Monday, June 7, 2010

Mike's Kitchen

Friday June 4th 2010
Mike’s Kitchen, Randall and Atwood, Cranston, RI

VFW halls can serve many a purpose. They act primarily as a congregation spot for veterans of past wars, a place where they can be amongst their people, sharing their combat stories, without the distractions of someone who wouldn’t understand. But then they also seem to be fine with renting the place out to some high school kid who wants to have a punk show, they might do a flea market in one, or in this case open an Italian restaurant.
With only this small vague sign hung in the window as an advertisement that there’s a restaurant inside, you think business would be slow. Even if you did happen to notice the sign just passing by the place, it doesn’t exactly do a lot to draw you in, but word of mouth has apparently spread, because the place is packed! Parking lot completely full, the cramped dining room totally jammed with people. People of all ages too, not just elderly shell shocked veterans smoking through their tracheotomies.

I tried a few bites of my Dad’s stuffed Quahog. This was the first time I’d had Quahog and up until this point despite being a native Rhode Islander, I had no idea what one was, which didn’t do a lot for my local pride with the Quahog being the punch line to a lot of regional jokes that up until now had gone right over my head. It was enlightening to learn, having spent so many years in the darkness when all I had to do was ask. Basically it’s just a giant clam, apparently this is quite a small one here, and when served stuffed its all minced up with seasonings and some type of bread crumb stuffing and then put back into the shell. Not bad.
My main course was the grilled sausage and pickled pepper sandwich, which was served with, well, just that. The peppers were most certainly pickled, someone had given them a real vigorous no holds barred pickling quite some time ago I would imagine. A bite with the combination of the sausage and peppers was great, two opposing flavors meshing nicely, but when my teeth would miss the sausage completely and I had a mouth full of bread and pickled pepper, oh boy was I in trouble. Each crunchy chomp would release another searing blast of shockingly tart juice, involuntarily contorting my facial expressions while I chewed and swallowed. I would yearn for that sausage. Eventually I was forced to remove some of the peppers, they had been quite generous with them, but the ratio of the two ingredients needed to be equal if I was going to enjoy myself, and with time I did.

A lot of traditional classic Italian dishes were served here. A lot of veal, a lot of interesting pasta and meat combinations. And if I couldn’t tell it was a serious place by reading the menu, the presence of the older gentleman who sat in the corner, leaned back in his chair, empty plate before him, hands flat on the table while his head went slowly from side to side, surveying the room, confirmed it. I had reservations about having something as heavy as the pasta for lunch, right before I would return to the relentless sun and the door whose paint needed removing, but next time I think I’ll go for it and see what happens.

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