The statements made on this website are the personal opinions of Laura and Diane. If we feel that a restaurant visit is not up to par, please remember it is our opinion. If you disagree with us, feel free to write us at info@newenglandbites.com.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Leo's Ristorante

365 Hope St.
Bristol, RI 02809
(401) 253-9300

Mom and I love to drive through Bristol and Warren, RI. On our trips, Mom often spots Leo's Ristorante and exclaims, "One day I'd like to visit that restaurant, sit on the sidewalk, and have a delicious lunch." Well today, she finally got her wish.

We headed over the Mount Hope Bridge and into Bristol. It was a gorgeous day - just perfect for an outdoor feast. Hope Street is a very busy main street, and I was quite pleased to find a parking space right across from the restaurant at around 2:20 p.m. There is no metered parking, but there is a two hour limit. However, we were quite certain that we would not be needing the full two hours to eat lunch.

Mom and I crossed the street and walked past several of the cloth-covered tables and into the restaurant. A sign outside read that if you wanted to be seated outdoors, you must go inside first and tell your server. As we stepped inside, we found that Leo's was a lot bigger than we thought it was. They have a large dining area off to the left, and a few scattered tables and chairs throughout the front room and even up a few stairs near the main entrance. A waitress came over and we asked to sit outdoors. She promptly grabbed two hearty-looking menus and walked us back outside, but not before I snapped this picture of the interior:

It looks like there is a huge sandwich board just above where the cashier stands. It's quite adorable. However, Mom and I had our minds made up on eating surrounded by the fresh afternoon air. The waitress first brought us to a table right by the main entrance, but I asked to be seated at the last table to the far left of the restaurant. It was quiet and cozy; I didn't want to be bothered with people going in and out of the restaurant. The waitress left the two thick green menus on the table while Mom and I took our seats. Both the tables and chairs were made of dark green plastic, and the cloth table covers were a dark cranberry. There was salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes sitting on the table, along with some sugar packets. A second waitress came over and asked us what we would like to drink. We both ordered Diet Cokes, and they promptly arrived in two sealed 20 oz. bottles along with glasses of ice topped with a lemon. Since Mom and I had already reviewed the on-line menu before visiting Leo's, we were able to give our order right away. Mom ordered the Tortellini Caesar Salad ($7.25) which is freshly made cheese-filled pasta served over romaine lettuce and crunchy croutons topped with parmesan cheese and Leo's own special Caesar dressing. She ordered it with chicken which made it $8.50. I ordered the Mediterranean Salad ($7.25) which consisted of mixed greens, olives, tomatoes, red onion, cucumbers, walnuts, and feta cheese. Although I did not get it topped with chicken, you could for $8.50. Mom and I also split a personal classic (cheese) pizza for $4.50. We are both huge pizza fans and were looking forward to seeing how well Leo's can make a plain one. The waitress took our menus away, and only now as I write this did I notice that the menu online does not have the updated prices. Everything seemed to be 25 cents to $1 more in person than what is listed on the Internet.

Leo's has a lot of delicious meal choices. Appetizers range from a $3 small garlic bread to a $10.95 dish of littlenecks in garlic and oil. They have pizzas, soups, salads, wraps, paninis, sandwiches, entrees, pastas, and house specialties which include your choice of soup or salad. They have a dinner special for two which includes two entrees with a choice of soup or salad and a bottle of wine for $29.95. Catering services are also available, and I was surprised to read that Leo's Ristorante has been around since 1948. Who knew? All pastas are cooked to order, and although there is alcohol served indoors, it is prohibited to be served outside. Parties of eight or more will have an 18% gratuity fee added to their bill.

Our food came fairly quickly and everything looked amazing. We dug into the pizza first. Delicious!! The crust was thick and puffy with a crispy rim. The tomato sauce wasn't actually a sauce, it was crushed tomatoes, which made the pizza sweet versus acidic. The hot melted cheese did not overpower each individual slice. The taste was fresh and flavorful, and Mom noted that it was one of the nicer pizzas that she's had in a while.

Mom's salad was a hit. It was a great portion with lovely thin pieces of white meat chicken sitting atop of bed of Caesar salad and tossed with nice assortment of tri-colored tortellini. The chicken was tender and well done, the tortellinis added a extra flavor to the salad, and the dressing was nicely spiced and went well with the fresh greens. Mom said she would definitely order this again. Even the croutons were delicious!

My salad was also outstanding. I love nuts, and every time I order a salad that includes them, there are usually only about five or six scattered throughout the greens. Not this time. My salad was chock full of walnuts; I had one in every forkful. The greens and feta cheese were very fresh, and the olive assortment was fun and flavorful (black, green, and Greek). It was a great portion size, and the dressing that topped it was cool and tangy. A great summer mix of veggies on a wonderful summer day.

I finished my meal first, but Mom was still working on hers when the waitress came over to clear away my plate. She had come over once during the meal to ask how everything was, and we had only good things to report. Although my mother thought that she stared at us too much, it may have just been that she was having trouble seeing our eyes through our sunglasses, ha, ha. She took my plate away at around 2:50 p.m., but she didn't return until 3:11 p.m. to take my mother's plate and ask us if we wanted dessert. It wasn't too bad of a wait because it gave Mom and I plenty of time to decide where we wanted to see the new Harry Potter film. We declined dessert, and at 3:15 p.m. the waitress brought the bill:

Mediterranean - $7.25

Tortellini w/chicken - 8.50

Personal pizza - 4.50

2 Coke - 3.00

Subtotal - $23.25

RI7 - 1.63

RI1 - .23

TOTAL = $25.11

*I think the RI7 is Rhode Island 7% tax, but I don't know what the RI1 is.

I took the bill inside while Mom waited for me at the table. I left our waitress $30 (including 20% tip) and decided to use their restroom. They only have one unit, and the little sign on the outside green door informs users that it is a unisex bathroom. I knocked on the door and, since it was empty, I went inside. It is a very skinny room with a toilet at one end and a sink at the other. It was very clean. I quickly rejoined Mom and we noted that this was a great find and we look forward to coming back again. Although eating outdoors isn't for everyone, there was something about sitting on a main street surrounded by tourists, dog-walkers, and historic buildings that made our lunch at Leo's extra special.

***NOTE: I should mention that a friend of mine had a bad experience here involving a hair in his panini sandwich. Although he has not been back since, I look forward to my next visit. However, I'll keep my eye out if I ever order a sandwich.***