#32 Al Forno

July 2nd, 2016

Providence, RI

Not much tastes better than pizza after sitting in holiday traffic for hours. We had one more stop for pizza in Providence, so we drove out to Rhode Island to Al Forno. We actually drove out to Newport (mainly for this), but stopped in Providence on the way for lunch.

The restaurant has been open since 1980, and is situated in an old stable near the waterfront. While they serve plenty of Italian food, the pizza is what everyone talks about. Primarily because Al Forno serves a completely unique style of pizza. I mean, just look at it! Does that look like any pizza that you’ve had before?

Al Forno is considered the birthplace of grilled pizza. The owners wanted to take advantage of their wood-fired grill, so they used it to cook the pizza dough as hot and as fast as possible. The result is an unusually shaped dough with visible charred grill lines, which they top with a variety of toppings.

We love making pizza on the grill, but we had never seen a restaurant grill pizza before! We tried two pizzas here, the “spicy” Margarita and the Tuscan Kale Pesto. Overall, the flavors were great and we loved the grilled crust. Our one complaint was that the pizzas were a bit on the oily side. The amount of cheese and tomato on top was perfect and not too heavy, but the oil really ruined the light taste. We looked into the crust itself a bit more (so that we could perfect our pizza grilling technique at home) and found that the dough here is hardly proofed, which helps it to keep its structure over the grill. The dough is also soaked in olive oil before being put on the grill to keep it crispy.

You should note that the pizzas are actually considered appetizers here, although we (and many others) obviously order them as main dishes. We also ordered the bruschetta to start. You should note that bruschetta here is not served with tomatoes. It is really just thick, Italian bread covered with a generous portion of olive oil and garlic. More like garlic bread to us? The waitress assured us that this is the “most traditional” form of bruschetta. Turns out, she’s right, but we prefer the non-traditional kind with tomatoes.

Overall, we liked these pizzas a lot, but mainly for their individuality. It was really nice to sit outside and enjoy them, but they didn’t make it to the top of our lists.

We did take away some handy tips to use for grilling our own pizzas, though! Which we can put to use now since Eric finally bought himself a grill.

To visit:

Al Forno
577 South Water Street
Providence, RI 02903

#69 Caserta Pizzeria

September 23rd, 2017

Providence, RI

This weekend we went to another pizza place from the 101 list from 2016. I know, it has been a while since we’ve crossed another pizza off of the list! Now that the 2017 list is due out any day now, we thought that we should try to go to some of the remaining ones from 2016. We took the opportunity of a free weekend to drive out to Rhode Island and go to Caserta Pizzeria in Providence.

We parked in Federal Hill in Providence, and spent a little time walking around Little Italy. Caserta Pizzeria is tucked back from the main street, where it has been for the last 60+ years.

The pizza is Sicilian style, but you can’t get slices here. You can order a small pizza (which is what we did), which comes in a circular shape cut into 6 slices. Or, you can go for the large pizza, which has 12 traditional rectangular slices. We really wanted to order one of the large pizzas, but we knew that we wouldn’t have been able to eat it all, even with our big pizza appetites.

We ended up ordering the small pizza with cheese. They have some toppings here too, but we wanted to go with the traditional. The crust on the pizza is doughy, but sturdy. It holds up to the massive amount of cheese that was loaded on top of the pie. There was a decent amount of sauce, too, but the ratio was heavy on the cheese. The cheese also left a crispy crust around the outside of the pie, similar to the deep dish pizza at Pequod’s.

If you come here, don’t be expecting a lot from this pizza place. The pizza itself is good, but nothing spectacular. It does have a serious following of locals, though. In our opinion, it was heavy on the cheese and grease. They don’t serve many toppings and prefer to stick with the classics: pepperoni, olives, mushrooms, and anchovies.

Caserta’s is also famous for their “Wimpy Skippy”, which is a pie (more like a calzone) loaded with spinach, mozzarella, and pepperoni. We didn’t think that this qualified exactly  as pizza, so we went with the traditional pizza instead. “Wimpy” and “Skippy” were actually real people who used to make this in their free time at the restaurant, and one day the owner made it a special and it stuck.

There are a lot of Italian restaurants in Federal Hill, many that are newer looking and have fun happy hour menus. Some look like they also serve pizza. We think this one made it to the list because it is one of the originals. If we were to come back, we’d probably skip this one in favor of Providence Coal Fired Pizza. But if a good, thick, cheesy, Sicilian is your favorite slice, you should make a trip up to Providence.

To visit:

Caserta Pizzeria
121 Spruce Street
Providence, RI 02903

 

 

#47 Providence Coal Fired Pizza

January 27th, 2016

Providence, RI

Last January, I was lucky enough to be invited to Providence for a visit to Brown for work. Of course, we jumped at this opportunity to knock off one of the pizza places from the list (and to have part of it expensed!), so we decided to hit Providence Coal Fired Pizza for dinner after my meetings.

I had driven up to Providence, and the plan was for Eric to come and meet me and then we’d drive back home together. Providence isn’t too far from NYC, after all. Only about a 3.5 hour ride on Amtrak (Eric is a good sport!).

Eric was very hungry by the time his train got in around 7 pm, and I was hungry from waiting for him. We walked into Providence Coal Fired and grabbed a couple of seats at the bar. The place was pretty busy for a Wednesday night, but then we realized that most of the diners were heading to an evening show downtown. When they cleared out, we had the restaurant to ourselves.

 

We started off getting one of the salads to share – the Lentil and Hummus. I hate to say that it was almost better than the pizza. It was full of lentils and hummus (obviously), mixed lettuce, red onion, roasted portobellos, grape tomatoes, cucumber, goat cheese, and house baked flat bread, and was beautifully presented.

BUT this is a pizza blog, so I’ll get right to the pizza that we ordered. We tried the Rocket pizza, which was a Margherita topped with arugula and Pecorino cheese. It was great to have a different style of pizza here. As the name of the restaurant suggests, the pizzas are coal-fired in Rhode Island’s first and only coal-fired pizza oven. They actually import the coal from PA. The crust was crispy and slightly charred, just the way we like it. We felt pretty full after splitting this one pizza, since the salad was also pretty filling.

     

When we finished eating, we hopped in the car and drove a couple of hours to Connecticut to see the Grandparents, who kindly let us stay overnight so that we didn’t have to drive all the way back to NJ until the next morning.  Thanks Gram and Gramps!

To visit:

Providence Coal Fired Pizza
385 Westminster St
Providence, RI 02903