It has been said that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Restaurants come and restaurants go. Because we fear when our favorite restaurant changes ownership, many were concerned when the Martucci Group took over East Greenwich’s beloved Besos Kitchen & Cocktails. So I gathered a group of friends for lunch to see what the fuss was about.
Besos is located in the heart of East Greenwich’s Main Street in the historic Elms Building. The structure has been in existence since about 1880, when it was a men-only tavern with a hotel on the top floor. The restaurant mixes the elegant and rustic: shiny, black chandeliers, antique mirrors, and bistro style furniture alongside the barn wood floors and aged wooden touches. The restaurant is known for its wraparound porch, which provides additional dining space and a view of Main Street.
As any group of “ladies who lunch” would do, we started with a round of cocktails. I was impressed by the variety on their cocktail menu; the restaurant prides itself on its concoctions, going so far to make its own shrubs and bitters. I ordered a Lotus Eaters Dream ($12) – pisco, amaro, spiced nasturtium hibiscus syrup, blood orange, and lime, finished with a sugar rim. It looked as beautiful as it tasted. Despite all of the ingredients, it was easy to drink and tasted refreshing on a hot day. Two of my friends sampled the Sangria ($10), one white and one red. With our drinks, the waitress brought out some fabulous rolls with chili oil on the side. They were so good, we asked for more.
The lunch menu at Beso’s isn’t expansive, but it does offer variety. We all felt like pizza, so we started with the Three Cheese & Proscuitto Grilled Pizza ($13) from the Grilled Pizza and Small Plates section of the menu. The crust was topped with just the right amount of fig jam, mozzarella, goat cheese, shaved Parmesan, and arugula. I also ordered Fish Tacos ($10). I didn’t read the description closely and was surprised to find the fish to be salmon. I loved the crunchy toppings on my corn tortilla tacos, which included jicama, carrot, and red onion jalapeno slaw. One of my friends tried the Chicken Caesar Wrap ($12) that was served with roasted potatoes (with a tasty aioli) and a crisp, vinegary slaw.
Two of my friends were on the hungrier side and ordered from the Pastas and Entrees section of the menu. One had the Faroe Island Salmon ($16). It was topped with pineapple chutney and served with sautéed spinach and roasted potatoes. The other friend always orders something Italian, so she tried the Baked Rigatoni ($12), and it was served in the cast iron skillet in which it was baked. The tomato sauce was good, but what put it over the top was how cheesy it was, and this was a very rich dish. Keeping the accompaniments light and on the healthy on the side, they paired it with a heaping helping of mixed greens dressed with a light balsamic dressing.
Since we still had more school gossip to discuss, we ordered the Chocolate Lava Cake ($10) for dessert. As we sat and waited for the cake, one of my friends remarked that it seemed to be taking a long time and was surprised to learn they were baking the cake to order. This version of Lava Cake was filled with deep chocolate goodness, and when your fork entered, it oozed molten chocolate lava. Well worth the wait.
Besos provided the perfect daytime venue; the elegant atmosphere, the friendly service, and the delicious food made us wish we could do this every week. Beso’s might be managed by someone new, but hopefully they will remain a Main Street staple for at least another hundred years.
Besos Kitchen & Cocktails
378 Main Street, East Greenwich • 398-8855