Siena is a very popular restaurant on Federal Hill in Providence (with a second location in East Greenwich). It serves up Tuscan cuisine in a well decorated, dimly lit atmosphere. Siena has won major awards from RI monthly- including Best Italian, and Best Restaurant in Rhode Island. I had never eaten at Siena, so I was quite excited to try out a fresh menu, especially in a city renowned for its Italian cuisine.
Perhaps I had raised my expectations artificially high, or perhaps I am just not a fan of the traditional and predictable restaurants that Rhode Islanders seem to love, where they seem to spend more attention on how they look, then on how the food tastes. Call me crazy, but when I go out to a restaurant, I go for the food. A comfortable, friendly mood is much appreciated, but the food is the crux.
Siena looks good, and was packed (we had a 15 minute wait after 8PM on a Sunday night, when many adjacent shops were deserted) with well dressed, overly lubricated and perfumed diners.
(A side note: no hats are allowed in Siena, but no similar regulation seems to be enforced for the volume of their intoxicated patrons...) Not the best start to a meal, but at least the service was consistent. Consistently mediocre.
The food started off well with fried calamari under a balsamic reduction. Definitely the best part of the meal. Crisp, sweet, salty, and spicy. The manhattan was well made and did the job, and the wine list is extensively italian.
For a middle course we shared a grilled fig and prosciutto pizza. Grilled pizzas are popular in RI- with Al Forno continuing to set the bar in my opinion. This pizza was awful. To be fair, it was probably just cooked poorly- we should have returned it for another. But I want to be fair to all eateries, so I take what I get for better or worse. The crust was significantly harder to chew than your average corrugated cardboard- my jaw HURT after the first slice. The toppings were nice- but irrelevant given what they were laying on. Very sad.
To wrap things up we shared tagliatelle bolognese. This pasta was completely average. It tasted like what it was, and what you might get at an italian house of pasta (IHOP right?) The flavors were present but sharply distinct- none of the aging and blending that allows a few ingredients to reach complex heights. Also- wouldn't it make sense to allow diners to taste their food before offering to pepper it? Not a great sign for expected quality.
Siena is and will continue to be a place many Rhode Islanders love. It looks nice, has "class" and packs 'em in. Visit for an anthropologic experience, but from my experience, Siena is not one of the best eateries in this city/state.