Ralph’s Bull and Claw Tavern

Chris’s Review

If you ask twenty-five people about their favorite Italian Restaurant in Rhode Island, chances are you will receive just as many answers in return.  That simply means that there is a boat-load of gastronomically pleasing choices in RI that can transport you to that boot on the Mediterranean.  The challenge for the RhodeCrew, as always, is to highlight off-the-beaten-path places that serve great food in the Ocean State.  We hope that our experiences will encourage friends and families to trek to these special privately owned establishments. Our hunger for a great Italian meal leads us to an “Old School” tavern in North Providence.

Several years ago, Ralph’s Bull & Claw Tavern caught my attention while on a journey to the old Pinelli’s North End Café on Charles Street in North Providence.  It was hard to miss the colorful sign and green awning in front.  My parents had mentioned that one of our family friends Joe used to frequent the place and had said that the food was excellent.

Ralph's Bull and Claw Tavern

Joe was an Italian-American man who owned a barbershop in Walpole, Ma.  He had a larger than life personality and loved the Yankees, the game of golf, and busting my “Red Sox-loving” chops. I deeply respected his opinion when it came to Italian food.  His place was the number-one hot spot on my Christmas day house hopping tour!  He always had a great spread of food that included sausage and peppers, antipasto, meatballs and one of the best homemade Bloody Marys around?  Always the life of the party and a generous host, we lost Joe two days before Christmas last year.  I have been thinking about him a lot lately, so when the opportunity presented itself to refer a restaurant to my fellow ‘Crew members, I chose Ralph’s.  Thankfully, my suggestion was both welcomed and accepted.

Ralph's Bull and Claw Tavern

We arrived at Ralph’s Bull & Claw Tavern just as it was opening on a Sunday at 12:30 PM.  If this place were a sports jersey, it would have definitely been a throwback – perhaps the old high socks and short-shorts of the Larry Bird era Celtics.  The décor of dark paneling, wall to wall carpeting and a Ms. Pac-Man machine in the bar area is something right out of “That 70’s Show.”  However, Wi-Fi, flavored vodkas and fancy lighting is not a requirement in order to offer up delicious cuisine.

As we typically do, we collaborated on the menu and came up with an attack plan.  We decided  on several entrées for which to share.  Sharing allows us to form opinions on all table dishes and make some decisions on the overall menu.  Any good Italian would agree that beginning a meal without fresh bread is like a day without sunshine!

Ralph's Stuffed Quahog

The waitress brought us a steaming hot and crusty bread boulé which helped start the meal off in the right direction. She also recommended the Stuffies (Stuffed Quahogs for you non-New Englanders!) as an appetizer.  We graciously accepted her advice and were off on our culinary escapade.  The Stuffies ($3 each) were outstanding.  They had a crispy, Panko-like exterior and a moist interior filled with large chopped clams, onion, celery and a spicy breading.  These would stand up to any stuffed clam in RI.

Bracciole & Gnocchi Pizzaiola

For our first entrée, we selected the Bracciole & Gnocchi Pizzaiola $16 (pronounced bra’zhul). The Braciole at Ralph’s consists of thin slices of beef rolled with a filling of spinach, mozzarella and Romano cheeses, and house-made ricotta gnocchi – in a rich tomato ragout.  This dish was exceptional on every level.  The ricotta gnocchi was firmer than a traditional potato Gnocchi, yet tender and flavorful.  The Bracciole was slow cooked to perfection and worked well with the hearty, intense ragout.  The melted mozzarella spread out throughout the sauce and the generous portion size was an added bonus

Veal Stella Di Mare

Our second choice was a veal dish that may go down as one of the best veal dishes I have tasted, Veal Stella Di Mare $22.  A breaded veal cutlet stuffed with Mozzarella and Prosciutto would generally be tasty enough, but at Ralph’s Bull & Claw Tavern, they go the extra mile and top it with shrimp and a lobster cream sauce.  As rich as it sounds, the veal was light in texture and not overly fried.  The sauce was smooth like Lobster Bisque, but mild enough to allow the flavor of the prosciutto and veal to shine through.  I would recommend this dish to anyone with a love for veal.

Finally, we all agreed that we wanted to savor a traditional Italian specialty so we decided on the classic Meatball Grinder with Provolone topped with the house-made marinara.  Like the previous two dishes, the meatballs did not disappoint.  They were moist and flavorful with a hint of crushed red pepper.  The bright red marinara was freshly prepared with a sweet and savory flavor that worked well with the spice profile of the meatballs.  The roll was freshly baked and held all components together nicely.

Ralph’s Bull & Claw Tavern will see us again! We are grateful for the opportunity to try these less celebrated places and discover how good food can be in Rhode Island’s diverse communities and neighborhoods.   Boston’s North End is noted as the Mecca for Italian Cuisine in New England, but I’ll take RI and the Greater Providence area for my Italian fix any day of the week.  CIAO!!

1027 Charles Street, North Providence, RI 02904 • Tel: (401) 722-2624 • Fax: (401) 728-0231


The Mews Tavern

Don’s Review – Spirits in the Rhode

Mews Tavern Wakefield, RI

The significance of an original 1947 painting of the “Colonial Man” that graces the walls of the Mews Tavern in Wakefield, RI serves as an important reminder of a New England history responsible for the popularity of our beloved modern day “Pub.”

In the 16th and into the 17th century water was not safe to drink; it was too dirty, so for ordinary/common people drinking ale or beer was essential for nutrients. Only the poorest people drank water. For the colonists, beer and cider were common. For the wealthy wine and brandy were imported. Rum soon became a popular drink in the late 17th century. In the 18th century tea became popular.

Got Beer - Need Beer

The tavern was multifunctional and offered travelers a place to drink and lodge. It would evolve into a neighborhood mainstay that fostered the latest gossip, news, political banter and religious discussion and debates. The tavern was considered a public necessity, and a town that did not maintain one was subject to fine by the General Court.

Mews Tavern Draft

The Mews Tavern is the home of 69 ice cold draughts…or 67 if you happen to order the Peak Organic Winter Session Ale or the Harpoon 100 Barrel Aged Dunkel. Sadly, they were out of these on a recent visit.  Nonetheless, I was treated to a few brews I was excited to try. The standout for me was the Rogue Captain Sigs Deadliest Ale.  This one is comes from their “rare & limited” selection and gets its namesake from Captain Sigs from the Deadliest Catch TV show.  It’s a red ale with good body and color, and is very well balanced. Its mildly citrus hop finish complemented my Rancho Relaxo wood grilled pizza quite nicely. Rogue brewing has been consistently turning out great beer, and if you can find this one, grab it; it’s a top pick. More readily available in stores is Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale, which is a great introduction to the Rogue family of beers.  I also enjoyed the Berkshire Coffeehouse Nitro Porter. This is a great winter beer and drinks well by itself, but would also pair well with stews, soups or BBQ. My wife liked this one too, as she has become quite a fan of darker brews this year.  Tag ordered the Southern Tier Crème Brulee Imperial Milk Stout, which we all tried. Opinions on this were mixed- lots of vanilla, caramel and sweetness in this one.  It would no doubt stand toe to toe with some dark chocolate or perhaps a slice of pecan pie.

With such a large and diverse beer menu, the best way to begin at The Mews is to order a “rack” and choose 4 7oz. beers to try. If you do, any appetizer is only $3 bucks, so you can pair some beer and food on the cheap!

The Sampler Rack - Mews Tavern

The Mews proudly embraces the “Colonial Man’s” model of a traditional New England tavern and how it should serve its community – with the comforts of being among  friends and the freedom to express your news.

Got Beer, anyone?

Mews Tavern. 456 Main St. Wakefield, RI 02879-7408. (401) 783-9370

Tag’s Toilet Talk

It’s not that often when one frequents an eating establishment where there are three floors of food, spirits and song, that there are also bathrooms on all levels.  Greetings from one of the six restrooms in the Mews Tavern in Wakefield; no unisex here, one of each on every floor.

The “Bottom” Level:  The smallest of them all (pardon the pun).  This reminds me of New York City restaurant bathrooms.  I didn’t have a tape measure, but would guess the dimensions to be about 4’x 6’.  I don’t think you could lay a full sheet of plywood down flat on the floor, but don’t let that alarm you because when you can’t wait, it delivers with one Kohler urinal and a Sloan Hands Free Sensor Operated Flushometer.  To keep you from getting bored while standing there is a bulletin board on the wall just above the urinal at eye level.  The reading contents should be of no significance because in that position, you’d be happy to read graffiti if it were in front of you. The sink was small but adequate, and a FULL liquid soap dispenser was in proximity to the sink.  So many times the soap just isn’t “right there”.  And the big payoff – HOT running water.  There was a Tork Auto Paper Towel dispenser that was actually filled with a large roll of paper, and a large waste basket for the used paper towel 2-point toss.   The room was well lit, and the door actually locked!   Clean, very nice aroma due in part to the auto spray sanitizer located on the wall high off the floor.  Upon exiting, I happened to notice that right next to me the ladies room with the door open, so “what the heck,”  I quickly ducked in and did a quick scan only to notice the only difference between the men’s room and ladies room on this floor was a toilet in “hers” rather than a urinal in “his”.  I rate these two Bottom Level bathrooms 3 ½ TP rolls out of 5!

The Middle Level:  Two Hands Free Sensor Operated Flushometer urinals with two stalls (one of which was accessible).  Once again the bulletin board with “Mews News” over the two urinals for passing the time – especially appreciated if your enlarged prostate dictates a longer than normal flow-time.  One urinal was at regular adult height while the other was lower for accessibility. Additionally a stainless steel divider in place between the urinals to protect those that turn towards each other when talking and peeing.  The smaller of the stalls lock, two locks to be exact, did not latch properly, either of them.  So you know what that means…… just when you thought it was safe to sit, BAM, the door flies open and who is more embarrassed, you or him?  The stalls had a double TP roll dispenser, and both rolls were full and intact.  Both toilets were manual flush, but here is the BONUS!  These toilets had to have the most powerful flushing power I have ever seen short of the power boost flush toilets.  If you were sitting and your shirt tail was hanging in the water when you flushed, you might get pulled in yourself.  “I can’t wait to get to the upper floor to see if the power will be the same”.  Also, this stall had adequate lighting for reading, just in case you are inclined to take down an article from the bulletin board over the urinals and indulge while you sit.  The main part of this large bathroom had a diaper deck attached to the wall.  It was clean and functional.  Good size sink, liquid soap dispenser, a hand feed paper towel dispenser and good size trash can.  The floor was clean and a fire alarm was noted on the ceiling.  I rate this Middle Level bathroom 4 TP rolls.

The Top Level:  With only one stall on this level, the Kohler toilet had a commercial elongated open front toilet seat.  I immediately went for the flush, and yes, it was the power of Niagara Falls all over again.  I swear if you were sitting and flushed, you might confuse the backsplash as bidet seating – you’d get soaked from all this power!  Piped in music with stainless steel walls and door, with a lock that worked.  There was plenty of room surrounding the toilet, so there was no fear that your knees would touch the sidewalls while sitting.  Two huge TP rolls of paper in the dispenser.  The paper, however, did not seem to have the width as a normal TP roll, and the quality was a little thin, but it was double-ply to give the user piece-of-mind.  Again, two urinals with the bulletin board over them.  In the main area, there was tile on the walls; the floor was clean and dry.  There was a wall mounted stainless soap dispenser, and once again, it was full.  The sink was adequate and the paper towels were full.  There was adequate lighting and again a pleasant smell of air sanitizer.  I rate this Top Level bathroom 4 TP rolls.