A publication featuring student work from the Department of English and Communications at Salve Regina University.
BY JIYON RUFFIN
I honestly hate the winter, especially in Newport. It’s like everything is dying. The colorful leaves we marvel at during early October turn into crumbs on the cold sidewalk. Not only is there a lack of greenery but the people-packed streets that describe a Newport summer fade to a mere memory. The vacationers have gone home, and the excitement is gone. It’s just cold.
However, on a brisk November night, I found a little warmth tucked away on Bowen’s Wharf. I walked across the cobblestones and under a wooden archway that read “Diego’s” in silver-plated lettering. Passing an assortment of pumpkin decorations, I made my way through the door and a wave of heat caused my temperature to rise significantly.
Three separate waiters and waitresses sporting black T-shirts approached me at the door. Not one, three. This wasn’t the type of place that used a hosting podium; it was host by committee. My kind of joint.
Dimly lit candles surrounded a slightly small but cozy room. A corner bar stocked with everything from top-shelf liquor to locally brewed ales overlooked the restaurant. It was a perfect balance of elegance and homeliness. I was directed to a seat near the front entrance below what felt like a space heater.
Taking my seat, I noticed a thick floral seat cushion that helped relieve the coldness of the steel chair I was ushered to. Ignoring what seemed to be an overwhelmingly normal menu, with an obnoxiously small font, I directed my attention to the Restaurant Week menu. It was just right. Three distinct sections: appetizers, entrees and desserts. There wasn’t an abundance of options, but each black-and-white description brought a sense of color to the page.
There was about a five-minute wait for the first course after I received a carafe filled with ice-cold water and a plastic cup. The timing wasn’t particularly extraordinary considering it was only chips and guacamole. A steel basket of salty tortilla chips complemented with a tall bowl of mild, house-made guacamole with a slice of lime in the center.
The entrée arrived immediately after I decided I was done with my appetizer. The colorful, well-proportioned plate contained three beautifully constructed tacos. A symphony of ancho-braised beef, black beans, house-pickled veggies, cotija cheese and black garlic crema all packed in a grilled white-corn tortilla. The juicy beef worked extremely well with the fresh vegetables, and every bite reassured me of its perfect assembly. The entrée came with a side of sautéed shaved brussels sprouts, which weren’t terrible, but I could have done just fine without.
After the entrée came some more warmth. Right before the dessert arrived, the waitress approached with a large red wool blanket and placed it over the top of the empty seat at my table. She graciously informed me that if I got cold, I could use the blanket to my advantage. I didn’t use it. I was content, however. The thought of bringing over a blanket was enough to provide that warm feeling.
Next was the house-made pumpkin flan, topped with pecan pralines and vanilla bean whipped cream. The texture of the flan matched effortlessly with the sweet and fluffy whipped cream. Delicious is an understatement, and I didn’t even know I liked pumpkin flan.
The carafe of water was empty, and a new one immediately replaced it. I washed down the praline crumbs and sat back in my chair. I exited the three-course meal completely satisfied and feeling much warmer than when I began it.
Diego’s specializes in Mexican-style dishes with a modern twist. It’s located at 11 Bowen’s Wharf and offers validated parking in the winter as well as on-street parking nearby. The contact number is (401) 619-2640.