Published June 27. 2013 4:00AM
It's not easy to sum up Guytanno's in Westerly. Many of the dishes showcase fresh, local seafood, but it's not a seafood joint. There are more than nine pasta choices on the menu, including a big, comforting bowl of linguini with both fresh and roasted garlic, crushed red pepper and Pecorino Romano cheese, but it's no spaghetti house.
Perhaps the best way to describe the place is as chef owners Kris Gengarella and Brian Giordano do on the restaurant's Facebook page - "inspired international cuisine," to which I would add "that's consistently well-prepared and cooked to order in a small but bustling dining room filled with the sights, sounds and smells of its open kitchen."
Despite its less-than-central location in the back of the Ocean Plaza strip mall, Guytanno's has become a dining staple for residents and visitors alike, and the reason is clear. There isn't a bad offering on its large menu, and some of the dishes are true standouts.
There's nothing quite as wonderful as a bowl of Guytanno's French onion soup ($5.25) enjoyed on a chilly winter night from atop a bar stool while sipping a big glass of red wine. The melted cheese overflows the brown stoneware crock, where just the right ratio of bread to onions to incredibly flavorful broth awaits. It's not to be missed.
The salads are stellar, eclectic and interesting, and are served in dinner and appetizer portions. The flat iron steak salad ($15.50) features a perfectly cooked-to-order marinated steak atop mesclun greens, roasted tomatoes, julienned vegetables (zucchini, carrots), red onion and chevre (French goat cheese), tossed with a honey-dijon vinaigrette, a very delicious meal in itself.
The Asian duck salad ($11.50), which my husband and I shared as an appetizer on a recent visit, features a grilled, sliced duck breast on a generous bed of baby spinach, red cabbage, bean sprouts, julienned vegetables and candied pecans served with a chili-soy vinaigrette. This salad knocked my socks off. The duck was cooked medium, as I ordered, and the combination of the tender, caramelized slices with the fresh, crisp veggies and the salty, spicy dressing was intoxicating.
Guytanno's Caesar salad is made to order and rich with creamy, salty, parmesan goodness. And you can add grilled chicken, steak, salmon, ahi tuna, shrimp or scallops to any salad for an extra charge, from $4 for the chicken to $10 for the tuna or salmon.
As for pasta, in addition to the aforementioned linguini, to which you may add chicken ($4.50), calamari ($5) or shrimp ($3 each), you can get linguini with clam sauce, white ($17.50) or red ($18.50); your fettucini with lobster ($22) or pesto ($14.50); and your soba noodles with pan-seared ahi tuna in a macadamia nut crust, Asian vegetables, and a pineapple wasabi drizzle ($20). There's a sausage ($19) or chicken Madeira ($18.5) cavatelli and cavatappi entrees in chicken broccoli alfredo ($15.50) and seafood versions ($21.50).
My husband chose the seafood cavatappi on our recent visit. The pasta - similar to penne but longer and curly - swam in fresh tarragon, spinach pink sauce, cheesy with Romano, accompanied by a bounty of calamari, scallops and shrimp. It made him very happy.
I chose local olive-oil-poached halibut and lobster in a tomato saffron sauce from the specials menu and opted for mashed potatoes as the accompaniment. I'm so glad I did. The potatoes were delicious, as were the vegetables, sautéed zucchini, yellow squash, carrot sticks and green beans, all fresh, delicately flavorful and well prepared. Unfortunately, the lobster claw wasn't heated through, and the fish was slightly overcooked and lacked flavor. But I ate every bite.
The regular menu also includes various seafood, chicken and steak options, along with a "Light fare" section, with burgers and sandwiches that also are available on the lunch menu. We sampled a couple during a recent lunch visit. I had the lobster salad and avocado on toasted Italian bread ($15), and my husband opted for the chicken ranch wrap ($9) and fries.
The lobster was chopped fine and dressed lightly. The crustacean's delicate flavor was somewhat overwhelmed by diced red onion, but overall, with the creamy avocado and the delicious, craggy bread, it was a winner. The chicken ranch wrap also was delicious, featuring grilled chicken, applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato and a delicious ranch dressing, all rolled up in a toasted white flatbread. And the fries - brown, crispy, salty - were perfect.
There are a few things I wish the folks at Guytanno's would fix. First, the complmentary bread lacks texture and flavor. It reminds me of the bread that sometimes comes free with takeout Chinese. Second, although the bar offers a fine selection of wine and cocktails, the draft beer offerings are abyssmal, only two when last we were there, Blue Moon and a Long Trail lager. And third, the air conditioning is insufficient. When it's hot outside, and the open kitchen is working hard and the place is hopping, it gets pretty warm in the dining room. These stars aligned on our last visit, and it was much warmer inside than it was outside.
But regardless, I'll be back, for sure, because you can count on Guytanno's for innovative flavor combinations created with fresh ingredients. You can count on them for a good meal.