As neighbor to nearby Boston and New Haven, it's not surprising to find some very good pizza in Rhode Island. Providence is known for one famous pizza, the thin but densely chewy pies at Al Forno. In 2014, the first Providence Coal Fired Pizza opened on Westminster Street (there are now two more locations in Rhode Island). Can the newcomer compete for top spot in this tiny state?
You might answer that question with another question: What happens when you deploy your 900 degree coal-fired oven to create a pizza that is a hybrid of Neapolitan, New Haven, and Trenton tomato pie styles?
In my experience, some of the best pizzas come from hole-in-the-wall joints where decor is a second thought if a thought at all - places like Di Fara and Totonno's in Brooklyn, Tacconelli's and Beddia in Philly, or Santarpio's in Boston.
Here, though, was the mark of some seasoned restaurant professionals, from the sleek yet warm decor, the open feeling in a crowded space, the inventive and varied appetizers, and the thoughtful selection of cocktails, wine, and craft beers.
|Trenton cut yields some triangles ....|
|... and some rectangles|
|Dense, chewy, puffy cornicione|
|Under the hood|
|Another look at bottom of the pie|
The cheese seemed to be of good quality, but it was a reliable role player here, taking a back seat to the sauce and crust. On my next visit, in fact, I want to try to marinara pie to isolate the superb simplicity of that crust and sauce cooked at 900 degrees with Pennsylvania anthracite coal.
The sausage was an excellent choice - salty, spicy, and cooked-on-the-pie as it ought to be. The pie contained just the right amount of oil on top and the post-bake strips of fresh basil brought it all home. The cornicione was slightly oversized relative to the rest of the pie, but overall this pie had nearly perfect balance of flavors and textures.
Not only did the interior at Providence Coal Fired Pizza look like Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza, but there was some overlap in flavor, too. The crusts are very different - Anthony's is a round pizza with a thin and very sturdy/crisp crust. The similarity was mostly in the red sauce and perhaps whatever flavors the coal oven imparts.
|From Providencecoalfiredpizza.com. Next time I might need to try the pepperoni|
Bottom line - the pies at Providence Coal Fired Pizza are spectacular and clearly qualify as "destination pizza." Better than Al Forno? I loved both so much that I won't choose a favorite. You can't go wrong with either when visiting Providence.