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Feast | On The Menu

by John Taraborelli

Three Cheers Big anniversaries and major publicity for local businesses

Delighting palettes with award winning cuisine for over 20 years

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The original home of JB Morin’s diner in 1911

This month brings

big news for two local restaurants and one caterer. Two are raising a toast to longevity: Federal Hill’s famous Blue Grotto turns 30, and Russell Morin Fine Catering turns a whopping 100. The third is celebrating a phenomenally successful debut, as Cook and Brown Public House will be featured in the November issue of Esquire magazine as one of its “Best New Restaurants 2010.” While the Blue Grotto (210 Atwells Ave.) is no doubt familiar to most Rhode Islanders, Russell Morin might be a bit less so – at least in name. However, with 100 years of weddings, fundraisers, receptions and myriad other events under its belt, there’s a good chance this company has fed you at least once in your life. The family business began in 1911 when Jean Baptiste Morin opened a 24-seat diner next to the Attleboro train station. The catering jobs began in 1914, with workers in the factory behind the diner lowering their lunch pails to be filled. In 1930, the family bought a second diner on South Main Street, which is still the home of Morin’s Hometown Bar & Grille. Russell Morin, Jr., the current owner, entered the family business in 1957, working the pot sink at the diner. “Certain standards of behavior and excellence have been passed down through the generations,” says Russ, a third-generation owner. His attention to quality and service, as well as con-

Providence Monthly | November 2010

siderable charity work, catering fundraisers and special events, led him to be named “Caterer of the Year” by the Rhode Island Hospitality Association in 1999 and “Small Business Leader of the Year” by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce in 2004. The Blue Grotto’s history doesn’t go back quite so far, beginning on Thanksgiving Day in 1980, but it remains one of the old lions of Federal Hill. Current owner Michael Danahy, who began his career there as a 16-year-old busboy, made it his mission to update a classic for the modern diner. “We have gotten rid of the tuxedos and tableside service, looking for a slightly more contemporary feel,” he notes. “We are holding on to some of the old world dishes, but we have brought contemporary twists into the menu as well.” Some renovations of the interior are still in the works, as well as a remodel of the exterior. The spirit of the Blue Grotto remains the same, however. “This restaurant being open for 30 years says a lot about how well respected it is,” Danahy summarizes. “The reputation as an icon in the Providence restaurant scene still remains.” Meanwhile, Esquire’s Food and Travel Correspondent John Mariani, one of the preeminent food critics in the country, traveled coast to coast assembling the magazine’s annual “Best New Restaurants” list. He settled on Hope Street’s newest hotspot, Cook and Brown, as one of 20 that are worth

the trip. Mariani applauds husband and wife team Nemo and Jenny Bolin for opening in the middle of a recession “without the slightest pretense that they want to do anything more than cook wonderful, personalized food.” OPENING SOON >> The folks at Garden Grille are expanding into the space next door with Wildflour Vegan Bakery and Juice Bar (727 East Avenue, Pawtucket). Opening in December, the bakery will feature a 100% vegan dessert menu, sprinkled with some gluten-free offerings as well. There will also be a seasonal café menu of raw live food small plates and an organic “Juice Farmacy.” EATING LOCAL GETS COMPETITIVE >> The first Pawtucket Wintertime Farmer’s Market at the Hope Artiste Village (1005 Main Street) is upon us, Saturday, November 6. On opening day, Farm Fresh, the nonprofit that runs the market, will host its second annual Perfect Pickle Contest. Competitors are encouraged to sign up at www.farmfreshri.org and start jarring their favorite recipe (which must contain at least one local ingredient) in four categories: Best Pickle (traditionally brined cucumbers), Best Brine (any produce, any flavor), Best Ferment (i.e. sauerkraut or kimchee) and Best in Show. Got food news? Send it to onthemenu@providenceonline.com.


"Three Cheers"