It’s a well-known fact that Rhode Islanders have a tendency to give directions based on locations or landmarks that no longer exist. Rocky Point, Almacs, and even Warwick Musical Theatre (aka The Tent) are all long-lost in the age of Mapquest and GPS systems, but not to most Rhode Islanders, humorously enough. Let me tell you how to find Encore in a way you are all accustomed to…it is located on Charles Street in North Providence where Pinelli’s North End Café used to be. There you go – you should be able to find it very easily now.
Don’t be confused though. Aside from sharing the same location as the former North End Café, Encore is very different. It’s a new age restaurant with a style of cuisine the owner describes as “classic Italian meets modern Mediterranean”. I was urged to visit Encore by two friends, both of whom provide trustworthy food recommendations, so I was anxious to try.
For the appetizer, we ordered Sticky Calamari which was coated in a hot and sweet balsamic glaze and served with a side of cool caper aioli. This started our meal out with a kick, or more like a punch in the face. The dish definitely had some bold, intense flavors.
The caper aioli provided a much-needed cool element and balanced out the hot, spicy flavors. After a few bites though, the vinegar became overpowering and pungent, something the aioli couldn’t even remedy. The acidic taste lingered and I found myself repeatedly reaching for my drink as a result. Overall, it was an interesting spin on calamari which is typically a simple dish. It was just too aggressively glazed for my liking.
My fiancé ordered the Eggplant Risotto with Mozzarella, Artichokes, Spinach, Tomatoes and Portobello Mushrooms. As you can see from the picture above, it was presented beautifully. However, it was not quite what we envisioned it to be. We imagined it to be a bowl of risotto topped with the various other ingredients. Instead, it was layered in a lasagna-like form starting with fried eggplant as the base.
I wondered if some other people, or risotto purists, found this dish to be misleading. Regardless, I found it to be delicious! It was a savory, sumptuous tower of Mediterranean excellence. The fried eggplant stayed crispy throughout and provided the perfect foundation for the smooth, creamy risotto. I was impressed by the depth of flavors the other components added as well. I would definitely order this again during my next visit.
I usually take pride in usually having an uncanny ability to unknowingly order the best item on the menu – just ask anyone that goes out to eat with me. Well, I don’t know what the hell happened this time. I ordered one of the specials, Cod in a Pomodoro Sauce with Spinach and Artichokes.
After glancing at my fiance’s Eggplant Risotto, I was instantly disappointed. Judging on looks alone, I couldn’t believe my dish came out of the same kitchen. The presentation was outdated and reminded me of…gasp…banquet food. The Cod dish looked unappealing and old-fashioned while the Eggplant Risotto looked clean and modern.
Take a look at the dishes side-by-side to see what I mean…
The Cod tasted OK. It was incredibly straightforward and there’s not really much to say about it. All in all, it left me wishing I ordered something else.
As a whole, Encore had some highs and lows. My friends who suggested Encore gave a decent recommendation. If it wasn’t for my Cod dish, I would probably be raving about it a lot more, so I can understand their excitement. It did not exactly leave me chanting “ENCORE, ENCORE” by the end, but I would probably give it another try. This up and coming restaurant definitely showed some potential during my first visit. If they can create some other dishes similar to the caliber of the Eggplant Risotto, I might just recommend Encore to some of my friends next time!