Everyone has had a Rhode Island “moment.” You’re in a faraway city, don’t know a soul, and you find yourself in a café on some crowded street. You strike up a conversation with a total stranger at the bar and find that the person you’ve just become acquainted with is a nephew of the daughter of your next-door neighbor in Rhode Island.
During my visit to Stowe, Vt., earlier this summer, in addition to finding two chefs at the same food event who started out in Providence, I was in the village general store at 8 a.m., on Saturday morning, anticipating taking in some local conversation. What I got was “Hey, by any chance, do you carry the Providence daily paper?” in an all-too-familiar accent from a vacationer who couldn’t get away from the Ocean State.
Like so many other aspects of our lives, the restaurant community here has its own share of Rhode Island moments. The classic moment involves someone’s family tree. And so it went at the new sidewalk café at Temple Downtown Restaurant and Lounge in the Renaissance Providence Hotel opposite the Statehouse. Vincent Lo Buono, of Cranston, just took over as general manager of the restaurant, named for its surroundings in what was intended to be a Masonic Temple.
Lo Buono’s move to Providence was actually a homecoming. Having worked for Todd English Enterprises since 2002, he was the general manager of Tuscany, the Todd English property at the Mohegan Sun Casino. In addition, Lo Buono moved all over the Todd English empire, with stints at the celebrity chef’s restaurants, including Kingfish Hall, Figs and Olives in and around Boston, Ca Va Brasserie in Times Square and The Plaza Food Hall at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.
His tenure included stops at the company’s restaurant outposts in Las Vegas and Boca Raton, Fla. As it happens, he started his restaurant career on Federal Hill. And having gotten recently married – to a Rhode Islander – he found it to be in his new family’s best interest to return home. But his reason could as well have been the result of the influence of family members going further back than that. As he told me at lunch during Providence Restaurant Week, his family ties were even more binding. His uncle is Nino d’Urso, the beloved chef at Capriccio for so many years. Uncle Nino is well-enjoying retirement in warmer climes and giving nephew Vincent and those at his table a Rhode Island moment.