Friday, June 5, 2009

QUICKVIEW: Aspire- +++ / $$

Aspire replaces the once famous pillar of Providence's dining scene, L'epicureo. I was never fond of L'epicureo, or at least I never was at its newer, hotel location. The interior was tacky, the food preparation was dodgy, and the prices were pretty high.

I had minor expectations for Aspire, seeing as well-branded restaurants attached to hotels are usually pretty good. My expectations were, happily, met. I only had lunch, but my meal was more than enough to bring me back. We didn't get any appetizers, opting to move straight on to entrees. In the lineup was the house hamburger, a marghertia pizza, and serving of chicken, Gorgonzola, and walnut ravioli.

The pizza was good. Well-prepared and crispy, with fresh and flavorful toppings, it was also something of a bargain. It was very large, and only cost $10. It could easily feed two people. My only gripe is the lack of kick to it. The sauce was kind of bland and herbs and spices seemed to be a bit MIA. Still, it was a very tasty pizza for only ten bucks. Bertucci's, a chain, would probably charge nearly twice as much for a similar pizza. The burger suffered similar criticisms. They call it the A Burger, and what's basically a house take on the hamburger should have something special. Something unique. It was just that, though, a burger. A BIG burger, though. 10 ounces of hamburger is quite a lot. Still, I would have liked to see some special cheese, or their house blend of seven herbs and spices mixed into the meat. As it stands, it was good. Nine dollars for a gigantic burger is, again, an excellent price. It was juicy, well-cooked, and presented nicely.

Where they hit a home run was the ravioli. It was an excellent dance of sweet and savory flavors, bathed in a delicious cream sauce. The crunchiness of the walnuts, the sweetness of the cranberries, and the creaminess and smokey bite of the sauce and Gorgonzola balanced perfectly. I was also very happy with the portion. It was a little small, I would have liked maybe one more ravioli for the price, but that's kind of nit-picking.

Aspire: +++
Price: $$ (lunch)

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311 Westminster Street
Providence, RI 02903
401-521-3333 (Reservations accepted)

Monday through Saturday 7:00am to 10:30am
Sunday & holidays 7:00am to 10:00am
Monday through Saturday 11:30am to 3:00pm
Sunday Brunch 10:00am to 2:00pm
Monday through Thursday 5:00pm to 10:00pm
Friday & Saturday 5:00pm to 11:00pm
Sunday 3:00pm to 9:00pm

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