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FRIDAY,AUGUST 30,1996



By ROBIN POGREBIN


...We spent the rest of Saturday afternoon relaxing at the hotel (I napped; it was possible to do so at that hour) and then made the 10-minute drive back into town for dinner. With stores open late and restaurants in full swing, the harbor was abuzz with sidewalk traffic, including people trolling for antiques in stores along Franklin and Spring Streets or stopping in for beer and chowder at pubs along Bowen's Wharf or Bannister's Wharf.

For dinner, we chose a place called Scales and Shells, and I can hardly imagine Newport offers better. Conveniently situated on Thames Street, the restaurant beckons with a crisp teal blue-trimmed exterior, wide windows and black-and-cream checkered tablecloths. Inside, crowds cluster at the raw bar to suck on Neddicks oysters, Cherrystone clams or lobster claws and sip cold glasses of white wine while they wait for their tables.

The wait can be considerable; the main restaurant does not take reservations. Having learned this in advance, we had secured a table in the restaurant's upstairs area, called UpScales, which accepts reservations and offers a somewhat more limited menu.

Among the specialties of the husband-and-wife chef team, Debra and Andy Ackerman, are sizzling servings of lobster fra diavolo over linguine in huge sauté pans and marinated toro tuna (she cooks upstairs, he downstairs).

My husband started with clams (Sicilian littlenecks steamed in white wine, garlic and thyme) and finished with clams (linguine alle vongole). I had the fried artichokes as a an appetizer, followed by butterflied shrimp from the restaurant's mesquite grill, accompanied by an ear of corn that was blackened from the grill, with the kernels sweet as candy. For desert, we shared a homemade apple tart and a chocolate raspberry gelato. The bill came to $75, including tip...


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