In pizza terms, Providence is most famous for being the U.S. home of grilled pizza, a cooking technique which creates a distinctively crisp and lightly charred base. This was developed by the Italian restaurant Al Forno, and has subsequently been taken up by a string of other restaurants in the city. But the invention doesn’t end there: other innovative approaches to pizza in Providence include the use of a super-hot coal-fired oven, and an art-adorned restaurant specializing in veggie, vegan and gluten-free varieties.
Nice Slice is a funky and inventive pizza joint located on alternative Thayer Street, next to the Brown University campus. Its walls are daubed with murals and portraits, graffiti is scrawled across benches and tables, and it has a stylishly dishevelled clientele of students, skaters, beatniks and hipsters. Its menu is suited to such a crowd: gluten-free bases can be made to order, and there are plenty of vegan options. Even the more conventional pizzas are made with a creative spark: try "Earth Crisis", topped with spinach, crushed plum tomatoes and artichoke hearts, or "Cranberry Picnic", with almonds and dried cranberries.
Bob and Timmy’s is a small and eccentric restaurant which serves a wide range of Providence’s signature grilled pizzas. There are a number of delicately flavored, traditional Italian recipes, but diners often opt for their long list of increasingly indulgent options – culminating in the "Everything Pie", which aptly describes the crispy grilled base straining beneath a massed pile of meat and vegetables.
Bacaro is a sumptuous microcosm of Italian gastronomy located in the heart of Providence. Across two warmly decorated floors, it contains a wine bar representing 16 regions of Italy, a salumeria or delicatessen selling delectable meats and cheeses, a cicchetteria or Italian tapas menu, and a full dining restaurant. In the middle of all this are the pizzas, which are grilled in classic Providence style and served as an appetizer for small groups of people. Thin, crispy and gourmet, they come in five or six carefully concocted recipes, including a superb pizza bianca and a great twist on the Neapolitan style.
This stylish pizzeria bakes its pizzas in a coal oven that reaches much higher temperatures than the usual wood-fired approach, imbuing the pizzas with a distinctive smoky flavor. There are a varied choice of toppings, including some more decadent options such as meatballs & ricotta and truffle mushroom. The final product is utterly delicious, and there are a great range of craft beers to wash it down with.
Al Forno opened in 1980 and was one of the first Providence restaurants to grab the attention of American gastronomes. It has a superficially simple menu of classic Italian dishes, but is perhaps most famous for bringing grilled pizza to the United States. These are served as an appetizer, and are utterly delicious: thin and super-crispy, with a charred flavor that perfectly complements the sweet strained tomato sauce. Choose between Margherita, spicy and seafood varieties.