We so often talk about and seek out the newest restaurant in town. And we do not have very far to look to find another new place opening its doors to tempt us. The reviewers and the bloggers join in the quest to be the first at the newest. But the real sustaining reason why Rhode Island is a great dining destination is that like established culinary meccas such as New York City, there are a number of well-established favorite spots in the neighborhoods as well as in the downtown dining districts.
These familiar eateries have stood the test of time as well as the onslaught of every restaurant-come-lately on the Restaurant Row.
There is another category of dependable eateries that are available to us. Longtime restaurateurs who have reinvented themselves, combining the best of their original concepts with modern contemporary touches, have opened new places. In some cases it marks a return to a familiar neighborhood, for others it is the fulfillment of a longtime desire to work nearer to home, particularly when home is a place long sought after. Two chef-restaurateurs are prime examples of how the familiar can be turned into a new experience with practically none of the uncertainty or missteps that hamper fledgling businesspeople.
Ralph Conte has enjoyed a well-deserved reputation as one of Providence’s best-respected chefs and restaurant owners. His landmark Italian bistro, Raphael, is still fondly remembered by foodies from throughout the state. He started out as some will remember in North Kingstown, then had a couple of locations in Providence and a location in East Greenwich.
I described Raphael Bar Risto as “one of the most perfect spots for romance” and when Ralph closed his doors in 2008, I wrote how “he showed us how cool and sophisticated with great food could be done” and called him a “pioneer in the Providence restaurant boom.”
In the summer of 2012, he re-emerged in North Kingstown, just across the bay from his beloved Jamestown home. He opened Plum Point Bistro along with his wife, Elisa, son, Raffi, and daughter, Zoe. The crowds and rave reviews followed.
Ralph and his family have established a menu highlighting ingredients and creations that are “fresh, all natural, organic and locally grown whenever possible” – that’s the message on the menu. While Ralph spends his time away from the restaurant out fishing, other specials reflect the new preferences in dining out. Plum Point Bistro has a daily Vegan Board with specials that are in keeping with the diet. Next to the cutting-edge choices, an “old-school” choice: escargot.