Family Date Night at La Familia

 

Date night and family night are no longer mutually exclusive. La Familia, located at 1666 Diamond Hill Rd. in Cumberland and at 431 Winthrop St. in Taunton, Mass, provides an elegant setting with a casual vibe where the whole family can feast on delicious, reasonably priced food. The menu features a combination of Italian and Portuguese-inspired cuisine with classics such as Fettuccini Bolognese and Linguini Alla Vongole, as well as a number of innovative dishes, including Chipotle Maple Glaze Salmon and Chicken and Kale Ravioli. What makes La Familia unique is its casual elegance.

I recently enjoyed a spectacular dinner out with my own familia at the Cumberland location. We were seated in the main dining room, which features a fireplace, several large windows, a few simple mirrors and plants, and tables with white tablecloths topped with butcher paper. That simple combination — white tablecloths and butcher paper — creates an elegant yet playful mood. The entire room is beautifully decorated, but you can’t help doodling on the butcher paper after you order if you happen to have a pen. There are two other rooms as well, one of which features a stunning bar shaped like a square, but we loved our table in the main room. It was a busy Sunday night; we hadn’t made a reservation and we didn’t have to wait for a table, but it felt more like a Saturday evening based on the number of people — people that included couples and groups of all ages and a number of school-aged children (all of whom were well-behaved).

As soon as we were seated, our water glasses were filled and a bread basket was delivered by two friendly server assistants. Our waiter appeared shortly thereafter, recited two appetizer and five dinner specials flawlessly, and returned promptly with our drinks. Throughout the meal, he was attentive and welcoming, as was one of the owners, who greeted us (and everyone else) personally and was clearly hands-on in the running of the business.

The food tastes homemade, and by that I mean delicious, as though an Italian-Portuguese grandmother, who has spent her life in the kitchen, just happened to make enough food for an entire restaurant full of people. We had clam chowder and seafood-stuffed mushrooms for appetizers, both of which were excellent. The chowder tasted like the sea, not fishy but flavorful and rich, while the mushrooms were plump and juicy and in perfect proportion to the seafood inside. For dinner I ordered the Chipotle Maple Glaze Salmon, which wasn’t too sweet, thanks to a nice balance of chipotle and maple. The mashed potatoes were thick and creamy; I wondered if the secret ingredient might be a bit of stock mixed with heavy cream, but I’m not sure. The sauteed vegetables — carrots, bell peppers and green beans — were truly al dente (not a hair overcooked) and subtly seasoned.  My daughter had meatballs over angel hair pasta, and the meatballs were notably moist and juicy. My husband had Spinach and Roasted Garlic Ravioli with homemade marinara sauce, and although ravioli in general tends to be a very heavy dish, this one was just right — filling but not overbearing, according to him. I tried it and was pleased to discover that the earthy taste of the spinach had not been masked by spice. I could taste each ingredient, the total effect of which was a superb dish.  

The menu at La Familia has something for every palette: appetizers, soup, salad, beef, pork, chicken, pasta, seafood and veal. The lunch menu boasts a number of sandwiches, and the children’s menu is commendable because it offers several pasta dishes in addition to grilled cheese and a burger. It sends the message that kids can and should enjoy real food at La Familia. Another nice option — for children and for adults — is the Family Style section of the menu, which offers Fettuccine Alfredo, Chicken Parmesan, Fettuccini Bolognese and the Italian Trio (Chicken Parmesan, Eggplant Parmesan and Meatballs) in larger portions for two or four people. We might go for the Italian Trio next time, but even if we change our minds, I know I’ll have a great date night out with my family at La Familia.

Woonsocket location: 401-305-3916; Taunton location: 508-823-8664; lafamiliarestaurants.com

 

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