CRANSTON, RI – The fire is burning, the pans are sizzling, the kitchen is cranking, and customers are flocking to Avvio Ristorante. Located in the Garden City Center in Cranston, Rhode Island, Avvio is lot nicer than most neighborhood Italian restaurants and pizzerias, but a lot less expensive than you’d expect, considering the consistently fresh and authentic food of Chef Greg Coccio.
“The approach we took while developing this restaurant was, preparing simple foods for the everyday meal experience; using really good technique, well thought out flavors, combined together to make some really good dishes.”
Food like linguine with clams, real Neapolitan pizza, wood-grilled steaks, and ocean-fresh seafood. It’s all cooked in a very busy, constantly buzzing open kitchen which adds to the energy of the room.
“I’d say it’s a live atmosphere,” Chef Greg described. “We have the open kitchen, the wood-fired grill, the Marra Forni pizza oven. It’s a really upbeat dining experience. You get to hear the sounds of the kitchen moving. It makes music.”
The menu is like music for your mouth. Nothing fancy, nothing exotic, just high quality, fast casual, traditional Italian trattoria fair, starting with a heck of an antipasto platter.
“We have a great antipasto,” Greg promised. “It’s served on a slate. We use coppa, with hot soppressata and prosciutto, and then we do a nice pickled red onion, ricotta cheese, stuffed banana pepper, a little arugula, and capoanata, which is an eggplant relish. It gives you the opportunity to mix and match flavors that you normally wouldn’t in a salad.”
After that, the calamari is a popular choice. It comes in fresh from Point Judith right down the road, just coated in cornmeal and lightly fried along with some baby shrimp and cherry peppers with a red pepper aioili for dipping.
In the true test of any Italian restaurant, the meatballs do not disappoint.
“Beef and sausage meatball. It’s a slow-cooked meatball, so they’re super tender. Ton of flavor, nice fattiness from the sausage, and we serve that with some ricotta cheese and grilled country bread,” Chef Greg said.
To achieve the flavors of real Neapolitan pizza, Avvio brought in the best oven they can find.
“It’s 100 percent wood-fired oven,” Greg explained. “We had it built and shipped in. It cooks around 900 degrees. It has to stay that hot to really get the hydration out of the dough, to char up so you get the nice browning on the crust.”
Toppings range from fig and prosciutto to pepperoni and soppressata, but the traditional Margherita might be the best of the bunch.
“It’s our number one selling pizza. It’s so simple. It’s San Marzano, hand-crushed tomatoes. We make fior di latte, which is a fresh mozzarella cheese here, basil and extra virgin olive oil. That’s it. It’s delicious. Simple is better.”
When it comes time to pick an entree, you could go for a steak like the twin five-ounce filets, or a seafood dish like the Aqua Pazza, featuring a beautiful piece of cod cooked and served in a sea-salted broth. But the Bolognese is always a deliciously safe choice.
“We’re slowing cooking the beef, the pork, the veal, adding in the tomatoes. We use carrots in there to kind of sweeten it with the onions. It’s slow cooked. We add a little cream to finish it. It’s fantastic,” Greg declared.
Believe it or not, they even have an outstanding burger on the menu, topped with bacon, fontina cheese, and caramelized onions. And of course, there’s the always hard-to-pass-up Chicken Parm.
“Everyone has a chicken parm, but what we do here is we make a crossini breadstick and we use that for our bread service. We grind that up and use it for our breading for chicken parms, and it really sets us apart. It adds a nice saltiness to it,” described Greg.
Before we say goodbye to Avvio, say hello to the oversized Almond Cornmeal Cookie for dessert.
“It’s about a 12-inch cookie that we send out on a slate plate. We have our food runners crack it with a spoon right at the table, kind of break it right into a bunch of pieces for everyone to share. It’s a great way to finish off the meal, just sharing with everybody.”
That’s why Avvio is always full of customers, and full of smiling faces.
“It’s approachable every day of the week,” Greg said. “We’re not just a Friday night, Saturday night restaurant. We want to see our friends, which are our customers, in here every single night.”
You can find Avvio in the Garden City Center in Cranston, Rhode Island, and online at avvioristorante.com.
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