The Rhode Island restaurant scene is always changing. Restaurants open; restaurants close. Yet sometimes we long for the old, familiar spots – restaurants that have stood the test of time. One example: Spain of Narragansett. I made a visit to figure out the secret to its longevity.
Spain was first opened near the Narragansett Pier in 1987 by Salvador Gomes and the late Felix Rodriguez. In 1995, it moved to its current location on Ocean Road near Scarborough Beach. Salvador’s younger brother, Joe, and his wife, Nina, tend to the daily operations while Salvador’s wife, J.J., manages the business end of things. Salvador is still in the kitchen.
The restaurant is known for its fresh, cooked-to-order, Mediterranean-inspired meals. The dining room is bright and open, with decor suited to the nearby beach (think wicker chairs and pastel colors). There is a large bar area and lounge, important for a restaurant that doesn’t take small reservations. In the warmer months, the restaurant also provides a lovely patio for outside dining.
On the night I visited with a friend, the restaurant was full, so we gladly sat at the bar. As a bonus, the NFL playoffs were displayed on three televisions. Sangria is Spain’s signature drink, but we opted for cocktails: I tried the ‘90s-style Grey Goose Cosmopolitan ($9), and my friend decided on a Paloma ($9) made with Patron Silver Tequila, ruby red grapefruit juice, and Sprite. Before we were done with our meal, we also each enjoyed a Whalers Rise ($5.50). All of the drinks, including wine, are generously portioned.
Before our appetizers were served, we were given bread with a delicious garlic butter. I sampled the shrimp appetizer ($12.50), which featured medium-sized shrimp sauteed in garlic and olive oil. They definitely had a kick to them and were a nice way to start the meal. The last of our bread sopped up the yummy sauce left in the casserole dish. My friend, a calamari connoisseur, gave Spain’s version ($11) a try. She loved that the calamari weren’t greasy and contentedly ate them plain, sans cocktail sauce.
Spain is best known for its seafood, which is generally caught in local waters. Feeling decadent, I ordered the Baked Stuffed Lobster ($30). It wasn’t a huge lobster, only 1.5 pounds, but it was plenty for me, with sweet and tender meat. The stuffing was chock-full of crab, shrimp, and scallops, and the sides included clarified butter and a dish of rice, spinach, broccoli, and carrots. My friend was intrigued by the night’s Swordfish Special ($32), prepared simply with lemon and white wine. The price was high, but it bought an enormous portion – more than a pound of fresh fish – with the same sides as my entree.
At last, the bartender brought over a tray of six desserts. My friend loves Tres Leches Cake ($9) and spoke highly of Spain’s
version. I had a choice of Crème Brulee or Flan and opted for the latter ($9). This eggy, steamed custard is a staple of Spanish desserts.
Spain was bustling, despite the cold winter night. For close to 30 years, Spain has been essential to the Rhode Island restaurant scene. Friends and family have mentioned how Spain is their favorite restaurant in all of Rhode Island. My cousin, who is extremely picky, even got married here on a beautiful summer day out on the patio. The food has remained consistently good over the years, as has the attentive service. If you haven’t been to Spain in years, it’s worth the walk down memory lane.
Spain of Narragansett
1144 Ocean Road, Narragansett • 783-9770