Rhode Island’s Most Iconic Foods + Where To Eat Them

Thursday, May 09, 2013


We consider ourselves lucky around these parts. Not only do we have top-notch chefs plying their trade and pushing the envelope, we also have some really fun foods that have become Rhode Island traditions. As we approach summertime, we realize that a lot of these traditions are warm-weather related. We set out to pick five examples of iconic Rhode Island foods and came back with these...

Del's, Various Locales

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Whether it was from a truck or at a stand, you never forget your firstt Del's -- sweet and tart and refreshing. This little Rhody favorite actually got its start in Naples, Italy by combining freshly squeezed lemon juice with snow. Fast forward and you find the DeLucia family bringing the invention to America and then revolutionizing it by making it via machine. We live in the Edgewood section of Cranston and often find ourselves at the Park Ave. location when we need a fix. You can always count on being refreshed by the combination of tart lemon and sugar. The secret, however, is the consistency of ice itself and the little pieces of real lemon that you find. There is nothing that will stop our car in its tracks faster than a Del's truck parked on the side of a road in the summer. And we mean, come on...how many Rhode Island treats have franchises in Aruba and Japan? www.dels.com

Coffee Ice Cream, Gray's Ice Cream, Tiverton

It was Grandma Martini who first introduced the evil that is coffee flavored anything into an impressionable kid's life. It's kind of like a Rhode Island version of "the chicken and the egg." Which came first -- coffee ice cream or coffee milk? Well...thanks to Grandma allowing said child to drink so much chocolate milk that it made him sick...ice cream it is. And if you want a perfect old-school ice cream cone, you go to Gray's. This isn't the spot for crazy fusions of flavor, this is where we go when we want strawberry or maple walnut or, of course, coffee. This version is sublime. The slight background bitterness of the coffee softens and accentuates the sweetness perfectly. We're not sure what it is in our local DNA--maybe the long winters--but coffee makes us happy and when it gets hot out, we want it cold. 16 East Rd. 624-4500, www.graysicecream.com

Hot Wieners, Olnyville New York System, Providence

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The name may say "New York," but these are all Rhody. Originally called "New York System" because of the hot dog in general being associated New York City at that time. The wiener that we know and love was brought to us by Greek immigrants sometime in the early to mid 1900's. The reports are conflicting on who had the first location but almost immediately they became popular. The use of veal and pork in the wiener itself gives it an incredible amount of flavor even before adding the rest of the ensemble. The meat sauce is almost worth its own spot on this list, while the onions and the mustard and the celery salt all add bite and zest. This is also where you can mix in that coffee milk if you want. As we said, the origin may be in question but one thing isn't: many Rhode Island stories about incredible nights end with the phrase: "then we hit New York System and got four all the way, some fries and a coffee milk". It's Rhode Island for happy! 20 Plainfield St. 621-9500, www.olneyvillenewyorksystem.com

Chowder and Clam Cakes, Aunt Carrie's, Narragansett

Summertime. Summertime. Sum, sum, summertime. Maybe if we sing it it will get here? We are all set with the cold and need a few days of "toes in sand" therapy. One of those tastes is always chowder and clam cakes. We make it our first order of the season...every season. Times and tastes have changed but our destination is, usually, Aunt Carrie's. Something about the old wooden picnic tables and the salt air conspire to make the simplest of meals five-star. Grab some Rhode Island style chowder. It's the clear broth version and taste the clean and simple flavor. Add in the clam cakes that seem to never be too greasy and are always full of clams and you have summer in a bite. We can't wait! 1240 Ocean Rd. 783-7930, www.auntcarriesri.com 

Pizza Strips, Crugnale, Cranston

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We know that this humble peasant food gets a bad rap by people who believe that it isn't true pizza but, really, it is. Purists in Italy consider there to be only two kinds of pizzas: the Marinara and the Margherita. The Marinara is made with tomatoes, oregano, garlic and olive oil...no cheese. Our party pizza is a decedant of that pizza. Cheese was a luxury item sometimes so this pizza grew out of necessity. We all came to love it because it could sit on your counter in a box for what seemed like weeks and somehow remained fresh. Crugnale, on Reservoir Ave., is one of our favorites. The crust always holds up to the sauce and doesn't become a floppy mess. The sauce has a nice tart tomato base to balance the sweetness that is always present. 567 Reservoir Ave. 781-8800, www.crugnalebakery.com 


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