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Authentic Italian cooking at Italian Corner
Date July 05, 2005

Americans who return from vacation in Italy come home with a culinary crisis: Now that they've tasted authentic Italian cooking, anything else will be a disappointment. And once you've had the real thing, Americanized substitutes just don't cut the mozzarella anymore.

Fear not, hungry seekers of authentic Italian cuisine. Tucked away in East Providence is the Italian Corner. They've made quite a name for themselves for the fantastic sandwiches they serve on their own bread, but there's more going on at the Corner.

We dropped into the little market/bakery on a recent Saturday afternoon. Osvaldo greeted us with a few wedges of homemade foccacia. It was simple and fresh. Taller than a pizza and looking like a rustic disc pulled from a village oven, the bread was amazingly light and flecked with fresh tomato flavor on top.

Osvaldo is a world-class Italian chef who has hung up his restaurant toque to bring authenticity to American tables. He's still in the kitchen, of course, but now he's preparing meals for you to take home. For a reasonable price, Osvaldo and staff (many of whom are family) provide authentic Italian masterpieces all week long. The bread is fresh, every day. The pasta is homemade. It is soft to the touch, cooks in mere minutes, and has a taste that is impossible to replicate with pasta from a box. They make their own sauces and sausage as well.

We loaded up a few bags of his food to take home and try out on our friends during a casual Sunday dinner party. Everyone -- even the picky eaters -- cleaned their plates.

We started with some grilled Italian sausage and other starters, such as the marinated eggplant and marinated mushrooms. The sausage cooked up firm and delicious on the grill -- not too fatty and not overpowered with spices. The mushrooms, however, quickly became the star of the first course. These seemingly simple marinated mushrooms, served cold or at room temperature, were tremendous. They were simply kissed with vinegar, not swimming in it and presented a refreshing change of pace from the mushrooms in jars of oil found on some specialty shelves.

After passing around some wine and settling for a bit, I served the next course -- homemade pasta with Osvaldo's fresh pesto sauce. In America, we tend to drown our pasta with sauce and then cover that with copious amounts of dry, tasteless parmesan cheese from a can. This is not the way. The pesto is a dressing for the noodles, and one should not overshadow the other. On top, a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan perfected the dish.

We sat in relative silence as we ate. It was that good, and that simple. This pesto tasted of basil and pine nuts (not oily and tart like some of the pesto in supermarkets). Try the pesto at Italian Corner, and you'll be hooked.

Many other courses followed. Another fresh pasta dish with bolognese sauce. A homemade lasagna with no ricotta. Chocolate fettucini in a Gorgonzola sauce. (That's right. You read that correctly. Sound odd? It's amazing. However, you have to love Gorgonzola to love this dish.)

Osvaldo's Italian Corner is a treasure to this area because it provides the authentic Italian foods we once only found in the Little Italys of New York and Baltimore, and the famous Italian markets in Boston.

Now, it's here.

The sandwiches are fantastic, the prepared foods will make you a celebrity chef in your own kitchen, and the imported meats and cheeses are the real deal. The shop also carries imported gourmet food items as well as espresso makers, professional pots and pans, and even Italian sodas and sweets.

Before you make your weekly trip to the grocery store, stop by the Italian Corner and see how it's really done, taste some true ingredients.

It's authentic, and it's delicious.

The weekly Dining Review is rotated among restaurants that advertise in the Food & Dining section.

Italian Corner

10 Boyd Avenue, East Providence (next to Rumford Aquarium)

401/431-1737; www.italiancorner-ri.com

Open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.


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