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    Thursday, July 25, 2024

    Bar Emilia is another jewel in Westerly’s culinary crown

    The Bucatini Amatriciani at Bar Emilia (Ann Baldelli)
    The Carciofi at Bar Emilia (Ann Baldelli)
    The steamed clams at Bar Emilia (Ann Baldelli)
    The Polpette at Bar Emilia (Ann Baldelli)
    The Bucatini Amatriciani at Bar Emilia (Ann Baldelli)
    Melanzane at Bar Emilia (Ann Baldelli)
    The exterior of Bar Emilia (Ann Baldelli)

    When you think of foodie destinations, big cities like New York, New Orleans, Chicago, and Los Angeles come to mind, not Westerly, Rhode Island. But in my estimation, while Westerly might be tiny in comparison, when it comes to indulging in great cuisine, it is mighty.

    Add Bar Emilia to the repertoire. Open since last September, this place is another jewel in the crown. In addition to an extensive wine selection and craft cocktails, there are small plates, paninis, pastas, and combination platters of meat and cheese. It is a bar with really good food.

    We have visited several times and tried almost everything on the small but satisfying menu. Among our favorites, and there are many, are the small plates. They are great for sharing. The Polpette, $14, are three good-sized beef, pork, and prosciutto meatballs with tomato sugo and ricotta. Your mouth is watering, right? If not, it should be. The meatballs are moist and flavorful, and combined with the sauce and ricotta, the dish is so good you will scrape up every morsel.

    Order the warm, crusty bread with whipped ricotta, honey, and wild herbs, for $10, and use it to mop up broths and sauces, or simply spread the ricotta and honey on a slice and enjoy.

    Melanzane, $14, is ricotta-filled eggplant baked with a pomodoro sauce and smothered in shaved cheese. The eggplant is sliced wafer thin and perfectly baked, for melt-in-your-mouth lusciousness. How can something be good?

    There were several special small plates the night we recently visited, and while they all sounded good, we opted for the steamed clams, $15. It was a great choice. Six littlenecks arrived in a bowl of briny, buttery broth with small slices of red onion, chopped tomato, and microgreens on top. The clams were tender and that broth, well, we are still talking about it a week later. In fact, we asked for extra bread to soak it all up.

    There are not just small plates at Bar Emilia, there are paninis and pasta, too. A favorite for my crew is the Bucatini Amatriciani, $24. This dish includes the thick spaghetti-like pasta with holes running through the strands in a tomato sauce with guanciale. If you don’t know, guanciale is a bacon-like cured meat, and in this dish, it is chopped into small pieces and tossed with the pasta, sauce, and pecorino cheese. It arrived piping hot and, like everything else, was mouthwatering good.

    Our least favorite, and it was still very good, was the panini. Maybe it’s because we had already eaten so much, but we couldn’t resist when we saw these over-stuffed sandwiches going to the tables around us and figured we should try one too.

    We selected the prosciutto, served on house-made focaccia with mozzarella di bufala, fig jam, roasted shallots, and pickled squash, for $16. We asked our server to have the kitchen cut the sandwich in four pieces so we could share. It was sweet and savory and so jam packed, it was a mouthful.

    Another small plate that we enjoyed was the Carciofi, $13, which was roasted artichokes and sweet peppers served with a side of bagna cauda. I must be honest; I didn’t know what bagna cauda was until I looked it up. It is a hot sauce made from garlic and anchovies and served with raw or cooked vegetables. It was a perfect accompaniment to the artichokes. They certainly know what they’re doing in the kitchen at Bar Emilia.

    This place is the third in what will eventually be four local restaurants run by Shaun Golan and Jakub Andros, who already operate The Mariner and Via Emilia, both on West Main Street in downtown Mystic, and a new Italian eatery, said to be called Trattoria Amalfi, which is not yet open but is going into the former Go Fish in Olde Mistick Village. All their establishments are attracting crowds, and their move into Westerly is welcomed.

    1 Railroad Ave., Westerly

    (401) 388-8383

    Find them on Instagram @baremiliari

    Atmosphere: It’s a unique space, triangle shaped, with big windows overlooking Railroad Avenue and the train station across the street, with interior red brick and granite walls, a small but inviting bar, and high-top tables with banquettes or low-top seating positioned along the windows.

    Alcohol: A full-service bar with unique craft cocktails

    Hours: Tuesday to Saturday opens at 4 p.m., closed Sundays and Mondays

    Prices: Reasonable for very good food

    Credit cards: Yes

    Handicapped accessibility: There is one step up from the sidewalk.

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