While Providence has some truly great Italian restaurants, many get crowded on weekend nights. This writer has often been frustrated by long waits at some favorite spots on Atwells Avenue, which cuts through the heart of Federal Hill, the "Little Italy" of Providence. There is an Italian restaurant, however, not too far from Providence and the Rhode Island border, that has shorter waits on Saturday nights and serves old-fashioned Italian food that rivals some of the places on Atwells Avenue. The place? Cafe Porto Bello, just off Route 1 in North Attleboro.
Cafe Porto Bello resides in a space in the center of North Attleboro, a quaint old downtown area with interesting shops and dining spots. And even though Porto Bello can sometimes get crowded, there are times when, even on a Saturday night, one can get right in to this charming Italian restaurant. And charming it is; fans spinning on the tin ceiling, opera and classic old tunes playing softly in the background, and walls with muted colors contrasting nicely with the old hardwood floor. Indeed, Cafe Porto Bello is a restaurant that is perfect for a romantic date as well as a quiet family gathering.
If you enjoy fresh, hearty Italian food that resembles old-fashioned home cooking, you will love Cafe Porto Bello. All the familiar chicken, veal, and seafood dishes are here, including a wonderful chicken, broccoli, and homemade pasta dish (the homemade pasta is delicious, by the way). There are also less common dishes, such as the outstanding homemade fusilli pasta with hot peppers, broccoli, and sausage in garlic and oil. The wine list at Cafe Porto Bello is decent, and the salads are also very good.
In short, Cafe Porto Bello is a comfortable Italian restaurant in a town that is in some ways as hidden as the restaurant itself. If you live far away from North Attleboro, there is another branch of Cafe Porto Bello in South Boston, though this writer has not tried that one yet. But if you live or travel near the Providence area and don't want to fight the crowds of the city on a weekend night, Cafe Porto Bello is a terrific choice for lovers of good old-fashioned Italian food.
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