CAFE NUOVO (1 Citizens Plaza, Providence 401-421-2525) Nice location along the river. Conference center decorating. Lunch menu is so big you worry they won't do justice to any single item. They don't. Orders arrive mixed up and nothing holds up to the descriptions. But, due to the occasion, desserts are ordered by all and they are beautiful to look at, great to eat. Laurie Nadeau is pastry chef. www.cafenuovo.com
RED STRIPE (465 Angell St, Providence 401-437-6950) Wayland Square, an East Side shopping stop (independent book store, coffee/quick-eat sites, several restaurants, hairdressers, clothing and housewares/furniture shops) is open for lunch and Red Stripe is the most popular place. Modeled loosely on a French bistro, the bar, dining room and kitchen form a big cheery rectangle. Along the street side are large windows, open in summer. The menu is a bistro list: moules et frites, salads (roasted beets, panzanella, cobb, nicoise), omelettes, burgers, etc., with nods to New England (cod cakes and seafood chowder). The funny part is, there isn't a single knock-you-over item served - it's all decent without standing out. And that works for me. Red Stripe is lively, service is friendly, the menu is reasonably priced (though not cheap) and it's well known so you can say, "Let's meet at ..."