Hearty dinners of roast chicken and pasta, served family style, are a Rhode Island custom and the specialty of several institution-sized eating halls north of Providence. The Bocce Club is where the tradition began in the 1920s, when people used to come to the Pavoni home to play bocce. A stepdaughter, Mary Tavernier, opened a little dining room for bocce players to have supper when the games were done. Her eatery became a culinary magnet known for chicken seasoned with rosemary and bathed in butter and olive oil. By all accounts, today’s feast mirrors the original, the chicken preceded by an effulgent antipasto salad, accompanied by crusty bread, pasta in a red sauce, and a motley heap of French fried and oven-roasted potatoes. Pass the platters, and eat until you cannot move: that is the Bocce Club way.
While a majority of customers do come for chicken, the Bocce Club has an extensive menu that also includes Italian and Portuguese dishes as well as steaks. Our waitress looked crestfallen when we chose chicken for two. “Chicken is where we started,” she explained, “But our chef is so good, there is so much more to try.” That may be, and if we were in the Blackstone Valley more frequently, we might branch out to sample the chef’s specialties, but when we think Bocce Club, it’s roast chicken we long for.