“Laissez les bons temps rouler,” Tom Tolento said to puzzled people as they walked into Tolento’s Ice House Grille in North Providence Tuesday night. “And that means, ‘Let the good times roll.’”
Amid a sea of purple, green and gold balloons, signs and streamers, the North Central Chamber of Commerce (NCCC) business owner transformed his Mineral Spring Avenue eatery into Rhode Island’s Mardi Gras headquarters Tuesday.
“Let’s celebrate,” said Tolento, who grew up in the Conimicut section of Warwick and has been everything from a dishwasher to line cook to bartender and now owner in the restaurant business. “It’s Fat Tuesday; we’ve got the flavor of N’awlins right here.”
Tolento wasn’t just whistlin’ Dixie, either. He has not one, but two experienced chefs – his son James Tolento and Michael Broussard – who worked the kitchens in New Orleans for seven years before bringing their Cajun cooking skills to the Ocean State.
And Tuesday night – with the assistant of James and Mike – Tolento’s Ice House Grille celebrated the start of Mardi Gras unlike any other eatery in the state.
For openers, Tolento’s is dotted with Cajun specials that have reportedly really caught on, as have such regular favorites as prime rib and other traditional American dinner offerings.
But Tuesday night people were amazed after tasting free samplings of shrimp and crawfish etoufee (a blonde, creamy sherry roux sauce smothered over rice), chicken and adnouille sausage gumbo with a shrimp and okra gumbo. Both dishes were served with a dark red roux sauce, loaded with proteins (shrimp and crab) or (chicken and sausage), vegetables and again served over rice.
Another of Tolento’s best selling meals – the chicken and andouille sausage jambalaya – was served to the hungry patrons that line up for the Fat Tuesday free buffet.
The jambalaya, Tolento explained, is made by rendering down onion, celery, Cajun spices, white wine, butter and rice with Cajun sausage and marinated chicken.
The Tolentos also served King Cake and Beignetes (pronounced BEN-yas).
King Cake is a Mardi Gras original created to celebrate the three kings of biblical myth and made of a cinnamon cake stuffed with creams and fillings topped with colorful sweet icing. Shipped in from Louisiana, Tolento’s brought in plain, Bavarian cream, chocolate cream, almond and pecan praline and gave out tastings Tuesday night.
In addition to those dishes, Tolento’s has other Cajun favorites and they’re always available, not just on Fat Tuesday.
Tolento’s Ice House Grille is located at 1460 Mineral Spring Ave. The menu features pub food, new American, steaks, seafood, Italian and Cajun. Hours are 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday, 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday, and 12 to 9 p.m. Sunday. For more information or reservations, call 353-3100.