East Providence RI is a small town of about 50,000 residents located just over the Seekonk MA border along I-195. The city, a suburb of the Rhode Island capital is segmented into the three "villages" of East Providence Center, Riverside and Rumford. Riverside was home to the once famous Crescent Park Amusement Park, which is still home to the Crescent Park Charles I. D. Looff Carousel. Built in 1895, it is one of Mr. Looff's most spectaular carousels, even more beautiful than the one I rode almost every summer weekend as a child at the Lincoln Amusement Park in Dartmouth MA.
Today, East Providence is home to a sizable Luso-American community with roots in Portugal, Azores, Cape Verde and Madeira. There are a number of very good options for Portuguese food in the city and after having served this local community for over twenty years, the Riviera Inn is one of your better choices.
Walking in on a late week night, the Riviera was quietier than perhaps is the usual. The first thing you see as you walk through the door is a fairly large u-shaped bar in the center of the room. Over to the right is an unassuming separate dining area, which is segmented into a main dining room and a larger banquet hall that brings the restaurant's capacity to close to 400 guests.
The Riviera's menu is filled with interesting takes on Portuguese restaurant staples and also includes many Italian dishes - presumeably influenced by the large Italian community in Rhode Island. We walked in on a late weeknight, very close to closing time, so our dinner choices were limited to certain menu items. However, the menu is fairly extensive and the restrictions did not inconvenience us all that much.
Carne de Porco à Alentejana, like so many great dishes, is dependent on the strength and greatness of its sauce. The Riviera's version of the sauce, which tasted like a veal-demi glaze turned "Portuguese" by the pork and clams in the dish, is delicious and a great bread-dunking sauce. The other dish I was happy to try was the Mariscada. Many restaurants try to do this dish, but most - in my opinion - fail. There are two keys to making a seafood dish like this a success — the broth needs to be great on it's own even before the seafood is added and the seafood itself must be fresh. The Riviera does well on both points. The tomato-and-wine-based broth was a pleasant spicy and tangy match to the sweet and salty seafood. I've had similar dishes elsewhere that were dissapointing for being 50% calamari and very little fish, clams or scallops. This mariscada was nicely stocked with a good variety of fresh seafood. The large pot was packed with shrimp, clams, mussels lobster, fish and scallops. Real yummy.
This was my first visit to the Riviera Inn. I had driven by hundred of times, but frankly, never knew they served Portugese cuisine. Had it's name been "Ribeira Inn" it would have been more obvious to me. That's OK, I finally got it. You should, too.
580 North Broadway
East Providence RI 02914-2134