Each time I determine where my next Neighborhood Walk will take place, I look at a host of factors: time of year, local business hours, time of day I’ll be in the neighborhood, and the appeal of the area to the readers. Given the nature of the article, having nice weather makes for a more pleasant experience, at least on my end, but there has been one walk that I’ve eagerly awaited for some time now and I just couldn’t wait any longer. With the thermometer approaching 50 degrees and the sun peeking out from behind the clouds, I set out mid-morning for Historic Federal Hill.
One thing is for sure, Rhode Island really hits it’s stride as Winter comes to an end and Spring quietly drifts in, bringing with it warm sun, cool breezes, and the promise of summertime fun just around the corner. Federal Hill plays host to a stretch of road that is widely believed to be among the giants of the culinary world in America - Atwells Avenue. Cities like New York and Boston may have more restaurants per square mile but as I’ve learned - it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality.
I arrived at my destination about 20 minutes before it became over-run by the lunchtime crowd seeking sustenance to carry them through the day. Parking on Spruce Street just across from Pastiche Fine Desserts was a score, considering this street is typically jam- packed, and it quickly filled up by the time I was leaving.
Speaking of Pastiche- it was the first place I decided to visit, drawn in by the promise of delicious baked goods and a warm fireplace. Dessert before lunch may not make sense to some people, but I say, “why not?”. The Pastiche bakers are hard at work in the back-of-house producing stunning baked creations that have wowed locals for 30 years. All of my senses were on high alert; the aromas of coffee and pastries, the sights of colorful tarts and cakes, and the sounds of happy morning conversation all combined for a spectacular start to my day.
With a scrumptious wild blueberry muffin and a hot delicious coffee to warm me up, I headed out to meet the locals. Taking a left out the door brought me to DePasquale Plaza, the epicenter of activity for all of Federal Hill. The Plaza is adorned with colorful facades featuring many restaurants, and even a boutique hotel called Hotel Dolce Villa located next door to Cafe Dolce Vita. Passing through DePasquale Plaza, I turned right down Atwells Ave to continue on my journey. The vast majority of the storefronts on the main road are occupied by award-winning restaurants, bakeries, and delis, but you can also find the random music shop or eyewear store thrown in the mix.
I was sure to make my way from end to end, because I didn’t want to miss any detail. I arrived down by the arch entryway to “The Hill”, as it’s known, just before the Old Canteen. By this time the streets starting filling with the lunch crowd seeking to enjoy the local fare. My final destination was a few blocks back to the Plaza - Costantino’s Venda Ravioli.
Venda Ravioli is one of the most recognized and well-known businesses in the area, and for good reason. When you enter, you’re greeted by a massive square shaped deli that has different sections for getting just what you need. Prepared foods, top-notch deli meats, butcher counter, olive bar, and cheese shop all in one location. There’s also a café, which caters to the foodies looking to enjoy a meal in-house. Did I mention the market area that offers imported Italian goods? It’s an assault on the senses in the most wonderful way possible. Stopping in to Venda is a must for any trip to Federal Hill. I was sure to leave with plenty of incredible food for our dinner tonight.
While this wasn’t my first time to Federal Hill, and it most definitely isn’t my last, I’ll admit - really digging into what the area has to offer made this one of the best experiences I’ve ever had doing my Neighborhood Walks. It may have been off-season, but the vibrant people, colorful and stylish storefronts, and many sights and sounds all combine to make Federal Hill one of Rhode Island’s best.