Nosh on: Aspire, XO Cafe, The Grande make Providence divine

Where are all the people who should be in XO Cafe on Providence’s East Side? Probably still at WaterFire.

The ripe tomatoes on Aspire’s roof garden have made their way to chef Greg Krol’s kitchen to be roasted to top a browned sea scallop on a bed of succotash and crispy bacon. Krol also purees them to a fruity thick cream in a bisque that’s paired with a mozzarella panini. They’re sliced to layer with mozzarella and basil on top of a focaccia crouton to create a linear panzanella, and cut into chunks in a unique red and white quinoa and cucumber salad that’s laced with lemon verbena and parsley. Yum!

Krol isn’t the only chef making magic in Providence. XO Cafe’s Simon Keating does his tricks with local seafood and strawberries. Striped bass is pan-roasted and sits in a light broth of summer carrots, tomatoes and zuchini, finished with a luscious tempura Beach Blonde oyster. Schartner Farm strawberries join late season rhubarb in a polenta crisp.

Newly opened The Grande’s Sunday brunch is all tasty free-range local eggs. Chef Antonio Santino Franco’s eggs benedict includes poached Baffoni Farm eggs with a delicate orange hollandaise and luscious duck and Yukon gold hash. The croque madame layers house-cured lean bacon, Gruyere, a perfect splash of tangy Dijon and a sunnyside-up egg on top of big fluffy sourdough.

If you go

The Grande pairs black filigree accents and sleek white seating. Aspire’s voluptuous plum interior is framed by a beautiful leafy courtyard for outside dining. XO Cafe is equally romantic with demure black, animal prints and splashes of primal color. After you dine at one of these places, go to WaterFire, the Providence tradition of listening to meditative music while gazing at submerged torches. Visit for info.
Aspire, 311 Westminster St. 401-521-3333
The Grande, 224 Atwells Ave., 401-432-7676
XO Cafe,125 North Main St. 401-273-9090


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