New York City is getting less and less jingoistic where pizza is concerned. First we got St. Louis-style pizza in 2012 with Speedy Romeo, then “Wisconsin-style” that same year with Nicoletta, respectable Chicago-style with Emmett’s in 2014, and, of course, Detroit-style with Emmy Squared in 2016. If you thought the next carpetbagging crust would be Connecticut’s famed apizza (shoutout to Frank Pepe!), you were wrong. Instead we get… Rhode Island-style?
That’s how the grilled pies at Violet, a new East Village spot from the Emmy Squared folks, is being hyped on blogs like Gothamist, and indeed a press release says they’re “inspired by [owner Matt] Hyland’s nostalgia for Al Forno in Providence – where he often ate while attending school and where he and Emily had their first date.”
Cute. But not everyone agrees that the pies are Rhode Island-style.
Here’s Grub Street describing how they’re made:
The dough is low-hydration, naturally leavened with a sourdough starter, and oiled like focaccia, resulting in a crust that’s paper thin but not crackery, tender, and very light. It’s on the grill for under 30 seconds, Matt says, before it gets charred, taken to the toppings station, and put back on a cooler section of the grill.
The result is something that does indeed look similar to the pies at Al Forno, a Providence standby that ranks among Eater’s 38 Essential Pizzerias Across America. But as these Twitter users point out, the flatbread-type pies aren’t what many associate with “Rhode Island-style”:
I’m so mad about this. You can’t find good tomato pie strips anywhere in Pizza City, NY, and now people try to besmirch our good name trying to serve up floppy, oily flatbread with grill marks on it.https://t.co/IQYmVoW5Mr
— ian.pvd (@ian_pvd) January 10, 2019
Sorry to break it to you @Gothamist, but that is “Al Forno-Style” Pizza, which they do reference to on their site. This is “Rhode Island-Style” Pizza (aka Pizza Strips), which most non- Rhody folks think is disgusting -> https://t.co/Lx7r17nxXy https://t.co/rKrQYIx1ys
— Jon Bahr (@jonbahr) January 10, 2019
Courtesy of Edible Rhody, here’s a description of the more ubiquitous style of Rhode Island ‘za:
Pizza strips, otherwise known as party pizza, bakery pizza and, in some circles, tomato pie, are rectangular slices of focaccia-style bread topped with spicy tomato sauce. They have no cheese (unless you count an optional sprinkling of grated Romano) and are properly served at room temperature.
If that sounds pretty unappetizing, photos like this (uh, Ellio’s without the cheese?) probably aren’t going to get your mouth watering. When this food critic wrote that her first encounter with the stuff was “lodged indelibly in my mind,” I had to double-check that she hadn’t written “lodged in-edibly.” But whatever, maybe this is one of those freak Rhode Island things that kind of grow on you, like coffee milk, or DJ Pauly D. (Yup, the Jersey Shore star is from Rhode Island, and tomato pies are big in Jersey, too.)
Whatever the case, despite our recently broadened horizons, not all New Yorkers are giving Violet’s $10-$22 pies the benefit of the doubt.
So, we’re willing to call anything “pizza” now? When Original Ray invented pizza in New York all those years ago, this is not what he had in mind!
— Jamal Alexis Downer (@jamaladowner) January 10, 2019
The recipient of the Best Award may still be up for debate, but we can at least agree that this ain’t it: https://t.co/3QmEi5DEUz
— Stefanie Arroyo (@stefanie_arroyo) January 10, 2019
What is this? Soggy flatbread? Rhode Island has some great pizza but “RI style” is not a thing that exists https://t.co/upsQlYRz1e
— brienc (⚡️):} (@brienyc) January 10, 2019
Owner Matt Hyland doesn’t seem worried. “People gave us shit for Detroit pizza, but then they actually ate it they were like, ‘oh yeah, it’s just a pizza,’” he told Grub Street. “The whole New Yorker, ‘this is the real pizza’ bullshit will die down.’”
Violet is now open at 511 East 5th St., nr. Avenue A; you can check out the menu and make a reservations here.