As the National Hotel sparkled in the morning sun up over the Old Harbor, we sat on its terrace with new chef, Anthony Malele. He talked about seafood on Block Island and especially the swordfish. He’s worked in plenty of restaurants, but “the swordfish here is the freshest I’ve ever seen,” he said.
All of the National’s local fish is provided by licensed fishermen. For the additional seafood deliveries from Sysco, a commercial provider, Anthony said, “Sysco calls to let us know what ferry our fish is coming in on, so we can pick it up immediately.”
One of his most popular seafood dishes is the lobster fettuccine. In addition to the tender lobster, it’s filled with so many good things. It starts with a sherry lobster cream sauce made with garlic and shallots, then wild oyster, shiitake and crimini mushrooms are added along with chopped green onions, pasta and tomatoes. The fetuccini absorbs all these flavors to make it just right.
Anthony has been at the National before; this year is his first year as head chef. After a stint in the Army, his cooking career began in Canandaigua, in upstate New York. He moved on to Victory, N.Y., in the Finger Lakes region at Biazzi’s, and spent more time cooking in Florida.
“I was young. On my first day I just cooked bacon all day long,” he said. But over time he gained greater knowledge about food, developed a strong work ethic and the organizational skills that have made him successful. “I love doing what I do. I love cooking,” he said. He added, “We respond to what the public wants. Nothing’s changed much from last year. It’s just more streamlined.”
About other items on the menu — like breakfast and desserts — Anthony said one of the hotel’s most popular breakfasts is Banana Almond Amaretto French Toast, with Amaretto syrup and fresh strawberry shortcake. Now that’s a winning combination. — Becky Ballard
The National Hotel is located on Water Street. The phone number is (401) 466-2901.
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