Rooster. Little rooster, to be exact, is the translation of the word "galito." In fact, the rooster (galo de barcelos) is a symbol of Portugal that originates from a old tale of a man accused of stealing and pleading his innocence to the judge. The man, who was before the judge as he was about to feast on a meal, pointed to the roasted rooster on the table and stated that the rooster would crow three times and prove his innocence. After some understandable laughter, It did, and the man was released. There are many variations of this story, but we get the point. It is said that the main later built a statue of the rooster in honor of it saving the man's life. Today, you see ceramic roosters—and other incarnations—in most souvenir shops all over Portugal.
My quest to discover new Portuguese restaurants in Rhode Island has lead me to Pawtucket once before. This time, however, the destination was a little bit off the main roads, somewhere between Route 1 and Route 114( and I-95). I drove up Newport Ave (Rt 1) and took a left onto Columbus Ave and within a minute or two I entered Galito's large parking lot and walked in. It's a stand-alone, square, one-story building within a more or less residential neighborhood. Once inside, I found a sizable dining room with nicely decorated tables that were spaciously separated from each other. I was here for lunch. There was a group of twenty somethings finishing their meals, at another table a mother and daughter were looking over the menu, and at another table on the other side of the room were two men-one of which was apologetically complaining to the waitress that he could not eat his grouper special because it still had the head on it. I sat down and tried to ignore that exchange.
It's often a gamble as to what you're going to get in an unfamiliar restaurant. I always check out the meals of other diners as I walk to my table. i review the menu for things I know I'll like, as a safety, then I look for things that sound different or interesting, which is hard since you don't get much detail on most menus.
Amêijoas À Espanhola
I started with Amêijoas à Espanhola. Generally, I love this dish for two reasons: the sweet little neck clams and the broth that's perfect for dunking bread. At Galito, the clams were great, fresh and sweet. The broth had a different preparation and was more like a turmeric seafood sauce than a simple watery onion, garlic and tomato broth you expect with anything "à Espanhola." The green peppers and onions that were in the broth were a bit under-cooked for me, but overall it was a tasty dish nand I enjoyed it.
Vitela em Molho de Porto
The Vitela em Molho de Porto (Veal in Port Wine Sauce) had caught my eye since it's fairly rare that a Portuguese restaurant would use Port in a sauce. Port wine development was nurtured by it's biggest fans, the British and Dutch. To the Portuguese, Port was expensive and it would be unlikely that they would pass up drinking it, for putting it in their food. When the plate arrived I was also surprised to see capers (no mention of it on the menu) - and not the small berries, but the large berried capers. Though popular in Italian food, especially in the south, I've never seen capers in a Portuguese restaurant. The capers and Port mix was actually very good and I've come across the combination before - even in my own kitchen. The veal itself was tender and well-prepared. There was plenty of sauce for the meat, the fries and the rice. I love the feeling I get when I actively and attentively eat a meal - you know, when there are things to do, not just lifting a fork to your mouth. I like to cut things, dunk things, mix things up, build things onto the fork, explore the different things on the plate, etc. That doesn't mean I want to carve a turkey at the table.
I didn't have any of the desserts, but they did look more interesting than the usual flan you see in most Portuguese restaurants. And my server was pleasant and attentive as she handled a number of lunch guest. The one thing I did find that could be improved was that both dishes did not come to the table hot. They weren't cold or just warm, but just noticeably not "hot."
Galito was a nice discovery. I enjoyed the explorations of different preparations and ingredients. I spotted a couple of other dishes on the menu for which I will return to Pawtucket to try.
214 Columbus Avenue
Pawtucket RI 02861