The Best Pizza in Rhode Island: Gourmet Pizzas

Thursday, March 17, 2011


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There are few things Rhode Islanders are more passionate about than pizza. Everyone has an opinion about what makes the best: the cheese, the sauce, the thickness of the crust.

Since its humble beginnings as Italian peasant food, pizza has become an iconic American staple and comes in a seemingly unending array of varieties. We’ve taken a good long look—and taste—at the state of pizza in Rhode Island and come up with the best. We’re broken it into two categories: gourmet—the kind you find at the best restaurants; and old school—the kind you have delivered from the corner pizzeria (next week). Then we ranked them from tops on down. Feel free to chime in with your votes.

The Best Gourmet Pizza in Rhode Island: Al Forno, Providence

As they say, let's start at the beginning... in 1980 pizza was pizza until Johanne and George returned from a trip to Italy and changed everything. Grilled pizza and this restaurant put Rhode Island on the national culinary map and led to hundreds of imitations. The original, however, remains the one all others are measured against. The dough is impossibly thin and crisp, the toppings are simple and fresh and therefore speak for themselves, and the execution is flawless. Our personal favorite is the margarita; beautiful San Marzano tomatoes are crushed over the crisp dough and topped with cheese, shaved scallions and extra virgin olive oil. It's just everything that a grilled pizza should be. A close second is any seasonal pizza they do with local corn. 577 South Main St, Providence, 273-9760. 

2nd place: Bacaro Restaurant, Providence

Chef and owner Brian Kingsford trained at the hands of Al Forno’s George and Johanne but struck out on his own several years ago, taking over the spot formerly occupied by Neath's, and immediately giving Rhode Islanders

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another option for sublime grilled pizza. Each nook and cranny of the crisp dough is packed with fresh ingredients that combine for that perfect bite of pizza. The restaurant’s salumeria provides handy inspiration for variations on the classic theme—the Pizza Salumi with spicy sopressata is our favorite. Beautiful thin slices of spicy sopressatta is layered on top of the maragarita pizza, making the whole pie zesty! 262 South Water St, Providence, 751-3700.

3rd place: Local 121, Providence

Every once in a while a pizza comes along that reminds us that we also love and appreciate non-traditional ingredients on our pies. The Tarte Flame pizza at Local 121 does the job here, with smokehouse bacon, caramelized onions and artisan cheese. The single-serve-size makes for a perfect lunch at the restaurant (we recently paired it with a tomato Creole soup, with much success) and is as simple but as savory as you could hope for. The crust is thin and crisp and on the dry side, providing ample support for mounds of sweet onions, inch-long strips of smoky bacon, and a background of cloumage. We dreamt of it for the rest of the day. 121 Washington St, Providence, 274-2121. 

4th place: Siena Cucina-Enoteca, East Greenwich

When Anthony and Chris Tarro opened Siena Cucina-Enoteca in 2007, following the success they had two years earlier with Siena on Federal Hill in Providence, they were greeted with a packed dining room and sated diners. Chef Anthony is a graduate of RISD's culinary program and he brings an artistic creativity to the plate along with the

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necessary restraint that makes Tuscan food shine. As far as the grilled pizzas go, we really love the Alla Vodka—spicy tomato cream is topped with chicken, fresh mozzarella, eggplant and Gorgonzola cheese. The sweetness of the sauce against the bite of the Gorgonzola is just plain fabulous. We also love the Funghi Trifolati, which features wild mushrooms, Cippolini onions, goat cheese and olive oil. 5600 Post Rd, East Greenwich, 885-8850.

5th place: d.Carlo Tratoria, Smithfield

For the last several years, folks in the western end of the state have had a reliable choice when it comes to an Italian restaurant, d.Carlo trattoria. The food here is always good—with different pastas, meats and fish well prepared and reasonably priced. We are here for the pizza however, and pizza we found! There were two stadouts for us, first the bolognese with caramelized onion, basil and fontina cheese and second the artichoke puree with spinach, mascarpone, romano and tomatoes. Think of the bolognese pizza as the greatest thin crust, open-faced meatball sandwich you've ever had. 'Nuff said. The artichoke puree pizza combines the slight bitterness of the artichoke and spinach with the sweetness of caramelized onion and mascarpone to form a great slice. 970 Douglas Pike, Smithfield, 349-4979.  

6th place: Flare, Coventry

Flare is the kind of restaurant Coventry has needed for a long time, and they don't usually disappoint. The real star at Flare is the brick oven that creates a perfect cooking environment for chops and pastas and, of course, great pizzas. Flare features either medium or large pies with an incredible array of topping for you to build your own pizza. We, however, are drawn back to two of the specialty pizzas: the local clam pizza and the prosciutto. The clam pizza is an alio oglio-base topped with local clams, reggiano cheese and fresh oregano…simple, fresh and delicious. The prosciutto pizza is a blended sauce of tomatoes and cheese topped with thinly sliced prosciutto, arugula, spinach, ricotta salata cheese and roasted figs. It is a tour de force of sweet, spicy, bitter and tasty, and really, that is what a great pizza is!  577 Tiogue Ave, Coventry, 615-8577. 


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