It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, not the holiday season (although that’s close) but to foodies like me, this week is akin to waking up to a Christmas stocking full of tasty treats and shiny new toys.

This is Providence Restaurant Week.

Twice a year – traditionally in January and July – restaurants across the city and beyond offer three-course lunch and dinner menus at special pricing (typically $14.95 and $29.95 or $34.95) to encourage dining out during the “slow” months.

I say “slow” with quotations because we all know Rhode Islanders LOVE to eat out-and who can blame them since they live in a state known for its culinary excellence.

This means we have the good fortune of being able to treat ourselves to meals at local eateries we’ve been dying to try at a fraction of the normal bill. I mean, three courses – starter, entree AND dessert for $30-ish? It’s a deal too good not to eat up.

(When 100ThingsPVD was published, restaurants were offering two courses at lunch).

January 2017’s Restaurant Week is actually two weeks long – ending this coming weekend – and though I’ve gotten out far less than I would have liked this time around, I had the pleasure of visiting Cassarino’s Ristorante on Atwells Avenue for a late birthday lunch with my brother, sister-in-law and niece (below).

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This year, the Federal Hill staple allows restaurant week diners to choose any entree (with an added cost for substitutions such as gluten-free pasta and some specialties) for their main course. After enjoying Caesar and spinach salads (done to perfection with goat cheese and a champagne raspberry vinaigrette), we ordered the Marsala chicken, clams Zuppa (shown above) and BBQ pizza – a serious crowd-pleaser (not an easy accomplishment for some of the pickier eaters at my table).

We had choices of Cannoli and tiramisu for dessert but selected the unbelievably creamy cheesecake with a moist but sturdy graham-cracker crust.

As enticing as our meal was enjoying an understated elegant lunch on an otherwise dreary Saturday afternoon, which we probably would not normally had done. With attentive but not intrusive table service and a casually sophisticated atmosphere, Cassarino’s was the perfect choice for a party of varying palates.

There’s still time to get out and enjoy one of the city’s many splendid restaurants before we have to wait until July for another restaurant week and I hope you find time for a fine meal with family and friends.

(Other cities across the state also offer restaurant weeks, including Newport (March 27-April 7), Narragansett (March 17-26) and Block Island (typically in June).

Bon appétit!

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