Gabriel and Cheriann Ferri will celebrate their first anniversary of their fabulous Italian restaurant on Nov. 19.
I’m kicking myself for not dining there sooner, but the Cranston restaurant is now on my list when I get the craving for authentic Italian cuisine at a price I can afford.
Gabe and Cheriann are no strangers to the restaurant business, a tradition that goes back to Gabe’s grandfather, father and uncle. The family ran Michael’s Family restaurant in Warwick for 22 years, and Gabe and Cheriann ran Soule Café across from Warwick Mall for six years. Cheriann is a graduate of Cranston East, and the family lives in Cranston, three miles from their 39 Phenix Ave. establishment.
“Many of the recipes come from my mother, Marie. My father, for whom we named the restaurant, taught me much about the business,” Gabe said. “We have three generations of Gabriel Ferri involved. Our son works here as a bartender.”
And so does their daughter, Cara, who doubles as waitress and bartender and knows how to make a perfect dry gin martini. Cara is a student at Rhode Island College, majoring in graphic design. She designed the attractive menu, with a map of Italy on the cover.
The former Tony Pappa’s has been converted into a warm, friendly 40-seat (plus 10 at the bar) restaurant, tastefully decorated by Cheriann.
“We even get complements on the bathrooms,” she said.
The food brought me back to my early days, living in an Italian neighborhood in New Haven, where my upstairs landlady cooked “gravy” nearly every day, filling the triple-decker with a wonderful aroma.
Marie Ferri uses all fresh ingredients and starts from scratch with her meatballs, lasagna, stuffies and the same sauce that has been Nana Ferri’s specialty for over 30 years.
Fresh Italian bread came immediately to the table, accompanied by olive oil and ground red pepper. Appetizers include Italian favorites such as calamari, bruschetta, mozzarella sticks and scungilli salad. (I hadn’t heard snails called scungilli in years, and they deserved that title.) Thinly sliced and super tender, they were tossed with Italian dressing, celery, red onion, black olives and banana peppers over a bed of crispy romaine lettuce ($11.95).
Joyce chose to go for the basic pasta with meatballs and sausage, savoring the sauce and saving some for lunch the next day ($12.95).
We noticed a number of orders of veal and chicken parmigiana coming out of the kitchen. Cheriann said they are their most popular entrees ($18.95 and $16.95). They would certainly serve as dinner the next day for us.
I couldn’t resist the Veal Francaise, real veal in a light egg and grated cheese batter, served in a lemon garlic/white wine sauce, accompanied by pasta (I chose angel hair). I could cut the large portion of veal with my fork and savored every bite ($18.95).
Both of our meals included soup or salad. Joyce chose the chicken escarole and I the pasta fagiole. Joyce, whose love of legumes is limited, loved her and my soup … but I only let her have a spoonful.
There are so many menu items we want to try, especially the Friday night offerings, which include baked fish, Sicilian fish (smothered in red clam sauce), shrimp and scallop scampi (a great combination that I seldom see on menus), and their popular fish and chips.
“Friday is our busiest night,” Gabe said. “Our customers love our stuffies and clam chowder, which are both made from scratch with real fresh clams.”
Gabriel’s is open from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and until 10 p.m. on Saturday. Monday hours are 4 to 9 p.m., and their one day of rest is Sunday.
Specialty sandwiches, grinders, salads are popular luncheon items, in addition to a number of lunch entrees, which are served from noon to 4 p.m.
Gabe knows that “Italian” is much more than spaghetti and lasagna. His lunch entrees include gnocci in pink vodka sauce ($10.95), eggplant parmigiana and pasta ($11.95), which is also a popular dinner dish at $14.95, and polenta with meatballs and/or sausage ($10.95).
Gabriel’s also does catering and can accommodate small groups. You can order their sauce and soups to go. They are located at 39 Phenix Ave., Cranston. Phone number is 632-4222.