Entrepreneurs Vinnie and Lisa DiNofrio have established a good reputation in their home town of Cranston for serving their customers well. They have run a number of small businesses over the years, and for the past five years have concentrated their efforts on their restaurant at 39 Phenix Ave., Cranston.
They were recently searching for a new chef and were thrilled to hire Anthony Ianiello, former chef at Nicoles and well known in the community for his good-natured manner and cooking talents. Within three weeks, Anthony had created a new menu, which included the DiNofrios’ favorites, plus recipes that he had created over his 30 years in the profession.
39 West has been known for its late evening dining and live music on weekends. Anthony came up with the idea of offering $10 Early Bird Specials from 4 to 7 p.m. every night to help fill the 145 seats in the spacious, warm dining room, before the later evening crowd arrives.
Fifteen dinners, ranging from a variety of pasta dishes to eggplant, veal, scallops, scrod and chicken cooked in every style from Francois to Vincenzo, adorn the special menu and have immediately become a major attraction.
“The word got out during St. Mary’s Feast,” Anthony said. “It was a busy weekend. People were amazed that ‘early bird’ meant until 7 p.m.”
On our first visit we fell in love with Ianiello’s pasta sauce. The marinara is as good as it gets, but once you taste the Sausage and Rabe Alio Olio with roasted garlic, you may become a convert. Chicken Parmesan, Francaise, Piccata, Marsala and Vincenzo (sautéed in garlic butter sauce, tossed with roasted red peppers, olives, mushrooms and parmesan cheese) are perfect reasons to go back to 39 West five weeks (or days) in a row.
This is gourmet dining for 10 bucks!
Because the meals are so inexpensive, we added a salad for a buck and then split an order of their “39 special calamari,” a crispy mix of rings and tentacles tossed with diced tomato, banana peppers, kalamata olives, basil and drizzled with a balsamic reduction ($10). While our goal was to stick with the $10 menu, we were lured by a number of items on the regular menu.
A special occasion brought us back to try two entrees on the regular menu. Joyce ordered the Cajun grilled shrimp served over risotto with kalamata olives and roasted red peppers, with a tomato basil salsa. I ordered the pan seared sea scallops served over a spinach, olive and roasted pepper risotto. Both dishes, at $17, were large, served piping hot and perfectly cooked. The colorful presentation needed to be photographed for posterity.
I’ve had good risotto and bad risotto, but this is the first time I’ve had excellent risotto, where the juicy tastes combined perfectly. The six huge scallops and four large shrimp were shared and enjoyed equally.
There are daily specials, including an upside down shepherd’s pie ($14) that I must try, and Mussels Margarita, which Joyce is dying to have. Pizzas, steaks, seafood, salads, soups and a variety of appetizers, all created in house by Anthony, round out an ambitious menu. Anthony also makes the fresh bread that arrives quickly at your table. On our first visit he recommended the bread pudding, served hot with strawberries, whipped cream and a delicious amaretto sauce.
“You’re the first one to try it,” he said. “Hope you like it.”
This man has the magic touch, whether it is creating a unique Italian entrée or bread pudding.
Friday and Saturday nights are fun times at 39 West, as some of the best Rhode Island bands entertain and bartender Rob mixes up your favorite drink. The music begins at 9:30. Thursday night is trivia night.
“We get a number of people who come in with their friends and relatives, and we greet them and make them feel welcome, as if they were coming into our home,” Lisa said. “They are there for a fun night out, and the table is theirs for the evening. And when you come back, Rob will remember you. And he’ll remember what you were drinking.”
39 West is open Tuesday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. They also do catering and private parties. For reservations or further information call 944-7770.