Here in southern Rhode Island, there aren’t many places where you can find good down-home southern cooking. There are plenty of pizza places, Chinese restaurants, burger pubs and seafood spots, but if you’re looking for fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, grits, jambalaya or barbecue, you’re generally out of luck. Dante’s Kitchen on Main Street in East Greenwich hopes to change that by bringing you a taste of the South.
Dante’s Kitchen opened just about a year ago. Owner Lisa Altieri fell in love with southern food while travelling the country as a transportation logistical manager for large scale conventions. She opened Dante’s Kitchen to share her love of southern food with her customers. The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch Tuesday-Sunday and dinner Wednesday-Saturday. Last year, she hired Executive Chef Jason Nappa and he’s been preparing the restaurant’s hearty food ever since. In mid-June, Dante’s Kitchen updated their menu, keeping some favorites but also adding a few new items.
As usual, Main Street was bustling on the Saturday night we visited Dante’s Kitchen, so we were glad we had a reservation. The restaurant is small and cozy with rustic hardwood floors, dark wood paneling and warm colors on the walls as well as some exposed brick. Since the restaurant is BYOB (which I love), we brought a six-pack of Sierra Nevada Summerfest. Our waitress offered to bring us frosted glasses for our beer but sheepishly added that there would be an additional charge. Although we thought frosted glasses sounded good, we decided not to spend $2.50 for that privilege. As we were perusing the menu, we sampled the house corn bread, and it was very good – moist with enough jalapeños to wake up your taste buds.
To start, my friends and I ordered three appetizers to share. Our favorite was the Fried Green Tomato Tower ($8). The cornmeal-encrusted tomatoes were layered with bacon and goat cheese. The goat cheese perfectly complemented the crisp, fried, tart tomatoes and the bacon just added to the goodness. We also enjoyed the Crispy Oysters ($8) with pickled onions and Cajun aioli. The five oysters were on the small side, but they were sweet and perfectly fried. I’m a sucker for pickled onions (really pickled anything), so they made the dish for me. The Biscuits and Gravy ($7) were stick-to-your-ribs good. The biscuits were buttery and flaky, soaking in all of the savory, rich gravy.
The entrées at Dante’s Kitchen are very reasonably priced. Everything is less than $20, except for the Cajun Rib Eye ($27). I was trying to save room for dessert, so I opted for something light and chose the Blackened Salmon ($19). The salmon was really good, with just enough seasoning to give it a bit of a kick, but not so much as to overwhelm the delicate flavor of the fish. It was topped with a peach salsa, which had just the right amount of heat. My entrée was served with what was described as a “zucchini fritter” but was more the consistency of a pancake. My friends ordered the Fried Chicken and Waffles (pictured above $13), and the Seared Shrimp ($19) and were both very happy with their choices. The Fried Chicken and Waffles were made with fried chicken tenders instead of bone-in chicken pieces. My friend liked it better and said the chicken tenders made it “less over-whelming” and kept the meat moist, but there was definitely more waffle than chicken. The Seared Shrimp was very well prepared. The shrimp were drizzled with a honey/lemon vinaigrette, which my friend said was “tangy, citrusy and light.” The shrimp were served atop a bed of tasty dirty rice, which was flavored with sausage rather than the traditional giblets or liver.
At Dante’s Kitchen, all the desserts are made in-house. After everything we ate, we were pretty full, but the desserts sounded too good to pass up, so we decided to try a couple. I ordered the Jack Daniels Chocolate Pecan Pie ($7) with a scoop of housemade vanilla bean ice cream. The pie was warm, ooey, gooey and chocolatey and worth every calorie. Our congenial waitress suggested the addition of ice cream, and she was right because the ice cream gave it an added boost. My friends split the Peach Cobbler ($6), and the portion would have fed a family of four, so there were plenty of leftovers to take home in our empty beer cooler.
We left stuffed to the gills and in need of a long walk. Dante’s Kitchen is reasonably priced, offers good food and charming service. Our waitress was a character, and we enjoyed talking to her. I will definitely be back when I need to satisfy my comfort food craving. Now, does anyone know where I can get some good barbecue?
Dante’s Kitchen 315 Main Street, East Greenwich. 398-7798.