plate of octopus ‘a lagareiro’ while sitting at the bar at Sagres Restaurant in Fall River.

What’s always in your kitchen at home? Pimenta moida, aka pimenta da terra. It’s a ground and fermented Azorean red pepper paste that goes great with lots of things. 

Favorite breakfast spot? Sunset Cafe in Bristol. 

Lunch spot? King’s Garden in Cranston; ask for their dim sum menu. They’re open on Mondays and Tuesdays (usually a chef’s weekend). Get the chive dumplings and pan-fried dried shrimp rice noodle.

Rhode Island’s best-kept secret? There’s great ramen in the heart of Bristol’s Portuguese neighborhood called Sakuratani Ramen and Izakaya. I get the spicy miso, extra egg,
extra nori on the side.  

If you had a Saturday night free, where would you go eat? I’d gather up my whole family and grab a big table at Spring Primavera Restaurant in Tiverton. I have been eating there my whole life and the food is super nostalgic. The best meals are surrounded by the ones you love.

Place to celebrate a special occasion? Bywater in Warren. Chef Luke and his team are doing really cool stuff down there. I can only go to celebrate a special occasion because I can’t help but order everything.  

Favorite food city for travel? Not necessarily a city, but São Miguel, Azores, is only a five-hour flight. My favorite
restaurant, A Cascata, is in the town of Ribeira Grande. They serve the most delicious shrimp I’ve ever had: They’re poached in seawater and served with some rock salt and a wedge of an Azorean sour orange. 

Guilty pleasure? Nick’s Hot Dogs in Fall River. Have you ever tried a hot dog with ground chouriço and peppers on top?


William Rietzel, executive chef, SeaCraft

113 Ocean Rd., Narragansett, 401-515-7222,


Seacraft executive chef William Rietzel digs into a meal at the chefs’ counter at Metacom Kitchen in Warren. Chef Richard Allaire helms the kitchen in the background. Photography by Angel Tucker.

Why did you become a chef? After starting out as a dishwasher, I fell in love with the restaurant culture and chef lifestyle, and from there, I never looked back. 

Favorite cookbook? 3 Star Chef, Gordon Ramsay.

Signature dish at your restaurant? Seared scallops with couscous, cauliflower espuma, golden raisins and parsley.

Food you crave? Pepperoni pizza.

What’s always in your kitchen at home? Feta.

Favorite breakfast spot? Dante’s Kitchen.

Lunch spot? Midtown Oyster Bar.

Rhode Island’s best-kept secret? Rebecca’s on Block Island for the fried scallop roll. Or Metacom Kitchen.

If you had a Saturday night free, where would you go eat? Giusto in Newport for steamed littlenecks or chowder and clam cakes. It’s a fun twist on a New England classic. Or Metacom Kitchen in Warren. Chef Richard Allaire is one of the most creative and talented chefs in Rhode Island.

Place to celebrate a special occasion? Cara at the Chanler.

Favorite food city for travel? Portland, Maine: Eventide, Duckfat, Fore Street and Browne Trading for the caviar tasting.

Late-night food? Chophouse Grille in South Kingstown.

Guilty pleasure? Foie gras mousse and grilled bread.


Gina Pezza, executive chef, Vanda

1 Centerville Rd., Warwick, 401-921-3144,


Gina Pezza leads the team at Vanda. Photo courtesy of Gina Pezza, Vanda/David Dadekian,

Why did you become a chef? I’ve always loved cooking and baking growing up, but it evolved into a love for the hospitality industry as a whole: bringing joy, happiness and full bellies to families and friends.

Favorite cookbook? Right now, it’s Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden.

Signature dish at your restaurant? Fusilli cipolla, braised duck and caramelized onion.

Food you crave? Tacos and Mexican food in general.

What’s always in your kitchen at home? Popcorn, bread, eggs and cheese.

Favorite breakfast spot? Athena’s.

Lunch spot? Mike’s Kitchen.

Rhode Island’s best-kept secret? Chilangos.

If you had a Saturday night free, where would you go eat? I finally made it to Cook and Dagger in Smithfield, and it is now on the top of my list for go-to restaurants. 

Place to celebrate a special occasion? Giusto or Oberlin.

Favorite food city for travel? Portland, Maine, (Central Provisions, Tipo) or Savannah, Georgia (the Grey, Husk, the Collins Quarter).

Late-night food? Slow Rhode.

Guilty pleasure? I have to pick one? Lately, it has been a loaded Pinkberry frozen yogurt