Pretty fine pizza and pasta
BY JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ
|dining out |
(401) 295-9382 |
1051 Ten Rod Rd., North Kingstown
Open Mon-Thurs, 5-9 p.m., Fri, 5-10 p.m., Sat, 12-10 p.m., Sun, 12-8 p.m.
No credit cards
As soon as we walked into Martino's, we had the feeling that they must be doing
something right, packed as it was with families on a weeknight. This feeling
was confirmed when the globe-trotting friends who brought us confessed to
carrying a Martino's menu in their car, just in case they might need to call in
a pizza from the road.
We had a fair idea that this pasta bar/pizzeria was going to be a friendly,
upbeat eatery from the moment we spied the vibrant fantasy paintings of
mega-vegetables covering one wall, spilling out of three huge frames to become
murals. Fat white garlic bulbs, tilted mushroom caps, plump tomatoes and their
vines, a sumptuous eggplant. The motif is picked up over the open kitchen and
in other spots around the room. All of this made us quickly forget that we were
in a small commercial plaza anchored by a Wal-Mart.
As did the food. Owner Brendan O'Neil and his cooks, Jamie Correiro and Walter
Slater, are turning out some of the finest pizzas and pasta dishes south of the
Washington County border. Their humongous salads, delicious soups, and generous
sandwiches are also contenders.
O'Neil began his restaurant work in New York City, cooking pizza in coal-fired
ovens at Lombardi's, one of the oldest pizzerias in the country. He tries to
approximate the taste of those pizzas in a brick oven that reaches 780 degrees,
and he offers more than two dozen extra toppings, including goat cheese,
Gorgonzola, roasted garlic, and caramelized onions (a 12-inch pie is $6, with
toppings $1 each; 16-inch is $10, with toppings $2 each). There are also
"specialty pizzas" with specified toppings ($9.95-$16.95).
Martino's solves that oft-encountered dilemma of how to crowd a large pizza
onto a tight table by serving them on pedestal trays, with a foot only about as
big as a saucer. We did an end-run around this problem by ordering one of the
smaller grilled pizzas ($9.95). The meatless one we chose -- with portobello
mushrooms, caramelized Bermuda onions, and dollops of Gorgonzola and roasted
garlic cream cheese -- was amazingly good.
Bill and I shared a bowl of tomato soup with spinach, basil, and roasted
chicken ($4.95), that made me look like a Campbell's Kid with my speedy
spooning. Alas, those kids didn't have Martino's terrific focaccia for an
Although we were quite sated by these openers, our duties beckoned us on to
the pastas. From a list of 14, plus two specials that evening, our friend Peter
and I settled on two cappellini dishes, one with shrimp and clams ($15.95), the
other with portobellos ($11.95). Ever the hedonist, Bill opted for penne with
roasted eggplant and add-on shrimp ($11.95, plus $4 for the shrimp). His pasta
also included zucchini, kalamata olives, and roasted red peppers, in a light
oven-dried tomato sauce dotted with goat cheese. Flavors popped out
individually, but also melded wonderfully here and there. In a valiant attempt
at restraint, the other member of our quartet, Cynthia, got a Creole shrimp
salad ($10.95), which turned out to be every bit as voluminous as our pasta
meals, but with fewer carbs.
Meanwhile, Peter and I were twirling our cappellini. His "hand-shucked native
clams" and shrimp had been tossed with garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, and
chopped plum tomatoes in a roasted tomato seafood sauce, and he was quite
pleased, though I found it a smidgen too fiery. On the other end of the
spectrum, however, my cappellini -- tossed with spinach, roasted garlic,
broccoli, and chopped tomatoes in the aforementioned oven-dried tomato sauce --
needed more herbs, something to spark the veggies.
Cynthia's salad was certainly a winner, with eight shrimp perched at the foot
of a mountain of greens, plus roasted red peppers, grated Parmesan, and what
seemed like a half-jar of artichokes. With a lemon vinaigrette, this salad had
a hint of Caesar about it, with the spicy shrimp standing in for anchovies.
House-made desserts at Martino's are tiramisu, crème
brûlée, and chocolate mousse ($4.95 each). On the recommendation
of our friends, we ordered the crème brûlée, and for good
measure, the chocolate mousse as well. Although I found the
brûlée's sugar crust a bit too thick, the crème beneath it
was just fine. As was the light-chocolate mousse, layered with whipped cream.
Martino's has a short list of California reds and whites, by the glass and
bottle, plus four drafts among their brews. The waitstaff is cheerful and
energetic. If only we could get the restaurant to move closer to our home, we
wouldn't have to envy our friends' their wonderful neighborhood pizza shop.
Issue Date: April 19 - 25, 2002