We recently took friends to Rosalina on Aborn Street in downtown Providence. It was an enjoyable meal, and not only because of the good company. I hadn't been in the restaurant since it was Cuban Revolution, and it was a little smaller than I remembered (not a bad thing.) The dining room is long and narrow with high ceilings and, on the night we were there, a frigid blast of winter wind blowing through every time the door opened. From the decor to the menu, Rosalina is modern with a loving nod to the nostalgic. So, you have classic checkered linens and leather banquettes under contemporary lighting fixtures; a modern bar on one wall, blown-up (painted) black-and-white family snapshots on the other. This is also a family-run establishment, son in the kitchen, mom on the floor, family recipes on the menu. The olive oil comes from family groves in Greece.
Full disclosure, my standards for Italian food are probably unreasonable. Most of what you can find in Providence is some variation on Italian-American staples. I grew up in an Italian household, and as far as I'm concerned, my mom's phenomenal homecooking beats anything in a restaurant. In general, however, I prefer authentic Italian, specifically Tuscan, cuisine: aquacotta, malfatti, pici, castagnaccio...simple food in all its pure, peasant glory. That's the Italian I (try to) make at home.
Rosalina is more in the Italian-American vein, but some of the dishes were different enough that dinner still felt worthwhile. The eggplant parmesan was served piping hot in a little crockpot, almost like a baked dip, with local ricotta (Narragansett Creamery) and crostini. Even good restaurants can sometimes tend to undercook cook eggplant, lending it a tough, rubbery consistency, but this dish was uniformly soft, almost spreadable. This is the chef's mother's recipe, and we were told it's a signature dish at the restaurant. I think it's popular because it's so well-seasoned (another common mistake with restaurant eggplant.) The dodoni, fried goat cheese wrapped in filo dough and drizzled with honey, were great. The salads were perfectly dressed with tangy vinaigrette, although the burrata cheese on the caprese salad was not quite as soft in the center as it should be ideally.
I don't know if the pasta is made in house, but I'd hazard not--the texture wasn't quite right for freshly prepared. My dining companions were pleased with their spaghetti cacio e pepe, a classic and simple preparation. I went for squid ink spaghetti with chopped squid and garlic. Unfortunately, someone had loosened the lid of the hot pepper shaker on our table, so it emptied a quarter-cup of hot pepper flakes into my bowl! I was able to scoop most of them out, and the dish was still pretty yummy even with the extra heat. Dessert was extremely sweet and cold--must have been removed from the fridge when we ordered and the chill made the textures a bit too firm.
Overall, I'd say this was a solid 3.4/5 meal. I'm not sure I'll be rushing back, but it was a satisfactory night out. Next time we try Italian, maybe we'll head up to Enoteca Umberto on the Hill. Or I've heard good things about San Vivaldo Trattoria in West Warwick? A tip: Rosalina offers a free beer or glass of wine if you check-in on yelp.