I once read a story in which the author noted that “firsts” are always known, marked, and photographed, like our first steps. Our lasts, however, often are given no ceremony or recognition until they have passed and exist only a memory.
Ever since I read that, I’ve been acutely aware of noticing lasts, and on my last day of being 31 years old, I wanted to do something special with a few special people, and that special thing was an inaugural dinner at Mare Rooftop restaurant in Providence.
There is something unusually appealing about dining on a rooftop, despite the fact that such venues are usually overpriced and have a view that’s only accessible by standing near the ledge — nevertheless, I’m always excited at the prospect, and Mare Rooftop exceeded my expectations.
Its location seemed like an unusual choice — in Wayland Square atop the building that houses Verizon, Massage Envy and the Tropical Smoothie Café. But then I saw the view: the Seekonk River, the downtown skyline, tree tops and suburban houses — it was beautiful, particularly as the chimneys caught the glinting light of the setting sun, giving the illusion of a fall landscape, reds and greens, sprinkled with blue from the water.
The process of getting to the rooftop is similar to that of its Downcity counterpart at the Providence G — walk up to a desk, get pointed to an elevator, arrive on the top floor to a very posh, modern hostess stand with black-clad waitresses and the uncertain feeling of, Oh…am I underdressed? But unlike downtown, this rooftop dining experience is anything but pretentious. If anything, I would classify it as “classy casual.”
The dining room is sleek — a minimalist design with wide open spaces, horizontal lines and skylights for a ceiling. The border of this interior space is composed of glass windows that accordion open so that one can sit inside but still see out onto the deck. And, most importantly, the “railing” of the deck is transparent plexiglass that gives the illusion of a rooftop that leads straight onto the view — the restaurant equivalent of an infinity pool (have no fear, though; one of my friends is afraid of heights and she felt safe).
At 7:30 on a Monday night, all of the action was outside. On the southern deck are high top tables, and I was told these receive a limited menu, but from here patrons have a perfect view of the sunset. We were seated across the restaurant on the northern deck. At the far end of both outdoor spaces are grey couches that lend themselves to comfortable (but classy) lounging.
As I waited for my three friends to arrive, I spotted four other friends and sauntered over to their table to taste all of their drinks. The Lavender Lemonade Mojito was delicious, but I noticed my bartender friend had ordered Prosecco. “Cocktails at rooftop bars tend to be more syrup and juice than alcohol,” he said.
That did not stop my entire table from ordering four different cocktails, however: Lavender Lemonade Mojito, The Bourberry (a bourbon and blackberry drink), Tuscan Pear Martini (which my friend accurately described as tasting like a Smarties Candy necklace) and an Aurora for me, Absolut Grapefruit Vodka with Compari, grapefruit, mint and honey. Our server, J, warned me that not everyone appreciates the taste of the Aurora, but I was not deterred; I like Compari, and I thought the flavor was perfectly balanced (albeit slightly watered down).
Mare, if the name does not imply, specializes in seafood, with a healthy dose of pizza, pasta and salad for the land lovers. We decided to get a variety, allowing us to get the best of all worlds: tuna crudo, lump crab cakes, local burrata salad, seared scallops, baked gnocchetti and a margherita pizza.
Of the appetizers, the lump crab cakes were everyone’s favorite, served with mango chutney, chive oil and a smoked paprika remoulade. While the sweet and spicy condiments were nice additions, the crab cakes had excellent flavor, and I preferred them unadulterated. My only issue, with both this and the crudo, is that they were served in threes (and the crab cakes were tiny). It seems like four is a more appropriate number for sharing, or at least it would have better served us, preventing us from having to auction off half pieces with sorrow.
Of the main dishes, the baked gnocchetti and margherita pizza were the split winners. The gnocchetti had a wonderful smoky flavor — so good, in fact, that as a birthday wish, I asked if I could be the one to eat the leftover sauce with a spoon — and there was enough in the dish that all four of us could share and be satisfied. And the margherita pizza, which is the baseline pizza by which all pizza places must be judged, was exceptional. Great sauce, great crust, great choice.
We were, unfortunately, too full to try dessert, but I asked for the specials anyway: tiramisu, flourless chocolate cake and gelato. I also asked our server J where the olive oil served with the bread came from, because it tasted so great I thought it must be Greek. (It was Greek.)
As one would expect for a rooftop restaurant, the price tag was high, but it was a worthy splurge. I recommend visiting this — what I think will be — new hotspot in town, a fresh take on a rooftop dining experience. It’s the perfect place to celebrate both your firsts and your lasts, and everything in between.