Growing up in Rhode Island, my family spent many Friday nights in one Italian-American red sauce joint or another. We have no Italian heritage, but we loved the mounds of pasta, the red sauce that was called “gravy” and those awesome fried mozzarella sticks that we dipped greedily into said gravy. It seems those old school red sauce joints have started to vanish, at least here in southern Rhode Island. On Federal Hill in Providence, they still thrive, but not down here. This summer I was excited to hear that Christine and Greg Stevens (of Pat’s Italian in Johnston) were opening a new restaurant called Frankie’s Italian Bistro in North Kingstown, and I couldn’t wait to make my first visit.
Frankie’s Italian Bistro is located on Ten Rod Road close to the Wickford Junction train station. The restaurant opened in early October after renovating their restaurant space. Walking into Frankie’s, I especially liked how the main dining room was entirely separated from the bar. As an adult customer without children, I often seek out bar seating to avoid the kids in high chairs. The bar area is quite big with plenty of seats and some high top tables as well. On the night I visited, I had a reservation for the dining room. Making reservations was easy thanks to their online system, and my table was ready and waiting for me. The atmosphere was eclectic and a step or two up from your typical plastic tablecloth, paper napkin red sauce spot.
True to my usual pattern, I started my night with the local beer on tap, which was Grey Sail’s Flying Jenny ($7). I was surprised the Italian beer staple, Peroni, was not on the menu, but they did have Birra Moretti. The wine list had a mix of wines from around the world, and I was impressed with some of the choices from Italy including a Super Tuscan, a Barolo and a Montepulciano. They also offered sangria by the glass or pitcher in a choice of red, white, blackberry or kinky. The cocktail list offered a variety of choices, but since most were on the side of sweet, the table chose beer. However, the Limoncello Martini did catch my eye. It’s made with limoncello, Ketel One Citron, lemonade and simple syrup, so I will have to try that next time.
Frankie’s food is sourced as locally as possible, which is a nice touch. They get their produce from local hydroponic farms, and all of their meats, poultry and seafood are natural, antibiotic- and GMO-free. Much of the menu is made up of classic and updated Italian fare. The one appetizer that didn’t seem to jibe with the rest of the menu was the Sweet and Spicy Calamari ($12.95). We didn’t try it, but we were curious how a calamari with Thai chili sauce fit with everything else, so I may need to try that next time too.
To begin the meal, my guests and I enjoyed the bread that was delivered with a nice tub of whipped butter. The bread was fresh and good. Make sure to save a couple of slices to dip in your sauce later in the meal. We also sampled the Vegetable Flatbread ($11.95) and the Eggplant Rollatini ($7.95). The flatbread was tasty and topped with plenty of mushrooms, roasted red peppers, spinach and melted mozzarella cheese. At our table, the Eggplant Rollatini was also a hit. The breaded eggplant was stuffed with Narragansett Creamy ricotta cheese and roasted red peppers.
When it came time to order our entrées, we all knew exactly what we wanted: old school Italian goodness. Every red sauce joint in Rhode Island is judged by its Chicken Parmigiana ($16.95) and at Frankie’s it doesn’t disappoint. The chicken cutlet was hand-breaded and perfectly crispy. Sometimes in chicken parm, the chicken can get dry, but not in this case. The melted mozzarella was just the right amount of cheesy goodness. and the red sauce was fantastic. I could taste the richness from the San Marzano tomatoes and the sweetness of fresh basil. We also sampled the Eggplant Parmigiana ($14.95), and it got high marks from the vegetarian with us. I tried the Chicken Sorrento ($19.95) and was rewarded with an enormous breaded chicken cutlet topped with ricotta, mozzarella and breaded eggplant. The portion was so large that it hung off of the plate. It was everything you would want in Italian comfort food.
All of our entrées came with a side of pasta. The restaurant offers two homemade pastas (pappardelle and radiatore) for a $1.95 upcharge. Other entrées on the menu included Grilled Pork Loin ($17.95), Seafood Risotto ($24.95) and a 10 oz. Filet Mignon ($28.95).
In a town sorely in need of more dining options, Frankie’s Italian Bistro is sure to be a popular spot. I look forward to a return visit to try more items from their menu – I bet the meatballs are killer. If you don’t have a Grandma Mosca to make gravy for you, Frankie’s might be the next best thing.
Frankie’s Italian Bistro
1051 Ten Rod Road, North Kingstown