The Ultimate Guide to Pizza in Rhode Island
Forty-four destinations that will make your mouth water.
Edited by Jamie Coelho. With reporting assistance by Carly Barnhardt, Nicole Mineau, Tabitha Pereira and Jamie Samons. Photography by Angel Tucker.
Wood-Fired Winner: Figidini
Other places might have wood-fired ovens, but not all of them have mastered the making of Neapolitan pizza quite like Figidini chef Frankie Cecchinelli, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Kara. Frankie’s grandfather and mother are from Italy, and his family owned wood burning oven restaurants in Massachusetts where he grew up making pizza as a teenager. He’s perfected Neapolitan style with his showpiece being a simple margherita pie — named after a former queen and featuring the colors of the Italian flag. It’s made with only a few ingredients that require special attention: dough mixed with 00 flour that’s milled powder-fine and fermented for up to ninety hours, San Marzano tomatoes grown in soil that includes volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius, buffalo mozzarella imported from Campania, fresh basil, a sprinkle of Mediterranean sea salt and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil from Spain. The pizzas are meticulously fired at 950 degrees for about sixty seconds inside a Stefano Ferrara oven with a floor forged of the same volcanic ash from the soil in which those special tomatoes sprouted. For more complexity, the sweet potato and goat cheese pizza with caramelized onions and mozzarella is a surefire hit.
67 Washington St., Providence, 401-808-6886, figidini.com
Pizza Personality: Federal Hill Pizza
Federal Hill Pizza was born in an Atwells Avenue cigar shop with Billy Manzo Jr. serving up pies alongside stogies to keep his customers well fed. As pizza popularity picked up, Manzo began supplying more than 200 grocery stores and restaurants with his signature dough, and was soon asked to compete in international pizza-making competitions. It all led him to open his own pizza shop, where his Neapolitan brick oven specialty comes in three sizes: twelve-inch, sixteen-inch and, our personal pick, the square al taglio style (though it’s really a rectangle). The Owner’s Favorite is our favorite, too, topped with prosciutto, red sauce, goat cheese, mushrooms and fresh basil. Manzo competes around the world with the World Pizza Champions team and, this spring, he traveled to Venice, Italy, to become the second American-born certified Master Pizzaiolo.
495 Main St., Warren, 401- 245-0045, federalhillpizza.com
Dessert Pizza: Avvio
The former Papa Razzi location has been updated with a sleek new look and installed with a handcrafted Marra Forni wood-fired oven to turn out an Italian menu featuring housemade sauces, wood-fired grilled entrees, Neapolitan pizzas and pastas. Pizza varieties range from the traditional margherita to black fig with gorgonzola, prosciutto and arugula to the outstanding dessert pizza, folded and stuffed with gooey Nutella, housemade vanilla marshmallow fluff, hazelnuts, orange and honey. Pie for dessert just took on a whole new meaning.
Garden City Center, 90 Hillside Rd., Cranston, 401-942-2900, avvioristorante.com
Coal Fired Champion: Providence Coal Fired Pizza
The state’s first outposts with coal-fired ovens, these vast locations serve crusts with a smoky flavor and crackling dough cooked at 900 degrees. There’s a fine line between charred and burned and Coal Fired has just the right touch of flaky carbonized crust produced by the blistering oven. The barbecue pork version’s sweet housemade sauce and pulled pork, roasted onions, plum tomatoes and Monterey Jack cheese are an ideal foil for crisp, slightly blackened edges. On Margherita Mondays, enjoy half-priced margherita pizzas and $3 margarita cocktails.
385 Westminster St., Providence, 454-7499; 6105 Post Rd., North Kingstown, 401-885-7499, providencecoalfiredpizza.com
Party Pizza: D. Palmieri’s Bakery
The refrigerated cases at this family-run bakery tempt with treats of both the sweet and savory types, but the one thing you must try is the cold pizza strips. Though smaller than the average bakery’s versions, these two-inch by four-inch rectangles have an ideal sauce-to-dough ratio and an addictive crunch from slightly burnt edges. The chalkboard pizza menu totals up prices for just a few and up to 300, making planning for a party a cinch. Save this idea for summer: Order a seasonal Fourth of July pizza, made with cheese and stripes of pepperoni and black olive stars. And if you have an off-season craving for a zeppole, you can almost always get your fix from the dessert display. We won’t tell Saint Joseph.
624 Killingly St., Johnston, 401-621-9357, dpalmierisbakery.com
Calamari Pizza: Al Forno
Credited for inventing the grilled pizza, Al Forno’s signature dish is irregularly shaped and fired directly on the hardwood charcoal-fired grill. The dough is mixed using all-purpose flour that holds up to the heat and, in its raw form, it’s soaked in a light olive oil to prevent sticking. For the special-edition calamari version, Rhode Island’s official state appetizer of crisp and tender fried squid rings and delicate tentacles top a base of spicy tomato and red chili arrabiata covered with melted pecorino Romano and fontina cheeses. Fresh parsley, rosemary and thyme infuse flavor alongside Al Forno’s signature sliced scallions, which top every pie at this thirty-six-year-old James Beard Award-winning restaurant.
577 South Water St., Providence, 401-273-9760, alforno.com
Special Diet Stalwart: Pizza J
Vegans, vegetarians and gluten intolerant folks can get their pizza fix without worry. While all menu items are outstanding, we love that you can substitute gluten-free crust and vegan cheese and never miss a thing. The Tony Clifton emulates the untraditional with herbed ricotta (or vegan cashew-based cheese), potato, roasted red pepper, onion and garlic. For those without dietary restrictions, we recommend the Olneyville topped with the same hot wieners served at the New York System institutions. Pizza J is kid-friendly with Pixar movies playing on some screens, and video games provide post-dinner entertainment. You can even throw a build-your-own-pizza birthday party.
967 Westminster St., Providence, 401-632-0555, pizzajprovidence.com
Old School Pepperoni: The Big Cheese
The wood-paneling and faux-stained glass ceiling tiles impart charm at this classic Italian joint where food is the focus and dairy is celebrated. There are many crust combinations and gourmet versions to tempt you, but before you get all fancy on us, think about why you’re here in the first place. The place is called the Big Cheese, for goodness sake. If you’ve never warmed up a booth before, push the epic menu aside, stick to original-style pepperoni and split a Greek salad, or you’re doing it wrong.
606 Reservoir Ave., Cranston, 401-467-8210
Slice Selection: Antonio’s Pizza by the Slice
These aren’t your average lukewarm slices sitting behind a Plexiglas display. Hot and toasty triangles up for grabs include our favorite Mexican spins on pizza. The chicken or avocado quesadilla version is topped with pico de gallo, crisp tortilla chips, cilantro, cheddar, and drizzled with sour cream. The beef taco pizza includes seasoned beef, diced peppers, onions, tomatoes and cheddar. Individual slices from up to fifty varieties are popped into the oven and handed over bubbly, daily from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. in Pawtucket and until 2 a.m. in Providence. Be the office hero and order a Slice Lunchbox for groups, which includes a pizza tasting of up to twelve, eighteen or twenty-four individual slices in one box (with twenty-four-hours notice, Pawtucket only). Can you get a promotion for showing up with pizza? We think so.
256 Thayer St., Providence, 401-455-3600; 727 East Ave., Pawtucket, 401-725-0808, antoniospizza.com
Pizza Chips: The Original Italian Bakery
You may have been raised on pizza strips, but you haven’t lived until you taste pizza chips. These little rounds of crunchy dough are spread with sweet tomato sauce made from a fifty-year-old recipe and sprinkled with Romano cheese. Cooled to Rhode Island’s room-temperature-style, options include the original tomato, a jalapeño version with sauce and Romano, or a white version decked out with garlic and cheese and no red sauce. All can also be made with multigrain dough. Choose a bag of eight for $4.75 or a box of thirty-six for $18.99, or head to the day-old section and pay half-price. Call a day in advance for large orders.
915 Atwood Ave., Johnston, 401-919-5777
Kurdish Pizza: Piemonte Pizza and Grill
On an unlikely corner in the Mount Hope neighborhood of Providence sits Piemonte Pizza, owned by the hospitable Oner family. Piemonte’s menu offers traditional pizzas, but the pie to try is the secret Kurdish pizza, a traditional dish from owner John Oner’s homeland, coming soon to the regular menu by popular demand. A whisper-thin crust sports a blanket of spiced topping: Sundried tomato and hot pepper pastes are combined with fresh parsley, roasted onion and roasted garlic. Get it vegetarian-style topped with baked potatoes and baked eggplant or with lean ground beef. The genius ingredient? Wedges of fresh lemon to squeeze on top, bringing brightness and acidity to the serious spices beneath. Save room for homemade cookies and Middle Eastern pastries, especially organic pistachio baklava, made by a Kurdish family from New York City.
114 Doyle Ave., Providence, 401-273-0999, piemontepizzagrill.com
Sicilian Slices: Caserta Pizzeria
Caserta’s is the only place we know where it’s hip to be square. Thick, crusty Sicilian slices slathered with tangy red sauce from the acclaimed Federal Hill pizzeria are a staple for pizza lovers near and far. The sauce is so good you don’t need dairy on the plain pizza’s housemade dough. Or you can choose from five simple toppings of cheese, pepperoni, mushrooms, olives or anchovies (yes, cheese must be mentioned as a topping). Mix it up with a famous Wimpy Skippy, a spinach pie named after the owners’ two friends, stuffed with cheese, pepperoni and black olives, or sink your teeth into the Pig in a Blanket, sweet Italian sausage and tomato sauce rolled in dough.
121 Spruce St., Providence, 401-621-3618, casertapizza.com
Charitable Pizza: Providence Flatbread Company
Tucked away on a side street off Thayer on College Hill, hit up Flatbread Company every Tuesday after 5 p.m. and you’ll help raise funds for a local charity. On these special nights, $3.75 from every large and $1.25 from each small is directed to a specific cause, which in the past has included the Providence Animal Rescue League, Sojourner House and the Steel Yard. You also couldn’t find a more kid-friendly spot (with free crayons for kiddos and a small library in the back with some children’s books). Even the backs of the menus frame scribbles by local little ones; have yours donate his or her masterpiece. Every organic ingredient is well thought out from nitrate-free housemade sausage and free-range meats to the tender crust with puffed edges produced on the showpiece wood-fire oven.
161 Cushing St., Providence, 401-273-2737, flatbreadcompany.com
Dinner and a Show: The Fire Brick Oven Pizza and Bar
The pizza comes with visuals at the Fire Brick Oven Pizza: the eponymous oven sits right behind the bar, so diners can view their pie approaching bubbly perfection under 650-degree heat. Traditional options (margherita, meatball) join more seasonal choices: warmer weather means the Clambino (garlic oil, rosemary, pecorino Romano, bacon, local chopped clams, crushed red pepper and lemon zest), while dropping temperatures will inspire a butternut squash and goat cheese pizza.
1874 Mineral Spring Ave., North Providence, 353-7110, thefirebrickoven.com
Mediterranean Tour: Twisted Pizza
At Twisted, all Mediterranean cuisines find their way onto a pie. Fancy some moussaka? There’s a pizza for that (mozzarella, meatballs, eggplant, marinara, parmesan). Yearning for a trip to Santorini? There’s a pie for that, too (eggplant, ricotta, spinach, tomatoes). Amid the island-hopping, don’t miss the gyro, laden with mozzarella, gyro meat, tomatoes, onions and a side of tzatziki. Twisted offers gluten-free options, as well. In addition to the East Greenwich location, Twisted has outposts in Exeter, Warwick, Coventry, West Warwick and Wakefield.
450 Main St., East Greenwich, 401-885-5652, gettwistedpizza.com
Fried Pizza: Rosalina
It’s an unexpected appetizer at this revered Italian spot, but the pizzette frite should be on any pizza lover’s hit list. A delicate round of dough is lightly fried, slathered with sweet pomodoro sauce and sprinkled with pecorino Romano and scallions across the top. Add a drizzle of the house extra virgin olive oil, made by the owner’s cousin and shipped straight from Kalamata, Greece, just for the restaurant. We already know everything fried is automatically delicious but this pie takes the cake.
50 Aborn St., Providence, 401-270-7330, rosalina-ri.com
Thanksgiving Pizza: Fellini Pizzeria
It’s only available one day per year — the day before Thanksgiving — but there will be no leftovers here. Fellini’s Thanksgiving pizza piles on roasted turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing and a side of cranberry sauce over a thin New York-style crust made from hand-tossed dough. If you miss the anomaly, then opt for the pumpkin pizza, available September through Thanksgiving. A housemade pumpkin sauce blended with honey slides across dough topped with spinach, chicken, bacon and caramelized onions. Another slice of pumpkin pie? You bet.
166 Wickenden St., Providence, 401-751-6737; 2190 Broad St., Cranston, 401-467-5992, fellinipizzeria.com
Cooked to Order: Twin’s Pizza Family Restaurant
A Rhode Island institution, North Providence’s Twin’s Pizza has served pizza and Italian-American specialties for more than fifty years. In its “Mad Men”-era surroundings, the Twin’s kitchen continues to impress pizza lovers by asking the all-important question: medium or well done? Medium to medium-well will bring you a traditionally cooked pie with the occasional brown spot, but well-done brings palate-teasing dark brown cheese bubbles and a crunchy crust. The eggplant pizza offers substantial slices of fried eggplant, tangy sauce and ample stretchy mozzarella. To help get your five-a-day, choose the well-dressed antipasto appetizer with provolone, ham, salami, lettuce and tomato.
1000 Mineral Spring Ave., North Providence, 401-726-8978
A Bite of Brooklyn: Napolitano’s Brooklyn Pizza
Christie Flanagan is a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef who has cooked alongside some of New England’s fine dining luminaries, but she is plating culinary nirvana out of two tiny storefronts in Cranston and Providence. Flanagan’s slender crust has flavors and textures reminiscent of a good sourdough, with a rare balance of crispiness, tenderness and chewiness. The sauce features just a hint of sweetness and the housemade mozzarella on Napolitano’s margherita boasts a creamy richness more typical of a burrata. At the risk of encouraging carbohydrate overload, order the garlic knots: Slick with savory olive oil, roasted garlic and chopped parsley, the knots are a perfect dunking vehicle for Napolitano’s trademark gravy mixed with housemade sausage and meatballs.
100 East St., Cranston, 383-7722; 380 Atwells Ave., Providence, 401-273-2400, napolitanosbrooklynpizzamenu.com
Hot Commodity: The Village Hearth Bakery Cafe
People stake out Fridays for a taste of the pizza produced here. Normally used for baking artisan bread and French-style pastries, the handmade wood-fired oven, built brick by brick by the former owner, turns out pies so heavenly you’ll want nothing more than to savor them directly onsite. Pre-orders for partial baked pizzas are available each week until Friday at 2 p.m. All pre-ordered pizzas will be ready to pick up anytime between 4-7 p.m. that evening. If you’d like a fully baked pizza for the patio with a cold beer or glass of wine or to just take home with you, go to the cafe on Friday from 4-7 p.m. and they will fill your order on site.
2 Watson Ave., Jamestown, 401-423-9282, villagehearthbakerycafe.com
TGIF Pizza: The Fifth Element
Kick off the weekend at the casual-hip bar with a wood stone grilled pizza and a cocktail. The margherita pizza, made with San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, roasted garlic and basil, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and finished with a pinch of sea salt, is the number one-selling pizza for twelve years. The dough is grilled first. Then, the pizza is assembled and topped off
in the wood stone oven, melding all the ingredients together.
111 Broadway, Newport, 401-619-2552, thefifthri.com
Home Slice: Carmella’s
Approaching its fifteenth year in business, this New York-style pizza restaurant never disappoints. Consistency with quality, friendliness and delivery keeps locals and visitors coming back for more. Popular choices include the margherita pizza, which has Grande ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, diced tomato and fresh basil, as well as the buffalo chicken topped with red onion, fresh cilantro, crumbled blue cheese, banana peppers and a homemade buffalo ranch sauce.
330 West Main Rd., Middletown, 401-847-2424, carmellaspizzeria.com
Stuffed with Deliciousness: Sicilia’s Pizzeria
Can’t decide whether you want a spinach pie or a pizza? Head to Sicilia’s on the Hill for the deep dish veggie stuffed pizza, a bicep-building combination of spinach, zucchini and mushrooms baked in a hefty pastry-like crust, and topped with mozzarella, tomato sauce and parmesan. Other stuffed pizzas feature cheese and meat, and thin crust pies are also available. If you go on the weekend, don’t miss the housemade minestrone, chock full of vegetables, pasta and beans. The sandwiches and salads also are generously sized and are available for pickup and delivery until the early morning hours. “We make sure no one is left hungry in Providence,” says owner Mounir Naddaf.
181 Atwells Ave., Providence, 401-273-9222, siciliasonline.com
Best Foldable Slice: Pizza Heaven
We all take a different approach to eating a slice of pizza. Some of us bite off the tip of the triangle first, some tear at the crust, and some (gasp) even use a knife and fork. But noshers in the know go for the fold, lengthwise down the center of the slice. The fold has the benefit of protecting the roof of the mouth from molten cheese and offers double doses of crust and sauce in each bite. The slices at Pizza Heaven reach the golden ratio of foldable: all components (crust, sauce, cheese) work in proportioned harmony. Pizza Heaven gets inventive with the toppings, too. Native Rhode Islanders will appreciate the NY System Hot Weiner Pizza (mustard, meat sauce, sliced natural casing weiners, cheese, onions, celery salt) and sandwich lovers will crave the BLT (no sauce, bacon, cheese, chilled lettuce and tomato, mayo drizzle).
2554 South County Trl., East Greenwich, 401-885-6800, pizzaheavenri.com
Big Pizza, Big Heart: Pier Pizza
Pier Pizza spreads the love. The twenty-eight-inch Big Rhody is perfect for parties at a small cost (just $30). All the pizzas are true New York-style, made with thin crust stretched by hand and baked right on the brick oven. The Fenway is a homerun topped with honey mustard, sausage, green peppers, mozzarella and onions. J
2763 Post Rd., Warwick, 401-738-8008, pierpizzawarwick.com
Bruschetta-Style: Pasta Beach
At this neighborhood eatery in Newport (and now Providence!), most of the ingredients are imported from Italy, as
are the chefs who cook with them. The Covaccino, like bruschetta, is topped with diced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and arugula. All of the pizza dough is fermented twenty-four to thirty-six hours and leavened twice, rolled into balls, and placed inside boxes before each round is constructed and cooked in the Italian-style high-temp gas oven for one minute. The dough rises very fast, creating a light and airy pie.
7 Memorial Blvd., Newport, 401-847-2222; 195 Wayland Ave., Providence, 401-270-0740, pastabeachrestaurants.com
Pizza and a Beer: Mews Tavern
The Mews is filled with fun energy and boasts a terrific craft beer selection with sixty-nine varieties on tap, which is the perfect environment for sharing a pizza. The dough is made in-house, daily, along with the house red sauce. Pizzas are hand-tossed and cooked in the open kitchen featuring a wood-fired oven. Sit at the pizza bar for a front row seat to watch your pizza being made while sipping a Rhody brew. An ongoing staple is Pink Panther, spread with house pink vodka sauce, fontina cheese and topped with baked chicken, prosciutto and pasta.
456 Main St., Wakefield, 401-783-9370, mewstavern.com
American Pie: West Main Pizza
No deliveries here, but you’ll enjoy the comfortable and relaxed atmosphere, friendly staff and beach-vibe/cool basement decor including license plates and hanging surfboards. The buffalo chicken pizza, with spicy buffalo chicken, red onions, scallions and a blue cheese sauce, is a favorite among the locals, as is the Great White with garlic and herb chicken, broccoli, roasted red peppers and white sauce. The crust is housemade from whole wheat dough that produces a thick, fluffy and crisp foundation. Dine in (bar available) or bring a take and bake pizza home.
1620 West Main Rd., Portsmouth, 401-683-1492, westmainpizzari.com
Not Just Pizza: Nikolas Pizza
Nikolas Pizza has survived since 1980, serving pizza until 2 a.m., seven days a week, and it adapts with the times to offer everything from traditional and New York-style to Razor Thin (two-and-a-half ounces of dough stretched to twelve inches for 75 percent less carbs than traditional pie) and even gluten-free. The spot also serves two tons of wings per month, and for $18.95, the two loves are united for a special that includes a large one-topping pizza and a dozen wings.
38 Memorial Blvd. West, Newport, 401-849-6611, nikolaspizza.com
Seasonal Sophistication: Bacaro
Nestled in a historic riverfront building, Bacaro splits its focus on Italian small bites (especially salumi) and multi-course fine dining meals. Executive chef and co-owner Brian Kingsford trained in pizza-making at Al Forno and now puts his own spin on a wood-grilled version using produce the staff often harvests itself at Confreda Farms. The pie arrives, its ultra-thin crust hashtagged with grill marks, judiciously sauced with crushed San Marzano tomatoes (the kitchen taste tests thirty brands every six months) and adorned with seasonal treats. In the summer, don’t miss the squash blossoms, corn and zucchini toppings; in fall and winter, you can’t beat the roasted pumpkin with spicy chili oil. For a tangier option, try the Bianca: creamy goat cheese, fresh rosemary, caramelized onion and enough hot pepper to raise an eyebrow.
262 South Water St., Providence, 401-751-3700, bacarorestaurant.net
We canvassed Ocean State fire stations to find out their favorite takeout pies.
By Carly Barnhardt
Cumberland Fire District
“The number one spot is the Cumberland House of Pizza. Everything on the menu comes flying through here.” –Keri Smith
Cumberland House of Pizza, 2360 Mendon Rd., Cumberland, 401-658-2626, chopsri.com
Bristol Fire Station
“Bristol House of Pizza (BHOP) and Classic Pizza. Bristol House has really fresh salads. Classic has good pizza.” –Cortney Lancaster
Bristol House of Pizza, 55 State St., Bristol, 401-253-2550, bhopri.com; Classic Pizza, 349 Metacom Ave. Suite 1, Bristol, 401-253-1871
Coventry Fire District
“Twisted in Coventry. Most of the time, we order just pizza. Everyone here has a different appetite, depending on the day.” –Lieutenant Ken Sprague
Twisted, 915 Tiogue Ave., Coventry, 401-615-3684, gettwistedpizza.com
Lime Rock Fire Department
“There’s a couple places we like to go to. Pawtucket House of Pizza on Smithfield Avenue and Piezoni’s off of Route 116. At Catanzaro’s, the guys love the meat lovers’. And at Piezoni’s and Pawtucket House of Pizza we get pepperoni…. We love meat, I’m sorry.” –Lieutenant Joel Jacques
Pawtucket House of Pizza, 398 Smithfield Ave., Pawtucket, 401-728-7330; Piezoni’s, 618 George Washington Hwy., Lincoln, 401-333-3222, piezonis.com
Smithfield Fire Department
“There are about four in town and we order from all of them, but we like Papa’s Roast Beef and Pizza on Waterman Avenue in Smithfield. They just have good food and good portions.” –Lou Reo, dispatcher
Papa’s Roast Beef and Pizza, 314 Waterman Ave., Smithfield, 401-233-6755
Cranston Fire Department
“Big Cheese or Tomaselli’s (‘The Works’).” –Fire Chief Bill McKenna
The Big Cheese and Pub, 606 Reservoir Ave., Cranston, 401-467-8210; Tomaselli’s, 693 Oaklawn Ave., Cranston, 401-464-4666, tomaselliinc.com