Friends don't let friends order Domino's. At least, they shouldn't in the Ocean State, where the scent of salt air is almost always mixed with the smell of mushrooms and pepperoni wafting from an independent pizzeria.
In Providence, alone, you could eat pizza every meal for a week without going to the same place twice. When lifelong Rhode Islanders open a road map, we don't see a little state wedged between Massachusetts and Connecticut. We see a fresh-baked slice of Sicilian, with some loose strands of melted cheese floating in Narragansett Bay and a dollop of greasy marinara where Block Island should be. But for the sake of those of you who just enrolled here, here's a cheat sheet. Bring napkins instead of scratch paper to the final exam.
There is no debating where a pizza tour of Rhode Island begins: under the "La Pigna" (pine cone) arch at the foot of Atwells Avenue — gateway to Providence's Federal Hill. There is plenty of debating, however, where to eat once you start walking West. Atwells is to Providence pizza what Broadway is to New York theater. To walk around Federal Hill is to be bombarded with an array of high-quality choices. Do you prefer the old-school, fluffy golden crusts of CASERTA or a quick, thin-crust slice at LITTLE MIA'S? Do you prefer your pizza alongside a full meal, as served at ZOOMA or AMICI, or do you prefer a thick, Chicago-style pie from SICILIA'S stuffed with so much cheese, spinach, mushrooms, and marinara that it could almost be called a pizza stew?
I'll abstain from crowning a winner in the perennial "Best Slice on Federal Hill" conversation. Part of the Providence experience is educating yourself so that, by senior year, you can eloquently argue — with a mouth full of peppers and sausage, of course — the comparative merits of ANGELO'S, GEPPETTO'S, and RONZIO'S. I will say this, though: if a mountain of juicy mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and cheese piled atop a delicate grilled crust appeals to you, save room for the wild mushroom pizza at BOB & TIMMY'S.
Every campus in the state has its own pizza ecosystem — the delicate balance of pies, prices, and delivery options that feed the student body. The University of Rhode Island has KINGSTON PIZZA and INTERNATIONAL; Salve Regina has VIA VIA and A-1; and Roger Williams has SAM'S. Providence, of course, has the widest array of possibilities.
Johnson & Wales students need only to walk out of their dorms and across Weybosset Street to get to SAKI'S and PIZZA QUEEN, two joints constantly jockeying for the cheapest deals on slices and soda. With a fully functioning bar on the second floor, Saki's may have the upper hand.
Providence College goes by a four-cornered approach, with BIG TONY'S to the west, FRANKLY'S to the north, GOLDEN CRUST to the east, and N.Y. PIZZA and FRATELLI'S to the south. At Big Tony's, you can read posters about John Gotti and "Lucky" Luciano while your pizza heats up. Golden Crust, with its legendary buffalo chicken pizza and bleu cheese dipping sauce, is an old standby, that, as one budding food critic on campus recently pointed out, is "good when you're shitfaced." N.Y. Pizza, according to the claim of a young employee named Casey with dark, flowing hair, has "best-looking delivery boys in Providence." Guess you'll just have to call to find out.