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Pinelliís Cucina and Twist
Bountiful, but boisterous

Pinelliís Cucina and Twist

Pinelliís Cucina and Twist
(401) 789-5300
2095 Kingstown Rd. (Route 108), Kingston
Cucina open Sun-Thurs, 4-9 p.m., Fri-Sat until 10 p.m.
Twist open Sun-Thurs, 4-9:30 p.m.; Fri-Sat until 10:30 p.m.
Major credit cards
Sidewalk access

Pinelliís Cucina and Twist is a new incarnation of Quattro Italian Grille (in the same location, with the same owners), and itís the sixth restaurant in the Pinelli-Marra empire in Rhode Island. The Cucina side of the restaurant mirrors Pinelliís Cucina in North Smithfield, with Italian home-style cooking, and the Twist side features American pub snacks, sandwiches, grilled pizzas, and a few entrees ó some imported from its next-door cousin and a few given a Cajun "twist."

We four chose the Cucina side and found, quite to our delight, that the food is still carefully prepared, served in staggering portions, and that the staff is friendly and helpful. The busy-as-a-beehive restaurant moved customers through at an efficient pace and served some very good food in the process. The high-backed black wooden chairs were comfy and chic, as was the butcher paper on the tables. The décor is simple, with a few dramatic light fixtures (though not quite enough to easily read the menu). The owners might also consider some sound-absorbing tiles, because we found ourselves leaning halfway across the table and semi-shouting to hear each other.

Nonetheless, we quickly dove into the menu and chose appetizers of calamari Giovanni ($6.95) and a Caprese salad ($6.95). Both plates offered plenty for our quartet to share. The calamari were crispy, non-greasy squares of squid, tossed with scallions, roasted red peppers, garlic butter, and soy sauce. Absolutely delicious, as well as a welcome change from the vinegary pepperoncini often served with calamari. The salad was made of sliced tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, on a bed of mesclun greens. It was a great complement to the squid.

Next came decisions about entrees. Our friend Ginny chose the shrimp scampi ($13.95) in a flash, and our other dining companion, my sister, also gravitated toward the seafood, settling on baked scrod Florentine ($13.95). The scampi was excellent, and I particularly appreciated the shrimp being de-tailed before they were tossed with the julienned vegetables and capellini. There was just enough garlic and white wine in the sauce to bring out all the flavors.

My sisterís platter of scrod was gigantic, and she could get through only a small portion of it, eating up the spinach and tomatoes atop the thick fish steak. Accompanying her entrée were mashed potatoes and summer squash with peppers. The squash seemed overcooked, but the potatoes were tasty and comforting with the fish, which was also quite nice.

Bill had to hold up the carnivore flag with grilled Tuscany pork chops ($15.95), cooked medium rare, as he requested. Two large chops arrived stacked on wedges of roasted potato and surrounded by spinach, portobellos, roasted red peppers, and chopped scallions. The whole was in a port wine demi-glaze that caused Bill to murmur, "Mmmm," with pleasure from time to time.

I, meanwhile, felt drawn to a meatless pasta dish called penne Siciliana ($10.95). This was penne tossed with chunks of roasted eggplant and plenty of the "house sauce" ó a very fiery tomato sauce that turned out to be almost too hot even for the fanatic fire-fan Bill. Perhaps someone in the kitchen had a heavy hand with the pepper flakes that night, because I canít imagine that particular level of spice in the regular sauce.

We perused the desserts on a tray held by our waitress. The chocolate torte and the chocolate brownie with ice cream sang their usual siren song, but I went for the house-made tiramisu ($5), and Ginny nominated the carrot cake ($5). Once again, we split each dessert into four portions and were stuffed in the process. The tiramisu was heavily soaked in espresso and liqueur, layered with whipped Mascarpone and dusted with cocoa. Quite rich but not enough chocolate for me (thatís just my craving kicking in ó not necessarily the traditional recipe). The carrot cake was okay, but the cream cheese frosting was much too sweet.

Cucina has a fairly extensive wine list of California and Italian wines, with a bakerís dozen offered by the glass ($5-$7). The full bar from Twist serves both sides, and that side of the restaurant seemed even more jumping (as intended) than Cucina. Cucina is a great place for URI students to take their parents, or for friends to gather for birthday celebrations (a rowdy one was taking place next to us). But with its moderate prices, it also makes for a nice family night out. And if the sound issue is addressed, it might even work as a "special date" place. Unless, of course, not being able to hear your partner for the evening is a good thing. You can always concentrate on the food.

Issue Date: October 10 - 16, 2003
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