The 'Ganny plans its menu and music for the summer
There is no point in tampering with success. That is the philosophy of John Recca, who purchased the venerable Narragansett Cafe nearly three and a half years ago with his wife Cathy.
For Recca, it was simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time. “I did my 25-year stint on Wall Street, and quit that. I’d been coming here for summer for 20 years. This was my local hangout. Danny Alexander, the former owner, came up to me one day out of the blue. He said he was thinking of selling the place and he wanted to know if I wanted to have first crack at it.”
The Narragansett Cafe has been a fixture in Jamestown for as long as most people can remember. Recca himself can date it at back to at least the 1940s.
The Cafe’s longstanding reputation brought with it some added responsibility. Recca went to work carefully. “We tried not to do too much, too quick. The first thing we did was clean up the facade,” he said.
Fortunately, the building’s interior was in good shape when Recca took over. “The place had a fire a few years before. Danny renovated the whole inside after the fire. When I got it, the outside had been neglected because he focused on the inside. So we put a new facade on the building and we cleaned up the inside a little bit.”
One change Recca was determined to make was to create a fullservice restaurant. “We wanted to do a restaurant so we needed to be able to store food,” he said. “The kitchen space was very, very small so we spent a lot of time cleaning up the basement, and drying out the basement.”
It wasn’t long before new ownership was awarded for their efforts. “We just won Best Dive Bar again from the Providence Phoenix,” Recca said. “You win Best Dive Bar after you spent all this time making it a decent place to eat. That’s kind of cool I think.”
“Two years before that we won Best Blues Hangout from Rhode Island Monthly. That was a great one because we try to really focus on the blues,” Recca added.
The Narragansett Cafe is well known for presenting high energy, danceable rock and roll every Friday and Saturday night throughout the year. Sunday is the day for the blues at the Cafe.
Beginning this week, the blues performances will shift from the Sunday brunch hours to the late afternoon. “This year it’s called Swizzle Sundays. We feature rum swizzles from Bermuda. We do a barbecue style menu,” Recca said.
“If it’s 85 and sunny, I don’t even want to be in here during the day. So you play golf, or go out on your boat, then if you want to kick back a little with a little bit of music from 4 to 7 p.m. on a Sunday night, it doesn’t keep you out late,” he added.
Although the summer brings more people to the island, Recca is proud of his local draw. “We have a very strong regular following,” he said. “It’s a weekend destination for music, it’s a weekday destination for locals.”
The popular Thursday and Friday Steak Nights will remain in place. For $17.95, customers get a 16-ounce steak with all the sides. “You can’t beat it,” Recca said.
Another new addition for the summer is Thursday night music, which begins this week. The music will start at 8 p.m. and continue until 11 p.m. The new night will bring some new sounds to the Cafe. “We’ll have things in here that we wouldn’t normally have,” Recca said. “Maybe some swing, maybe some jazz, maybe some acoustic. For Thursday nights it kind of works.”
For the most part, Recca leaves the kitchen to his chef. Chef Mike Watson has been with Recca for two and a half years.
“I’m from the Ronald Reagan school of management. I delegate everything, and if there’s a problem, call me,” he said. “Everybody does their job and that affords me the opportunity to just oversee.”
With a solid staff in place, and his wife Cathy booking the music and taking care of the paperwork, Recca has time to focus on his newest venture. “It will be called Jamestown Fish. The plan there is to focus on fresh fish,” he said.
“Our inside dining will be a little bit higher end than [the Cafe]. During the summer there will be an outside seating area like there was. There’s going to be an outside bar. There’s a nice little bar upstairs that I’m going to try to make a wine and martini bar.”
Recca hopes to open Jamestown Fish at the former Tricia’s location in the second week of September.
The Narragansett Cafe is located at 25 Narragansett Ave. and is open from 11 a.m. until 1 a.m. from Monday through Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, the Cafe opens for breakfast at 7 a.m. In July and August, for the first time, the Cafe will be open at 7 a.m. every day for breakfast.