The Pepperoni Grill: New York Pizza in Pawtucket, Rhode Island

Note: Sadly, the Pepperoni Grill closed.

Thin crust, the right ratio of tomato to cheese -- it looks like a New York pizza.

Thin crust, the right ratio of tomato to cheese — it looks like a New York pizza.

When a friend who grew up in Long Island posted on Facebook that she discovered the “same pizza [she] ate as a little girl,” I knew where we’d be eating out next.

Of course, nothing can ever beat Mario’s Restaurant for me, but there are plenty of New York pizzas that I still love when I’m back in New York City — Lombardi’s, Patsy’s, and Joe’s, to name a few. But since we moved to Providence, I have searched to no avail for an authentic New York pizza. Well, finally, it has arrived.

Last night, at The Pepperoni Grill, we ordered two large pizzas — a pepperoni and a plain. I was impressed with its thin crust, its fresh tomato taste and ‘right’ amount of cheese — this is the New York pizza I remember. The restaurant itself is nothing fancy — but that’s exactly the appropriate ambiance for an authentic NY pizza, in my opinion.

The restaurant has opened so recently that they don’t yet have menus or a credit card processing machine, and they’re not even listed yet on Yelp. They expect to be have their full menu (with salads and pasta dishes) at the end of July. We met the owner, who is a New York transplant who has decided to make a go of it in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. He ships his tomatoes from Brooklyn–he says he can’t find anything comparable locally. And he said he plans on having several salads with fresh mozzarella. And as if it couldn’t get any better–they deliver within a three-mile radius, which just barely makes it to our house in Providence.

They also sell them by the slice.

They also sell them by the slice.

The Pepperoni Grill
287 Pawtucket Avenue
Pawtucket, RI

Flatbread Company in Providence

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We haven’t been as excited about a new neighborhood offering since Gourmet Heaven opened last year. A few weeks ago, Flatbread Company, which has restaurants in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, opened its first location in Providence on Cushing Street.

Flatbread offers a simple menu of organic salads and a variety of ‘flatbreads’ which, back in New York, we call pizzas. Theirs are made with their own organic tomato sauce (which you can actually see brewing in their giant cauldron) and cooked in their wood-fired clay oven.

Part of Flatbread’s mission is to integrate with the region’s farms and producers which begets great results, both in community-building and in the quality of the food. Plus, the restaurant space is enormous, which makes it ideal for families, parties, and events. They offer kids both crayons and paper (which turn into their menu covers), and they’ll even give them a bit of dough to work themselves. If anyone gets antsy, they can also head over to their library which now has several couches and shelves of books for all ages, or, of course, to their bar.

We’ve been here four times since they opened a few weeks ago, and nearly every time, we ran into friends (with kids in tow). And next Thursday February 6 from 5-9 pm, they’re hosting a fundraiser for the Providence Children’s Film Festival (see details). What’s not to love?

Flatbread Company
161 Cushing Street
Providence, RI

Bakery Style Pizza (aka Rhode Island Pizza Strips) at Tomato City Pizza

Bakery Style Pizza from Tomato City Pizza.

Bakery Style Pizza from Tomato City Pizza.

After living in Providence for four years, we still didn’t understand what all the fuss was about ‘pizza strips.’ In our experience, it was a cold doughy cheeseless pizza with globs of tomato sauce that looked like this.

However, recently a veteran of the city introduced Geoff to the ‘bakery style pizza’ at Tomato City Pizza in Providence. And now we get it. Their version of the pizza strip is sprinkled with parmesan cheese and features a thinner, crispier crust cooked so well-done that the brown edges actually taste sweet. It’s delicious hot, warm or cold. I can’t promise this is the most ‘authentic’ pizza strip in Rhode Island, but it’s certainly the best we’ve tasted to date.

Tomato City Pizza
1041 Douglas Avenue
Providence, RI

Figidini Wood Fire Eatery: Pizza in Providence

A margarita pizza with fresh mozzarella and local basil.

A margarita pizza with fresh mozzarella and local basil.

Providence has great food. But I’m still not sure what algorithm causes New York to rank third for Travel & Leisure’s America’s Best Pizza and Providence to rank second. I suppose having grown up in New York City, I will always believe that the thin-crust New York-style pizza (when done right, of course) is the ‘real’ pizza.

Arugula with Israeli couscous, goat cheese, lemon cucumber, and a blackberry yogurt dressing.

Arugula with Israeli couscous, goat cheese, lemon cucumber, and a blackberry yogurt dressing.

Nevertheless, there is also nothing quite like a wood-fired Neapolitan pizza done right, and that you’ll find at Figidini Wood Fire Eatery. They recently opened in Downcity adding to what is turning out to be a great block to grab a bite in Providence.

On our most recent visit, we opted for an arugula salad with Israeli couscous, goat cheese, red onions, and lemon cucumber topped with rock salt and a blackberry yogurt dressing. Geoff chose the soppressata‎ pizza special, while I opted for the plainer margarita pizza — each so different, but both with their signature flavorful, light and tender crust.

It’s not New York pizza, but it certainly is Providence pizza at its best.

Figidini Wood Fire Eatery 
67 Washington St
Providence, RI
(401) 808-6886

Providence Coal-Fired Pizza

Meatballs, ricotta, mozzarella and tomatoes top the coal-fired pizza.

Despite the fact that Providence made it to number three on Travel and Leisure’s Best Pizza in America list, I’ve remained largely disenchanted with my local slice options. For me, all pizza will always be compared to the thin-crusted tomato and fresh mozzarella pie at Mario’s on Arthur Avenue, where my grandmother has been eating for over half a century. As a result, Nice Slice, Fellini, and Caserta Pizzeria have left me unimpressed. Of course, the grilled pizza from Al Forno and Bacaro are well worth the trip, but both of these are more special occasion pizzas (Al Forno doesn’t do take out; and Bacaro makes a more  gourmet pizza). They simply don’t satisfy the urge for the casual, classic New York pizza I grew up on.

So yesterday, when Geoff walked by the new Providence Coal-House Pizza in Downcity, he called me and I came down immediately with the kids to sample it. Their custom ovens heat pizzas to approximately 900°F — much higher than traditional or wood fired ovens — which embed the pizza with a delicious smoky flavor. We tried both the margherita and meatball. My favorite was the meatball — the  combination of melted ricotta and homemade meatballs worked well; Geoff preferred the margherita. Although I typically abandon my crust, I ate it all — which says a lot. No, it’s not Mario’s, but I can honestly say this is now officially my go-to local pizza joint.

Providence Coal Fired Pizza
385 Westminster St
Providence, RI 02903