Thursday, December 4, 2008

QUICKVIEW: Siena- +++ / $$$

Well it took me forever and a day, but I finally got a chance to try Siena. One of the higher-rated restaurants on, my interest has been piqued for over a year, and with the new location in East Greenwich, I couldn't make excuses any longer. By new location, I mean the building that used to proudly house India's third, and apparently least-popular, location. I was terribly crushed when India went under about two years ago. The Indian Club down the street also said namastay not too long after, only to be replaced by a very un-ethnic steakhouse.

Siena isn't the disappointment I felt with the Indian Club's loss. I liked it. Not as much as I liked India, but I liked it. The interior is very nice. A bit slapdash in its design direction, but interesting, dynamic, and warm with many of the same fundamental aspects of the old Indian interior. I was a big fan of the lighting for the first five minutes of our meal, until they turned them down to "romantic" levels. And as with so many restaurants, romantic means I had a hard time seeing things. Luckily for us, we were situated by this giant, illuminated thingie in the wall. It, thankfully, made seeing and taking photographs a more-than-fruitless endeavor.

The bread was a good selection. All three types were dense and chewy and bursting with flavor. And unlike every other Italian restaurant on the seven seas, they gave us real, honest-to-God, butter. No fancy oils, or rubs, or spices. Just butter. The gods be praised. For an appetizer, we ordered up a margherita pizza. I was whelmed with the pizza. The dough was very good. Crispy, chewy, and very satisfying. It was thicker and held up to the toppings better than Al Forno's grilled pizza. The sauce was good. I like my margherita pizzas with a light, sweet sauce and this was right in line. The rest of the pizza was bland, though. No real variety to the cheese, with no herbs or spices on top. Just cheese, sauce, with a smattering of what appeared to be basil. Simple, austere? Maybe. I want more complexity to even my simple pizzas. I prefer Al Forno or Feast or Famine.

Entrees out, first taste from the Gnocchi di Patate. The handmade gnocchi were excellent. Huge(!), soft, and well cooked. The sauce was rather bland. Considering it was a pesto base, I expected more punch to it. Instead all I got was a good dish. All of the cheeses come together well, and give the dish a heavy, creamy body. The yellow tomatoes add some much-needed flavor. Still, it was a dish that was the exact sum of its parts. No standout flavors to drive the dish, and the ingredients used do not add up to a standout flavor. Overall, good but not great.

Our second entree was the Garganelli con Tartufo. This was very good. It was, as with the gnocchi, creamy and cheesy. Mascarpone cheese and cream sauce has a subtle sweetness to it and the pasta was cooked perfectly. The healthy helping of prosciutto di parma chunks really makes the dish and gives a savory, salty flavor and dense texture to counter the soft creaminess of the pasta and cheese. Topped with parmigiano, this was very good pasta. Nothing amazing, but very good pasta, with good ingredients, prepared well. I'd say it was a solid deal for $17 and would likely get it again. For a side, we ordered the Risotto Bianco. It was risotto, so there's not much to say. Rich, creamy, and well-prepared with the slightest bit of firmness to the rice.

Desserts were, as I'm finding so frequently these days, disappointing. We ordered the Scripelle con Gelato. It was like fair food. Two small doughboys with a scoop of overly-icy vanilla gelato on top and a small cup of Nutella. While it's more inventive than many restaurants, what about fruit gelato, or sherbet to add a snappy tartness to the chocolate and cinnamon sugar? Maybe apples? Well, aside from subjective critques of their choice of ingredients, the gelato wasn't very good. The vanilla flavor was too subdued for my tastes and it was icy. A pint of Roba!Dolce vanilla from the supermarket freezer is vastly superior to the gelato I got.

In the end, I think Siena is quite good. I liked the menu (except for the heavy emphasis on veal), the wine list was decent, the atmosphere is very good, and the food is all well-prepared. I have some reservations about the things I got, but aside from the gelato, nothing got anywhere near being bad. I will undoubtedly be going back.

Siena: +++
Appetizers: $4-$13
Entrees: $12-$29

View Larger Map

5600 Post Road
East Greenwich, RI 02818

Tuesday through Thursday 5:00pm to 10:00pm
Friday 5:00pm to 11:00pm
Saturday 4:30pm to 11:00pm
Sunday 3:00pm to 9:00pm

No comments: