Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wednesday Dine Out: Provino's

During my first years here, I had a roommate who had grown up locally and still had family living here. About once a month, her parents would take us out to dinner - and their idea of a splurge meal was to go to Provino's. I don't think I've been back there in over 15 years, but as I was out and about earlier this week, I noticed it and thought, hey, why not. So this Wednesday evening, I ventured into it.

It hasn't changed a bit. Same kind of cheezy decor - fake ivy hanging from fake trellises, red and white checkered plastic tablecloths. They actually have crammed quite a bit of seating into their small storefront. I had scoped out the menu online (being surprised to discover they have nine other locations in Georgia), and had decided on an entree already.

Provino's offers quite a lot of value - which I think is why my roommie's folks took us there. All their entrees include a big salad, and endless bowl of garlic rolls. The salad was superior to Olive Garden - lettuce, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, chick peas and (surprise) beets. A nice light vinegar and oil dressing, too. And the rolls are just as I remember - soaked in butter with tons of garlic on top. In my pre-Weight Watcher days, I really went to town on them - and last night, well, I still had three or four!

I had decided on a chicken entree called Chicken Francese. The menu's description made it sound like Chicken Piccata, a favorite of mine. However, instead of being lightly bathed in a lemon sauce, this breaded chicken breast came in a pool of sauce. I thought for a moment they had brought me soup! In retrospect, I should have asked them to pour some off - or just poured it off into my salad bowl myself. The chicken itself seemed to have the skin intact, so I didn't care for that. It was served with a small bowl of spaghetti and meat sauce - which was unexciting. I accompanied it with a glass of Chianti, which was not memorable. And in a attempt to salvage the meal, I did try the tiramisu, which was not great. It was served in a parfait glass with too much whipped cream and chocolate chips sprinkled over it; I barely could find the coffee-flavored lady fingers.

Before there were too many other dining options here in town, Provino's was considered by many to be a "traditional" Italian restaurant. Having grown up in RI with its huge number of Italians, I know this to not be the case. This is someone's Southernized version of an ethnic restaurant. The food was pedestrian, well, actually, not that good. Many of the items - like the salad and dessert - had clearly been made up well ahead of time, and merely shuttled out to the diner. The one plus is the price: for under $25, I had an entree, salad, rolls, dessert and a glass of wine, as well as a pleasant conversation with my server - a Yankee fan - about the upcoming year in the AL East. However, in this case, the bargain wasn't a particularly good one.

It will definitely be another 15 years before I go back. If I get a hankering for Italian again, I think it'll be the Olive Garden for me!

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