Providence: CAV

Let's Eat by Kitty Kaufman

cav patio Vince comes to Providence one day a year to teach. My job is to find a place to eat. I don't know Providence. Last year, I picked the Capital Grille. It was great. So I read Yelp and TripAdvisor and Zagat and random comments about places, knowing this is an impossible task. We sort through a short list and decide on CAV.

I drive to CAV though a local says we could walk. This is a good decision. I'm anxious that even with GPS, we cannot find it though in the end, we do find it. It is further than the local thinks, through deserted streets with no signs. And it's at the back of a courtyard where you see the restaurant sign only when you are already in the courtyard. The GPS lady is so confused she doesn't say a word.

CAV's website says they've been commended for foie gras, atmosphere, chicken, vichyssoise, the bar (imported from a tavern in Manhattan), and that they are the fifth top attraction in Providence. Since we're eating none of those things, and we're at a table, I can't speak to that. We do notice the room is dark but not so dark that I can't see that there are things hanging from the ceiling. Though it is just 5:30 (Vince had no lunch), it's clear they want us in and out. At this point, there are ten other diners with kids.

cav steak Had it been warm, we would have sat in the courtyard. I don't know if that makes a difference. You still have to stand on line for one bathroom, where there's no way to tell if it's occupied and I have to ask two people where it is because the GPS is in my purse. (There are 125 seats for one bathroom; maybe there are two, I'm not sure.) CAV is located in a loft with original floors and maybe the orginal bathrooms. I don't know; I got tired of waiting. The room reminds me of the home of an eccentric person who likes grapes, Asian pieces, chandeliers and antique sleds. To be fair, I didn't actually see any grapes.

Vince picks wine: Lucanto Montepulciano d'Abruzzo full of fruit and "approachable tannins." A friendly, brusque server pours. She tries to fill my glass to the top. It is now 5:35. We order calamari. It's a big appetizer on a huge plate, pan-seared with basil, garlic and peppers. Vince says the peppers are very hot. He might even have said "marone a mi." I pick them out from the calamari which is good, lightly cooked and right out of the pan. The server boxes up what we don't eat, with the peppers.

Vince orders ravioli with truffles, mushrooms and broccoli heaped with Parmesan. We like it, broccoli and all with a sauce that might be truffly and maybe creamy and certainly buttery. Presentation could be, well, more presentable. (It doesn't matter now, it's no longer on the menu.) If the kitchen insists on huge dinner plates, which they do, display is not all that easy. I find Italian parsley is always useful. These plates would never fit in my dishwasher.

cav steak I get the filet with "Bordelaise, potatoes planks, butter poached Asparagus, olive infused pommes puree." Filet is perfectly medium rare and delicious. Planks are holding the meat over what we hoped would be bright green asparagus. Mashed potatoes are fine. This is a first: potatoes two ways on one plate. Apparently, carb fear has not reached Providence.

I thought the room would be packed now, being Saturday, but it's not. We are closing in on the last few inches of wine. It's still early so dessert is in order. Vince orders gâteau. It's as rich as you want, ice cold and sauced with squiggles. We try very hard but we cannot finish it. It has, in its own way, capped off a fine, fast meal. You can count on dessert to do that. I know this is the speediest, expensive meal I've ever had. I guess we are snobs; more likely it's only me.

I'm carrying three crinkly aluminum takeout boxes. We find the car where we left it. The GPS lady gets us back to Vince's hotel where the lobby bathroom is clearly marked and there's no wait. It's good I didn't let the server fill my glass; there's still a bit of light in the sky and I've got 60 miles to go to Boston.

CAV Restaurant
14 Imperial Place
Providence, RI 02903

© July 9, 2015 Kitty Kaufman is a Boston writer. Vince Ciotti is a wine maven. In another life, they worked together in Philadelphia at a corporation that no longer is. See more of their Providence adventures at Corporate Edge and follow Kitty on Twitter. Vince doesn't believe in Twitter.
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