17 Perfect Places for Springtime Events

Thursday, March 31, 2011


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Springtime—or the promise that it’s right around the corner, at least—makes us think about graduations and showers and all the wonderful social events that decorate the horizon. Get a jump on those plans now, before spaces become booked up, with our suggestions for go-to locals for milestone events.

Graduation parties

That wonderful time of the year when you can finally stop paying college tuition is absolutely cause for celebration. So you want a classy joint—with a great view or feel of the city if you’re in Providence, of course, or another better-than-average spot, right? We suggest Café Nuovo on the banks of the Providence Riverwalk, as they fit the bill on all counts. Options abound here—whether your party is 4 or 400. You can use the domed glass and marble rotunda, the formal dining room or the cozy outdoor piazza. Menu choices can be as simple as passed hors d’oeuvres to fancier sit-down dinners.

For smaller parties up to 20 people, Gracie’s in Downcity has one of the most fabulous special event spaces in the state. Their cave-like, but not cavernous, wine room, located downstairs and well away from the main dining room, is intimate and other-worldly. Of course it comes with owner Ellen Gracyalny’s (pictured right) gracious personalized service and Chef Matthew Varga’s deft touch with the menu items that are locally sourced and top-notch. We love this space.

Mill’s Tavern, too, at the foot of College Hill, has a lovely private room off the main dining room that will accommodate 20 for a sit-down dinner. It will feel a bit more bustling than Gracie’s as Mill’s can get busy—in a good way, of course—especially on weekends. Not to worry, as platters of fresh and simple shellfish to start will keep everyone happy. If the southern part of the state is where you want to celebrate, call Kelly Ann, co-owner of Tallulah on Thames, and ask about their charming and airy second floor, overlooking bustling Thames Street. Chef Jake Rojas was recently recognized by Food & Wine magazine as a top talent, and he’s worked with some of the best chefs in the world. His food is simple and spectacular all at once, as he picks his ingredients with the utmost care.

Café Nuovo, 1 Citizens Plaza, Providence, 421-2525. Gracie’s, 194 Washington St, Providence, 272-7811. Mill’s Tavern, 101 North Main St, Providence, 272-3331. Tallulah on Thames, 464 Thames St, Newport, 849-2433.

Wedding and baby showers

There’s only a handful of restaurants in Newport that can brag about the kind of views that The Pier can. Tucked into the end of Howard Wharf, this classic Newport restaurant sports stunning views of the harbor, and we love the

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romance of it. The great part about The Pier is that in season the al fresco deck is a great place for your party to enjoy Chef Kevin Gaudreaus’ mouth watering food. This veteran of the Rhode Island restaurant scene makes a mean stuffed lobster that the ladies will love.

At the other end of the state, folks in Woonsocket have known about the great things happening at Vintage for years, but it was a trip there recently for a bridal shower that brought us into the loop. A beautiful private room featuring exposed brick walls and comfy suede chairs is made all the better by the tasty treats coming out of the kitchen, which you choose based upon how much you want to pay per person—$20, $30, $40. The room and food combination can’t be beat in northern Rhode Island.

The best thing you can say about an event space is that you forget you’re at an event at all and that’s what we found at the Waterman Grille (above). The downstairs Riverview Room is the ideal space for wedding and baby showers for up to 100 people, with its great views of the Seekonk River and its adjacent bar sporting first edition classic books. The baby shower we attend there recently featured out-of-the-world braised short ribs with cheddar bacon mashed potatoes.

If a fun time is what you’re after, check out Walter’s Ristorante d’Italia on Federal Hill. As much a showman as a chef, Chef Walter will become a part of your event like that crazy Italian uncle you had growing up.  The feel is classic and the food is definitely Italian comfort  food, but chef Walter will keep your party well-fed and entertained.

The Pier, 10 Howard Wharf, Newport, 847-3645. Vintage, 2 South Main St, Woonsocket, 765-1234. Waterman Grille, 4 Richmond Sq, Providence, 521-9229. Walter’s, 286 Atwells Ave, Providence, 273-2652.

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Anniversary parties

Celebrating a 25th or 50th calls for a sure thing that can please many at once. While there are many options for great Italian food on Federal Hill, we love the third floor space at Cassarino’s for parties on the smallish side. Sinatra is in the air and on the wall, the view is of Atwells Avenue, and the food is old-school Italian. If out of the city is what you want, The Boat House Restaurant in Tiverton (right) has lovely waterfront views, a private dining room for up to 70 guests and a personal event coordinator to make sure everything is perfect. They feature plated or buffet options and a vast menu of farm-to-table specials to choose from.

Eleven Forty Nine Restaurant, in Warwick, is the young, hip place to have that memorable anniversary dinner or party. The restaurant features modern food and décor, and a large menu means there’s something to please everyone. Located in Newport, in a building built with scrap metal from the Newport Bridge, Sardella’s Restaurant serves consistent, delicious food in a comfortable setting. Former Newport Mayor Richard Sardella created this restaurant to remind him of home and the days spent around the stove with his aunts and grandmother. After a recent anniversary dinner we agreed that Mayor Sardella’s aunts would be proud! At a recent event we were served food on tiered platters that featured grilled and roasted meats that we happily passed around. This kind of family-style dining makes everyone happy.

Cassarino’s, 177 Atwells Ave, Providence, 751-3333. The Boat House, 227 Schooner Dr, Tiverton, 624-6300. 1149, 1149 Division Rd, Warwick, 884-1149. Sardellas, 30 Memorial Blvd, Newport, 849-6312.

Bachelor parties

So you’re a little more sophisticated and The Hangover-style bachelor party isn’t your cup of scotch? You can’t go wrong if you start the night off with a great meal. Our first stop on tour de man is at Ruth’s Chris Steak House—a great place to enjoy a primal cut of meat. They have several private rooms that will make you feel blocked off from the restaurant but still in the middle of the action. Tammany Hall on Federal Hill offers men something you don’t see much anymore: a place where you can eat, drink and SMOKE all in one place. There are a few smoking holdouts on the Hill but this is the most fun (and yes, sometimes it’s because Buddy Cianci often holds court at the bar). Good food and good drinks are mixed with an in-house humidor featuring several great cigars.

Beer geeks? Two great places to enjoy some incredible craft beers are Doherty’s East Avenue Café, in Pawtucket and Track 84, near the airport in Warwick. Both places bounce between number one and number two on our list of great places to enjoy a small batch beer. Doherty’s gets the food nod here, with a vast menu that features everything from stuffies to barbeque. Finally, Local 121 in Downcity fits the bill for good food in a masculine, classic setting. Dark woods and an austere bar will make small parties that can fit among the rest of the patrons feel like politicos. If you need more space, this restaurant, which has preserved many of the architectural details of the hotel that it used to be, has a special events space downstairs.

Ruth’s Chris, 10 Memorial Blvd, Providence, 272-2271. Tammany Hall, 409 Atwells Ave, Providence, 831-3180. Doherty’s, 342 East Ave, Pawtucket, 725-9520. Track 84, 84 Kilvert St, Warwick, 739-8484. Local 121, 121 Washington St, Providence, 274-2121.

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