This post was found on  Posted by Stacey Place

It’s not often that I find myself being the youngest person in a restaurant anymore. Getting a little closer to 40 than I’d like to admit, it’s rare that I look around and can’t find anyone younger than me. Last Saturday night, I was out in Providence at a fairly new restaurant and was stunned to find myself being the youngest diner in the room. I’d found the place where Baby Boomers hang out on Saturday nights.

I chose the ROI based on the fact that their Chef is Paul Shire. Chef Shire was part owner and the original chef of Downcity, but I knew his work more from when he owned and cooked at Oak on the East Side of Providence. I lived on the East Side in those years and spent many nights and Sunday brunches enjoying this neighborhood gem. Hearing the news that Chef Shire was back, I knew I wanted to check out his new place.

The ROI is located on Chestnut Street in what I still call the Jewelry District, but the city now refers to this area as the Knowledge District. I was kind of surprised the Baby Boomers all found their way to this spot because to me it seemed off-the-beaten path. The restaurant was empty when we arrived (yes, it was before 6:00, but I was really hungry), but the hostess told us most tables were already reserved, so we took a seat at the sleek bar. The restaurant is dark because it’s located in a basement, but the darkness matches its cool interior. We were surprised to find both tv sets in the bar tuned into TBS reruns of The Family Guy. Nobody was watching tv, but why would they want to watch that? The music didn’t befit its atmosphere either. The soundtrack was depressing to me – James Taylor, Air Supply and Elton John, but it did fit the age of the crowd.

The bartender was really good and especially patient with one patron who kept insisting on inventing her own drink and explaining how the last drink she invented was later put on the menu. She was getting on our nerves but didn’t rattle him in the slightest. The cocktail list seemed overpriced at $12.95, but my French 75 Part Deux (Plymouth gin, lemon juice and Champagne with a hint of thyme) was large and flavorful. At $12.95, I didn’t order a second, however. The wine list, in contrast, was reasonable but not extensive.

The menu at the ROI includes a little bit of everything and something for everyone. It varied from sandwiches to salads, pizzas to pasta, and salmon to filet. We started out with an appetizer of Polenta Fries. The thickly cut sticks of creamy polenta were fried to a golden crisp and then dabbed with marinara sauce and gorgonzola cheese. As was the case with much of what we ate at the ROI, we wished there was just a tad bit more sauce and cheese to complement the fries. We managed to eat every bite and sop up every last bit of sauce.

Polenta Fries

For dinner, I ordered the Herb de Provence Salmon. The salmon was cooked crispy on the outside, and it was moist and flaky on the inside. The salmon was topped with a citrus butter which was tasty but so tasty I longed for more. On the side, there was a generous portion of creamy mushroom risotto and a helping of garlic green beans with roasted red peppers. The serving was more than generous for $18.95 – I even had some to bring home for lunch the next day.

Herb de Provence Salmon

One of my favorite meals at Oak was the crab cakes with sweet potato fries, and Chef Shire brought this dish along with him to the ROI. Bridget ordered this for her dinner and was glad she did. The crab cakes were as good as she remembered, and the sweet potato fries were even better than she remembered. The red pepper aioli on the crab cakes was super tasty but again it left her longing for more.

Crab Cakes with Sweet Potato Fries

We were too full for dessert, but at $5.95, the desserts are some of the biggest bargains in Providence. In hindsight, I should have ordered a piece of Turtle Cheesecake to go . . .

We had a nice night out at The ROI, mostly because we enjoyed the attentive, friendly service from the bartender and the excellent food. The food, the music and the service were comfortable and safe, and I can see why this would be a place to eat before taking in a show at PPAC. In a world filled will 12 course tasting menus, molecular gastronomy and communal dining tables, sometimes we all long for the taste of comfort, and the ROI is comfort all around.