East Greenwich's Safehouse is stunningly special

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T.J. Martucci is no stranger to restaurant operation, having grown up in the family business, helping his father with all aspects of providing quality food service at both the Valley and Cranston Country Clubs and the original Martucci’s in Cranston.

“My degree from the University of Rhode Island was in accounting,” the president of the Martucci group told me. “My experience has been in the business world, and that is what I brought to our restaurants.”

Safehouse, the former site of Chianti’s, is part of TMG, which includes The Trap Pub and Grill, the popular spot at 195 Old Forge Road located on the second level. T.J. has completely remodeled the former Chianti’s, which occupied the large downstairs space.

An inside stairway will take you from one restaurant to the other. My son-in-law is a frequent visitor to The Trap for the 2 for 1 Thursday burger night and all-you-can-eat Pasta Mondays.

“For Safehouse, I wanted to create a restaurant inspired by the ski culture of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Vermont, infused with a contemporary influence,” he said. “I wanted to make dining fun again, offering sharable foods, upbeat music and creative cocktails. His general manager, Susan Lemoi, a Warwick native, assures that that happens at both establishments.

Chef Manny Pinos has created an eclectic menu with upscale, imaginative and unusual combinations, such as his popular Pastrami Smoked Salmon Sliders, an appetizer that combines sea and land with pickled vegetables, horseradish cream on a Bavarian pretzel roll ($13).

Joyce and I chose two appetizers and two entrees, which we shared to the utter delight of two foodies who had just discovered the joy of trying new, creative, tasty cuisine.

We’ve had fried oysters before, but never the Safehouse way. Chef Pino gently fries the oysters, returns them to the shell on a bed of seaweed salad, where he tops them with a slice of sushi grade tuna and spicy siracha aiola ($13). We can’t remember having a more appealing combination of ingredients. If you have never enjoyed seaweed salad, you are in for a surprising treat.

The Caprese Stack combines a panko crusted tomato, topped with grilled eggplant and a thick slice of mozzarella with spinach and a roasted tomato sauce. The amalgamation of different tastes is amazing and a perfect example of what creative cuisine should be ($9).

Our first shared entrée was Cajun swordfish ($22), the thickest, tastiest, most tender and moist piece of swordfish we had ever eaten. It was served over a bed of couscous and topped with fresh asparagus stalks.

If Safehouse has a signature dish (there are so many “Must Try entrees) it is Surf and Turf Bucatini. A huge piece of tender, sweet short rib and two of the largest, most tender seared sea scallops we’ve ever enjoyed sit on a bed of bucatini pasta (a thicker form of spaghetti) gently mixed with roasted red peppers and baby spinach. We couldn’t finish it all, but enjoyed it even more the next day ($26).

Desserts are extra special. We shared a chocolate chip skillet cookie topped with ice cream, whipped cream and strawberries, which was absolutely sinful. We have only scratched the surface of dishes we want to try at Safehouse.

Luncheon menus feature four creative urban salad bowls ($8-$11) soups, pastas and modern sandwiches ranging from burgers to a lobster grilled cheese, with smoked gouda and Manchego cheese ($9-$15). Grilled pizza includes BBQ chicken, prosciutto and arugula, and fig and mascarpone. ($10-$12).

Martucci believes that there’s enough fine Italian restaurants in East Greenwich and chooses to take his restaurant in a different direction, much to the pleasure of fine dining aficionados. He does, however, includea half dozen creative Italian dishes to complement his By Land and By Sea selections.

Safehouse is defined in the menu as “a dwelling or building whose conventional appearance makes it a safe or inconspicuous place for hiding, taking refuge, or carrying on clandestine activities.”

They are open Mondays from 4-10 p.m., Tues-Thurs. from 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. and Sunday from 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. For reservations, call 885-4999. Check them out online at www.safehouseri.com.

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