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Aug 1, 2008 05:48 AM

Providence pizza

I know there are a couple threads on this, but I'm looking for some more solid info. Who does the best (or most authentic; these descriptors aren't always the same) Providence style pizza (rather than imitating New York/Connecticut style). Also, any tips about waiting lines or what to order would be much appreciated. Thanks!

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  1. I've never really heard anything referred to as "Providence style" pizza. Can you describe the style you're referring to? The only two I can think of that are distinctly (but not necessarily soley) Providence-style are grilled pizza (ala Al Forno) or thick, focaccia-like pizza (ala Caserta).

    5 Replies
      1. re: twitchology

        I think most people would say Bob and Timmy's on Federal Hill. I'm personally not a big grilled pizza fan myself.

        Oh, and isn't Caserta's pizza considered Neapolitan style? While grilled pizza is often attributed as having originated in Rhode Island, I'm not necessarily sure there is an RI or Providence style pizza per se...

        BTW: I'm still convinced that the best NY style pizza in the area is Nice Slice on Thayer...

        1. re: Garris

          carmellas in portsmouth and middletown is pretty good ,ny style pizza,though not really in the prov area.garris,good to see you back....

          1. re: im hungry

            I am also no fan of grilled pizza, but I would definately think of Caserta as Providence style pizza, it has been the pizza I have attributed to that area since my childhood.

          2. re: Garris

            Caserta's -- adding an 's is very common in RI -- is named for a suburb of Naples.

      2. I've never heard of "Providence style" or "ri style" either. Unless it means the typical small place with greasy, tasteless crust....

        I've only read about "Grilled Pizza" from a few places in Providence. I've never had it and don't know if that originated in Providence either.

        Caserta is more "neopolitan" from what I've read. Probably the only "old fashioned" type in the state.

        I still think all the pizza places in RI suck. One of these days when I'm really craving a good pizza.. I'll make a trip to New Haven or something.

        9 Replies
        1. re: no0b

          I've done pretty extensive sampling of pizza from RI down 95, thru New Haven and out to the big guns in NYC; I'm a Di Fara's man myself, even if he got shut down by the health department. As a RI native that moved back about a year ago, I've got to agree that while a lot of it will satisfy the craving, there's very little "destination-eating" pizza in RI. I've never been to Al Forno's (although I had a job delivering local chickens there as a kid) and people are split about the place, but most agree the pizza (grilled) is great. Bob and Timmy's is strictly so-so. Caserta's is delicious and absolutely worth eating, in an awesomely homey way. I love the ambience at Twin's and used to enjoy th pizza there, but took two friends last time and they hated it so much they make fun of it now.


          In terms of local pizza flavor, you must grab a box of cheeseless pizza from PAlmieri's, at the end of Broadway on the West Side. Nine dollars for a huge box, delicious and you won't find anything like it outside of RI. I know, I know, the lack of cheese sounds totally bizarre and something for hippie vegans, just roll with it--

          1. re: kpolar

            Palmeri's is a whole new category though.I grew up with the one on Killingly St in Johnston. All the bakeries and the local shops with their "pizza strips" don't even compare to it. Everytime there's some kind of party or family thing, someone would pick up a huge box of pizza strips. It's like a Johnston ritual. More of a "snack" type food though. It's not a replacement for real pizza.. Also they have them with cheese now and toppings. Once I got a bbq chicken pizza strip from them. It was pretty good. I haven't been in there in a while though so no idea what hey have now.

            1. re: no0b

              A great place for pizza that I found (this past winter) is "Golden Crust Pizza" on Smith Street (Rte 44) just over the Providence line, in North Providence (across from Gold's Gym). The pizza is one of the best and very affordable. I believe it's just carry-out or delivery.

              "Tommy's Pizza" on Chalkston Ave (at the intersection of River Ave) has been around for about 70 years, and they still know how to make a delicious pizza as well. They deliver, or you can carry-out or dine in as well (no liquor license).

              1. re: OOliver

                We tried a buffalo chicken pizza from Golden Crust a few weeks ago and were most unimpressed. Maybe it was an offnight, but the wife and I had one slice each before tossing the rest. Way way too much cheese, greasy fried chicken pieces with little to no sauce.

                On the other hand, we love Tommy's. Their eggplant "pie" (like a spinach pie, not a pizza) could easily feed 2, is phenomenal and costs all of 3.60.

            2. re: kpolar

              Every once in a while I just crave the Palmeiri's pizza. I always get the cheeseless version but usually I'll doctor it up a bit with some nice olive oil, minced garlic, basil and a little goat cheese or mozzarella. Pop it in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. I cut it up into smaller pieces for hors d'oevres or serve it with soup for a great lunch.

              1. re: kpolar

                "I've done pretty extensive sampling of pizza from RI down 95, thru New Haven and out to the big guns in NYC...I've got to agree that while a lot of it will satisfy the craving, there's very little "destination-eating" pizza in RI."

                A couple of things:

                - General state-of-pizza in Providence:
                Compared to many metros, it's just not that bad. With Pizza Pie-er, Fellini's, Nice Slice, Via Via, Casertas, Twins, Bob and Timmy's, Palmieri's, etc I think we're doing quite well. Maybe there is little "destination" pizza dining (like Figs in Beacon Hill, Boston) but I'm very satisfied.

                - NY Style Pizza:
                As a NY native, I can say very little here even resembles or tastes like true NY pizza. The now closed Park Cafe in Cranston's Rolfe Sq was VERY nearly it, but they're gone now... Nice Slice has a hint of it, as does Via Via, but neither have nailed it. I don't think Fellini's is close at all. I love Fellini's, don't get me wrong, but NY style it's not...

                As with many things in NYC now, there's very little truly outstanding pizza places there anymore aside from some of the famous ones. The average pizza is just that... Average. The best pizza in NY now, sadly, is in the suburbs of NY and NJ, where most of the Italian immigrants and their children long, long ago moved...

                - Palmieri's pizza strips:
                Amazing, as many had said. A *bit* too greasy for me, but addictive beyond belief. Their bagels (recipes inherited from Barney's, I've heard) are great too... As an overall amazing bakery, how come Palmieri's isn't listed among people's unique Providence gems? Its location?

                - New Haven style pizza:
                Having gone to college there for four years, I'm not the biggest fan of the type, but their well known places (Pepes, Sallys, Modern, etc) are undeniably super-high-quality.

                Does anyone know if the new place "New Haven Pizza" in North Providence has opened yet?

                - Garris

                1. re: Garris

                  Garris, I'm so glad you mentioned Park Cafe. It was as close as I've had anywhere outside NY/NJ, and absolutely delicious. My family used to visit from NJ and rave about it. The next closest I've had is at Fat Belly's Pub, on the Warwick/East Greenwich line. A little greasy, but great flavor and not too too far off in style either.

                  1. re: dagwood

                    I'll have to try Fat Belly's. There's nothing especially wrong with "a little greasy." In my experience, the NY/NJ 'burbs have far more grease than is used locally. I also have a recent means of comparing Fat Belly's to the real thing...

                    My family just visited and, for a hoot, brought back a pie from a place in Carmel, NY (where I grew up, which has nearly as high an Italian population as Johnston, which is #1 in the US, but I bet Carmel had more recent immigrants). I nearly melted having a slice...

                    Not being Italian myself (I'm Jewish) I find it hard to believe that I live in a place without good NY style pizza or NY/Jewish deli, but thankfully Providence has other things going for it ;-).

                    - Garris

              2. re: no0b

                I don't understand how Caserta's could possibly be called Neapolitan unless that's an odd RI nomenclature -- I mean, I guess it probably is, we have weird nomenclature for just about everything. But it makes little sense, because Neapolitan pizza (e.g. pizza from Naples) is perhaps the best-defined pizza style in the world, with a regulatory body. It's the classic Italian pizza: thin, made with 00 flour, cooked quickly in a blistering wood fire, topped simply, sized for a single person, unsliced, etc.

                Caserta/Tommy's couldn't be further from the style. Thick, oily and chewy. Not saying I don't like it, but the folks in Napoli would lose it if they heard anyone call it Neapolitan!

                Mostly I agree that Providence pizza is just not very good. But for the original poster, I think you'd want to pop into the Al Forno bar for a grilled pizza, since that's the style you're after.

                And for people chiming in with their favorite NY style, this is neither the time nor place. (Besides, you're wrong, Via Via is tops. )

              3. For Providence style (if that's the thick square kind you mean) I vote for Twin's. Otherwise, Nice Slice on Thayer is terrific for thin style.

                1. I disagree with all of you - the only place in RI that comes close to "real" NY style pizza is Fellini's, in Providence. It's NOT NY pizza, but it's the best we've got. And I don't care for Caserta at all.

                  12 Replies
                  1. re: Rhody Dave

                    I'm a NJ native, and grew up on NJ/NY style pizza. Some of the best pizza I've had in RI was at Fat Belly's Pub, on the Warwick/East Greenwich line (near Goddard Park). A little greasy, but true in both style and flavor.

                    1. re: Rhody Dave

                      Maybe Fellini's cost so much because their pizza comes with a side of attitude? :)

                      I must agree on Caserta-- never could stand that stuff.

                      1. re: GSM

                        yeah, that's true - there is that price to be paid for the hip location and the trendy types that work there. Still, it's better than the competition.

                      2. re: Rhody Dave

                        Can someone explain what "NY pizza" actually is besides over sized slices you have to "fold" to eat?

                        If Fellini's is "NY Style", I'll pass on graham cracker, super crunchy crust.

                        1. re: no0b

                          Again, Fellini's, while tasty, is not (in my opinion) NY Style...

                          Here (from my experience growing up in a heavily Italian NY suburb) is what I (and many others) think of as NY Style:

                          - Huge slices that, as you pointed out, are most easily eaten by folding them...
                          - Soft, chewy, almost blackened outer crust... Almost a meal itself.
                          - Very thin, but mostly NOT crispy, crust (again, this is good for folding). A quick story on this follows below...
                          - Sauce is used sparingly more sparingly than around here, but on the flip side tends to be MUCH stronger (sweeter, hotter, and saltier) than you taste around here...
                          - Cheese amounts vary...
                          - More oil and spices used in NY style than here...

                          I can't think of a single NY pizza place where I grew up that had a "crispy" crust and every good place would leave your hands dripping with tasty oils, which I've never experience around here.

                          In fact, when the first "chain" pizza place opened in the rural town where I grew up, we were all shocked that the crust had a crunch. "Melted cheese on big crackers" is what my neighbor called all the chain places, and would probably call 99% of the places here.

                          1. re: Garris

                            Have you ever had Frank and John's pizza in EG then? Kind of sounds like that except the crust is on the thicker side rather than paper thin. It's not loaf of bread thick but thicker than an average pizza.

                            I grew up on "chain pizza" and the only crispy/crunchy part was the end of the crust and I never ate it as a kid. The only pizza I'd refer to as a cracker would be Felinis. Castertas usually just has a light crisp cracker bottom which I'm not a fan of either..but still soft dough on top of that.

                            I know it's a "chain" but what do you guys think of Sbarros in the mall? I never go to malls anymore but when I was younger everytime I was at a mall I'd grab a slice..used to be my favorite back then.

                            1. re: no0b

                              I actually like Sbarro's quite a bit, now that you mention it. As much as any local pizza save for Pizza Pie-er's BBQ sauce pizza, which has a special place in my heart.

                              It's been a while, but what I remember of Sbarro's pizza puts them closer to NY style (especially their crust and sauce) than anything else around here....

                              Now I'm craving NY pizza. I need to take a trip to the mall!

                              1. re: no0b

                                I took a trip to F&J's in EG following recommendations on this board, and I would definitely not call it NY style, not by a long shot. I also wouldn't go back.

                                My take:

                                1. re: celeriac

                                  Too bad-- I've had good experiences there (maybe 15 years ago?). Wasn't it called Two Guys way back then?

                                  1. re: celeriac

                                    Yeah, know the feeling. I tried "Wickford Junction"(Whatever the name is) and F&J from recommendations and still haven't been completley impressed.

                                    Did you ever go to Neo's in Cranston? Is that the one on Plainfield Pike? I just noticed their sign the other day for pizza by the slice..but only during lunchtime hours so one of these days I'll stop in and try a piece. They have a website now..

                                    Pizza crust looks a little too..white.. for me..

                                    1. re: no0b

                                      I've had Neo's, and it's pretty good. (They actually won a regional pizza competition a couple of years ago, one that included NY & NJ, which is why we tried it in the first place.)

                                      They have some interesting topping combinations, which is what I believe won the contest, but for your basic tomato & cheese pie, I prefer others (although you could go MUCH worse, definitely worth stopping in for a slice if you're in the area).

                                      Lately we've been ordering from Pier Pizza in Cranston. They are pretty good, and they deliver. (They have a website too, They have a few other locations, but my experience has only been with the Cranston one.

                                      1. re: no0b

                                        As it turned out, I was passing right by Neo yesterday and I'd missed lunch, so I popped in for a slice. First off, the keep the slices on a little contraption with three pans stacked on top of one another under heatlamps, and then don't bother to reheat--not optimal.

                                        The slice was ok. the biggest problem was that the crust under the sauce and cheese seemed underdone and mushy with no chew. Oddly, the crust on the end was actually terrific--very chewy, almost charred, and flavorful. So I'm not sure what the issue is, but MAYBE if you asked for a well-done pie you'd get something good.

                                        I found the tomato sauce to be the a bit flabby--low sugar, low acid, and too much of it--and the cheese was fine, but nothing to write home about,

                                        All in all, almost a good slice, and not quite.

                            2. The original query was about grilled pizza... Does anyone serve this daily besides Al Forno and Bob & Timmy? Al Forno invented and perfected it. Not much more to say. I go and have some every few years or so. The moon shot of pizza. Meanwhile, on Earth...

                              Can we all agree that Providence can hold its head up high in the pizza universe for the invention of pizza strips? As far as I know they are not to be had beyond Providence and the Tri-Guido area. If the word properly gets out, we should see throngs on pilgrimage like they do in New Haven.

                              Palmieri's! No matter how many I buy, they are always gone by the time I had originally planned to eat them.

                              Heck. time for a new thread.

                              12 Replies
                              1. re: atheorist

                                They can be had throughout RI. Growing up in Newport, we would get them at convenience stores.

                                1. re: Frobisher

                                  pfft. pizza strips in convenience stores are as crappy as the pizza in the frozen food section.

                                2. re: atheorist

                                  Providence and the Tri-Guido area.

                                  I just had to see that again. I'm laughing so hard---that is gold.

                                  Neapolitan pizza is well defined----isn't it the Pizza Margherita? (thin crust, crushed tomato, not even a sauce, really---and mozzarella and basil)

                                  I don't know from NY Style or CT Style or defined pizza styles here in RI, but I have put away some serious quantities of Bob & Timmy's in my day. I have not been there in a few years, and don't know if they're still good----but they were EASILY my personal favorite pizza for a very long time. Also Al Forno, and grilled pizza from Adesso, may it rest in peace.

                                  I have never been a fan of Caserta('s---yes, the "s" is so RI). I hate heavy sauce (I'm a bad Italian--I don't like most sauce, period) and chunky sauce, and they do both, liberally. But I recognize that this is me, and not Caserta, because everyone loves and worships them. I also don't eat pizza strips---just "white" ones, or ones that I've scraped the sauce from, for I do recognize and love good dough.

                                  Best pizza strips evah (according to me and everyone who has ever eaten them at kids' b-day parties we've had) are from LaSalle Bakery. (I also had one of their sandwiches yesterday, on the foccacia-looking bread, and I almost died of the happiness)

                                  Fellini's is also a big fave in our house. Though I have an out of town friend who referred to them as The Pizzeria of Drama and Revenge, after a pretty bad experience I had w/them during the 2006 World Cup final game (all is forgiven).

                                  1. re: Moonpie1

                                    What exactly is "grilled pizza" anyway? We're complaining of cracker, crunchy bottoms... I would think pizza put on a grill would come out crunchy. Like a hotdog bun and if it's not crunchy, it's too white and fluffy.

                                    Is it anything like what Whole Foods in Cranston does to their pizzas? (eh they're good for a quick slice) I don't know what kind of oven it is they use I just know one of the pizza guys there refers to it as a "grill".

                                    1. re: no0b

                                      Bob & Timmy's would actually make them on a grill. They let me hang out once and taught me how to make one. The dough is soaking in olive oil until it's ready to use----they grill the dough on one side, flip it over and add the toppings, then let it finish off.

                                      The crust would be not cracker-crunchy, but more chewy. I loved it.

                                      The WF in Cranston----that's more of a brick oven pizza. I actually really like their thin pizzas there. Love the Cranston location in general.

                                      SO MUCH good food can be found in the tri-Guido. A whole thread could have this title. The pizza, the delis, the little groceries.

                                  2. re: atheorist

                                    Would the Tri-Guido area encompass North Providence, Johnston, and Cranston?

                                    That is comedy gold, Jerry!

                                    I cut my teeth on pizza strips from the box on the counter at the local Dutchland Farms store. They were definitely under 10 cents per strip back then.

                                    I am so jonesing for some pizza strips now. I'm supposed to have a HS reunion this year but if it doesn't happen I may have to come up to RI just to load up on native delicacies. Nothing says a visit to RI like a big paper bag whose bottom is about to fall out because it's so saturated with pizza strip grease.

                                      1. re: no0b

                                        Born in Providence (Lying-In Hospital, of course), raised in Pawtucket.

                                        The pizza of my youth was Art's, just off Hope St. Art's got three stars in the first pizza guide I can remember seeing (in the ProJo, around 1972). Art made some good pizza.

                                        1. re: Bob W

                                          Jeez, you went to all my favorite places -- the French pastry shop and Art's. I'm sure I must know you.

                                          1. re: ccferg

                                            cc how old are you? I'm 48. If you're an East Side MOT, there's an extremely high likelihood we crossed paths at some point. The W family definitely got around.

                                            To keep this even modestly on point, here's an old Providence pizza memory: Pizza Delight -- one block north of the French Pastry Shop on Hope St. Also known as Chicken Delight. IIRC, it didn't do a very good job with either pizza or chicken. It was far from delightful.

                                            1. re: Bob W

                                              Hi. I did grow up on the East Side and was still living there in the '70s but I'm a tad older -- by 12 years. It's hard to believe, but back in the '50s pizza was vaguely exotic on the East Side. I can't remember having it too often before Art's arrived.

                                              1. re: ccferg

                                                I'm really trying to remember any pizza place on the East Side we went to in the 50s or even early 60s. Oddly enough, my father (a real Wasp) would make pizza once in a while in those years. I think he must have learned about it in WWII, but since he was never in Italy I suspect he learned about it from the Brooklyn guys in his unit. In the early 60s we lived across from a RISD dorm and a pizza truck came by every night at about 10-- and that was a really big deal. Good thing I don't have a truck like that coming by now.