On the Brown Low: Family Weekend

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Welcome to On the Brown Low—a column dedicated to exploring all that the lovely city of Providence has to offer. Join me, Isabela Karibjanian, as I take you on a tour of all the hidden gems I find off College Hill!

While at Brown, it’s sometime hard to get out of the College Hill bubble. Everything you need—food, friends, and events—is right on campus, so it can be hard to justify leaving venturing away from the Van Wickle Gates. On Family Weekend, though, I’ve found that getting off the Hill couldn’t be easier. While some parents may want to get the full Brown experience—dining hall food included—this past weekend, my family wanted to explore Providence’s renowned culinary scene. Keep reading after the jump to find out more about some of the best places to grab a meal with your family in Providence!

My parents are partial to visiting Federal Hill—Providence’s very own Little Italy. Home to dozens of Italian restaurants, bakeries, and pizzerias, my family and I have been to a different restaurant each time they’ve visited. This time around, we ate at Spirito’s Restaurant. Located in an old Victorian-style house, also home to the Italo-American Club of Rhode Island, Spirito’s offers classic Italian-American favorites like chicken parmesan and fried calamari, but also more inventive dishes like Capriocla-stuffed squid served over squid-ink linguini. (I had melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi served in a vodka sauce, and I’m really looking forward to having it as leftovers sometime this week.)

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The restaurant was decorated with framed portraits of Italo-American club members, and prominent Rhode Island Italian-Americans like Governor Gina Raimondo and Congressman David Cicilline. The dining room was filled with many other families and, overall, the restaurant had a lively, homey atmosphere. One of the quirkier things about Spirito’s was its music—it ranged from Frank Sinatra standards to a song about Dominick the Italian Christmas donkey! Everyone at our table, including two friends of mine who are always game to get off College Hill for a great meal, granted that embarrassing anecdotes about my life are provided by my parents, thoroughly enjoyed their meals.

Other than going out to dinner, another staple of how my parents like to spend Family Weekend is Sunday brunch. This year, we visited Red Stripe in the Wayland Square neighborhood. About a 15-20 minute walk from campus or a short RIPTA ride away, Wayland Square is home to great restaurants and shops. It’s a very walkable neighborhood, especially on a cool fall day.

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Red Stripe serves classic American comfort food, but with a French twist. The interior of the restaurant reflects this—it has all the basic components of a French brasserie, like a tiled floor and red accents, but with comfy booths and a TV showing football at the bar. For brunch, the menu offers fresh takes on classic brunch staples like eggs Benedict and grilled cheese, and also French dishes like moules frites. I got the bread pudding French toast, which was served as two pieces of French toast prepared like bread pudding, swimming in a bowl of maple syrup, whipped cream, and berries. If you are willing to go a bit further from campus than you would for Duck and Bunny brunch, I’d definitely recommend checking out Red Stripe. As a bonus, it’s next-door to a wonderful independent bookstore.

Though there are lots of interesting activities on campus during Family Weekend, like concerts, performances, and lectures, I’ve found that my most memorable family weekend moments happened when we all ventured off campus and explored Providence together. Sharing a meal with your family (or your friend’s family!) is always an excellent chance to catch up, get away from campus for a bit, and bypass the Ratty for a night (or two if you’re lucky enough to get leftovers!).

Is there something in Providence that you want to see covered here? Have any suggestions for my next adventure? Send me an email (isabela_karibjanian@brown.edu) to let me know!

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