Thursday, August 9, 2007

REVIEW: Feast or Famine- **** / $$

Feast or Famine has three locations, including a location on Mineral Spring Ave. in North Providence that specializes in take-out. I drove past the take-out location on one starving night, looking for something, ANYTHING, that wasn't fast food. I found Feast or Famine and was utterly dismayed to learn that a frozen pipe explosion early in the winter had rendered the location closed.

Luckily, they had a sign telling me about their location on Park Ave. in Cranston. I went. I ate. I loved. Feast or Famine is a gem to which I go once a month. None of the places have really stunning architecture, but they're attractive and comfy enough. The Warren location is easily the prettiest and a very nice place to have a meal. The Cranston location is right next to a Carvel where you can get some dessert (more on that later), and the North Providence location has a few tables, and during the day the busy corner on Mineral Spring provides a good view during lunch.

Service has always been friendly and quick. There's no sense of rigid professionalism, which is usually nice, since it frees the wait staff to be chatty and conversational. I like this. I had a waiter spill a tray of sodas on me. I found it funny and the event has befriended me the entire Cranston location.

Sometimes on slow days they give you crappy dinner bread, but that's one of only three complaints. Actually, not only is the dinner bread bad, they insist on giving you a small bowl of olive oil, as is trendy these days, and NO BUTTER. Carrabbas is able to pull off the olive-oil-thing, but that's because they pile in a blob of spices. Here, all they give you is olive oil and red pepper seeds. GIVE ME BUTTER!

So they did. :-D

Appetizers are headlined by chef/owner David Sepulveda's take on garlic bread. It eases you into his approach of wood-firing just about everything. It's thin, crispy, with a light topping of cheeses and garlic. It comes with three sauces. It is utterly fantastic. I mean, drop what you're doing and go get some.

The rest of the menu is backed by a strong selection of pastas and sandwiches. His sauces are all very strong, save for the pink vodka sauce. It's not very pink and it's not very vodka. The wood-fired pizzas are the star, though, and they are truly wonderful. While Al Forno's margarita pizza may be a bit tastier, their sauce is oh-so-delicate, it's twice the price. And Al Forno can't even touch the deliciously wide selection available here. Also, the North Providence location is so small that they grille the pizzas at the Warren and Cranston locations and drive them over, thus making them less-crispy as the fresh ones at the other locations.

A restaurant that feeds you as well as here for such little money is rare indeed. Sepulveda is still young, and as his skills grow, I can only imagine the food that Feast or Famine is going to produce. As with the dinner bread, not all is perfect. Most importantly, the desserts aren't made in-house and are totally underwhelming after the scrumptious foods they follow. If Feast or Famine nailed down quality issues with a few of the touches and sauces, and at the very least outsourced some interesting desserts, I could only call it one of the best places I've ever eaten.

UPDATE: 11/1/2007
After a number of experiences with the North Providence location, I feel the need to knock off a star for that SINGLE location. While Warren and Cranston still more than deserve the full four stars, North Providence's quality drops precipitously, obviously in the crispness of the bread, but also in the preparation. I've returned home with pizzas literally swimming in olive oil. Sometimes I wonder if the person preparing the pizza kept having micro-seizures as he/she tried to put on toppings. Don't even get me started on the pasta. The lack of skill in the kitchen and, if you don't get them home quickly, the sometimes gummy crusts, eats a full star. It's still the best pizza on Mineral Spring, but nothing special.

UPDATE: 11/10/2008
The North Providence location has been closed and the Cranston location, as of last visit, never appears to be open. I'm not sure what's going on, but it appears that the Warren location is the only one still afloat.

UPDATE: 3/10/2009
It's official. I don't know how long it's been, but all Feast or Famine locations are closed. Kicked the bucket. Out of business. It's really sad because their garlic bread was so bloody good.

Feast or Famine (Cranston & Warren): ****
Feast or Famine (North Providence): ***
Price range for two: $20-$40

Feast or Famine
1099 Park Ave
Cranston, RI 02910
401-383-7171 (No reservations)
Monday through Thursday 11:30am to 9:30pm.
Friday and Saturday 11:30am to 10:30pm.

Feast or Famine
2220 Mineral Spring Ave.
North Providence
401-349-0452 (No reservations)
Monday through Thursday 11:30am to 9:30pm.
Friday and Saturday 11:30am to 10:30pm.

Feast Or Famine
495 Main Street
Warren, RI 02885
401-289-0422 (No reservations)
Monday through Thursday 11:30am to 9:30pm.
Friday and Saturday 11:30am to 10:30pm.

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