East Providence is also a good place to find Portuguese restaurants, which take Rhody seafood and kick it up a notch with stronger spices and specialties such as the bright-orange chourico sausage.
WHERE ITALIANS RULE
In Providence proper, and many surrounding towns, traditional fare is family-style Italian. You don't have to look far to find great manicotti, eggplant Parmesan, or pasta e fagioli (bean) soup — there are lots of great options. For a classic right downtown, try the tiny Mama Teresa's on Westminster Street. For a Federal Hill classic, head to ANGELO'S CIVITA FARNESE, where you can stuff yourself on cheap, delicious Italian food in a setting right out of The Sopranos.
Also on the Hill, make sure to visit CASERTA PIZZERIA, where you can try what locals call "party pizza": made in big rectangular sheet pans, with thick crusts slathered with olive oil, a tangy red sauce, and cheese optional. Another Caserta's classic is the Wimpy Skippy (mispronounced by natives as "Wimpy Skimpy"), a rich and luscious spinach pie stuffed with cheese and pepperoni.
For more upscale, but still-affordable Italian fare, stop by VENDA RAVIOLI, where you can enjoy freshly made pasta and all kinds of Italian delicacies next to the beautiful DePasquale Plaza, or buy gourmet-quality ravioli and sauces to cook at home.
If you like meat, on the other hand, you'll get love the ubiquitous Italian grinder (the Rhody term for sub): a generous serving of deli meats such as salami, mortadella and capicola, plus provolone cheese, chopped lettuce and other toppings, oil and vinegar, bursting out of a fresh roll.
GREASE: IT'S GOOD FOR YOU!
Let's face it — at some point, especially late at night, we all crave greasy food. And if you're going to clog your arteries, why go generic when you could go Rhody-authentic? Here are three options.
Every night, HAVEN BROTHERS DINER sets up its truck next to City Hall to ensure no club-goer or bar-hopper will go hungry in Providence. The fare is — well, do you really care when you're drunk and hungry and it's 2 am? — burgers, chili dogs, fries, and onion rings. The people-watching is free.
For a step up (not in the healthiness department), check out STANLEY'S, on Richmond Street, where the burgers start at $2, topped with grilled onions and pickles and available as doubles, with bacon, mushrooms, peppers and more. The original location, in Central Falls, has been fancied-up and now closes as early as 8 pm, but the equally too-nice downtown one is open till 2 am on weekends.
For the real Rhody deal, head to OLNEYVILLE N.Y. SYSTEM, where a true native will order "three all the way and a coffee milk." We'll translate: NY System specializes in hot wieners, otherwise known as a highly questionable type of hot dog sold only in this region, topped with a rich meat sauce. "All the way" also includes chopped onion, mustard and celery salt. It's all assembled on the cook's forearm.
Oh yeah, let's not forget the COFFEE MILK. This, actually, is your guide's favorite Rhode Island treat. It's milk flavored with coffee syrup, kind of like chocolate milk but not thick. You can get it pretty much anywhere, or buy a bottle of syrup (the classic is Autocrat) and make it at home.