PROVIDENCE, RI – It seems that when it comes to pizza in Providence, it’s not only hip to be square, it’s also pretty tasty. At Pizza J on Westminster Street, they’re cooking up crispy four-sided pizza that will make your mouth sing, according to Chief Operations Manager, Brian Oakley.
“It’s thin crust pizza, so you get a little bit of that crackeriness on the bottom, and then you get that chewy once you bite through that. And of course, ’cause we’re in Rhode Island, we wanted to kind of do a little bit of a classic and have it be a square pizza. And our argument was always square pizza, square box, square deal.”
Owner Julian Forgue, the man behind the Providence dining institution Julian’s, wanted to create a throwback pizza shop reminiscent of the places he frequented in his youth.
“Pizza J is a collection of every pizza place that I’ve ever been to. Me and my mother would go get pizza and grinders. That’s what we would do. And I always wanted to recreate that for other families. We tried to upscale the pizza place here, but keep it homey. The only thing that comes elevated here is the pizza. When you get it on the table it comes on an elevated tray.”
To create that down-home vibe, they’ve decked the place out with all the things they grew up on.
“What we wanted to do was kind of make a modern interpretation of that classic 80’s pizzeria, which is why we have the classic red plastic cups,” Brian explained. “We have the arcade games in the back, ’cause me and Julian are kind of just kids, you know. I play pinball at least three times a day.”
When they were designing the menu, they called upon some old cult favorites for inspiration. Take for example The Tony Clifton: a white pizza topped with herbed ricotta, potato, roasted red pepper and elephant garlic, and named for their favorite Andy Kaufman character.
There is the Olneyville 2AM, a tribute to a famous Rhode Island late night snack.
“Olneyville 2AM is kind of our homage to the Olneyville System down in Olneyville,” Brian said. “Usually after a night of going out with friends, you might end up there at 2AM and get a wiener all the way, and this pizza’s exactly that.”
“It gets onions, celery salt, mustard, it gets the hot wiener sauce, and the infamous Rhode Island hot wieners, put on a pizza. And it’s an experience,” Julian laughed.
The Pale Moon Rider is both a steak bomb and a flavor bomb for your mouth, loaded up with mushrooms, onions and shaved sirloin along with creamy ricotta. For a play on a sausage and pepper sandwich, order the Strutter which uses sausage made in house.
“It’s a red pie with the house sausage, red pepper and onion,” Brian explained. “Kind of like a pepper and sausage kind of sandwich idea, but to a pizza, and it’s got a nice level of heat. It’s not too overwhelming, but it’s definitely a little zing.”
Beyond pizzas, there are classic comfort foods from days gone by lining the rest of the menu. Take for example The Angelo, which is basically a plate of meatballs and French fries, something Julian would order as a kid at a legendary Federal Hill restaurant, called Angelo’s.
They are creative garlic knot French fries, and addictive Fried Mozzarella, made in-house so it’s super fresh and ultra-stringy. There are also zippy green curry chicken wings spiked with peanuts for added crunch, and a crave worthy Cheeseburger Calzone. If you want all the flavor of an Italian sub with an Asian spin, get the Italian Egg Roll.
“It’s basically the classic Italian grinder sandwich but into an eggroll shell,” Julian said.
“So you have that crispy outer shell, the mortadella, the salami, with the dipping sauce, and the different textures inside like you would get in a traditional eggroll,” Brian continued.
The nostalgia continues right through dessert with a mocha ice cream sandwich, which uses an intense house-made coffee ice cream.
With oversized pizzas priced mostly in the teens, you’ll most likely end every meal with a bill that looks like a throwback as well, making Pizza J one Phantastic MEAL DEAL.
You can find Pizza J at 967 Westminster Street in Providence, and online at pizzajprovidence.com.
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