Spirito brothers return to roots to open new restaurant

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Ever had a Frog City Burger or Thornton Grinder?

If not, think about trying a Pocasset or Plainfield Parma Pizza, or dishes like veal and peas, polenta, tripe, soffrito or other authentic homemade Italian dishes that feature large portions, pleases people’s palates and pocketbooks and is now being served by the Spirito brothers – Gregory and David – at 1418 Plainfield Pike on the Cranston-Johnston line.

“We’re excited about being back home,” Greg Spirito said the other day inside Spirito’s Restaurant-Banquet-Catering that recently took up residence at the famed Kelley-Gazzerro VFW Post 2812 on Plainfield Pike. “It’s ironic, we used to come here when we were kids.”

The Spirito brothers, whose cooking has consistently ranked among the best Italian food in Rhode Island for upwards of three decades, are native Johnstonians who grew up in Frog City – a.k.a. the Thornton section of town.

“We’ve been customers at the Kelley-Gazzerro Post since we were young,” said Greg Spirito, who was a tackle for the Johnston High School football Panthers that lost to Rogers High of Newport, 14-12, in the 1985 Super Bowl and graduated in 1986. “Now, we are back home, ready to serve our many long-time friends.”

Ever since 1999, after the Spirito brothers got their feet wet while working with such famed restaurateurs as the late Sonny Russo of Villa Di Giorgio, Greg and Dave merged their talents and went into a business partnership and opened Spirito’s Restaurant at the Sons of Italy Home in East Providence.

That restaurant was located in the basement and featured a cozy and comfortable old-home atmosphere, with a separate bar and dining room, much like the setting at the Kelley-Gazzerro VFW Post, which the Spirito’s have remodeled and now features a refurbished kitchen, new carpeting, new booths, tables and chairs, freshly painted walls and pictures of old Italy.

After a nine-year stay at the Sons of Italy, where Spirito’s Restaurant became a household name, Greg and Dave decided to move and take over the food operation at the famed Italo-American Club on Broadway in Providence where they further enhanced their reputation for serving homemade, authentic Italian food.

“We moved to Broadway in 2010,” Greg recently said while giving an okay to a sign being installed by Cranston City Councilman Chris Paplauskas, whose family owns and operates Bori Graphics. “When we learned that Ralph (DeFusco) wasn’t going to be in the restaurant business and was going to concentrate on catering, we talked with the people here at the Post and decided it was time to make a move.”

When Ralph’s Catering moved into a new location on Atwood Avenue in Cranston where he’s still serve quality food during banquets, parties and catering events, Greg and Dave worked tirelessly remodeling their space at the Kelley-Gazzerro Post where they’ve carried on the tradition for being a fine family restaurant featuring quality, homemade Italian food.

The extensive menu, which is reasonably priced, is a tribute of sorts to their younger days with such items as the Frog City Burger or Post Steak Sandwich.

Spirito’s has a variety of appetizers ranging from the Spirito’s Farmer Special, cannellini beans, red onions with capicola simmered zuppa style, served with bruschetta bread to Clams Zuppa to Eggplant Erica.

There are soups and salads, sandwiches, fish and chips, veal spitzatta and gnocchi sorrentino and a number of grilled pizzas, most of which are named after either a street or section of Frog City, and even the KGP pizza.

Greg and Dave’s skills also surface time and again whenever someone orders one a dozen items that range from pasta marinara with meatballs or sausage to rigatoni bolognese to stuffed squid with pasta. There are also dinners like chicken francese, veal parmigiana and veal Sorrento, New Sirloin, steak a la mama and scallops.

Spirito’s also serves desserts and coffee if, in fact, customers still have room after a delicious dinner.

“We’re going to be doing banquets upstairs,” Greg Spirito said of the spacious, 250-seat dining room at the Kelley-Gazzerro Post where iconic events like the Ricky Salzillo Memorial Game Dinner will be held in January. “We’re planning to make some changes in that space down the road.”

For now, David and Gregory Spirito will be serving lunch and dinner at their new home Wednesday to Friday from 11:30 to 8:30 p.m.

“We’ll also be doing just lunch on Saturday,” said Greg Spirito. “We’ll serve from 12 to 4 p.m. and possibly expand those hours at a later date.”

Perhaps that extension will come sooner than later, as the Spirito brothers continue their well-deserved reputation for serving authentic, Italian food just as they’ve been doing for a combined total of 73 years, but back where it all started at the Kelley-Gazzerro Post in the early 1980s.

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