RI Food Fights’ Italian Grinder Throwdown

grinderIn the northeast United States, a deli’s worth is usually placed upon how good their grinders are. Specifically Italian grinders, chock full of pepperoni, salami and capocollo, provolone and mozzarella cheese, lettuce, hot peppers and a tangy dressing. When it’s all together on sandwich bread it can be a deliciously beautiful thing. Last February, RI Food Fights put on their first ever Italian Grinder Throwdown that had numerous delis and restaurants from all over The Ocean State staking their claim as the best. On a score of 1-8 nom points, with 1 being the worst and 8 being the best, I decided to see who I think should win the competition.

The Rosendale (55 Union Street, Providence)
I remember when the place currently known as The Rosendale used to be a divey Irish bar called Sullivan’s. How things have changed. The Rosendale’s “grinder” wasn’t even one, it was a panini that lacked the body and texture all of the other competitors had. Would you enter a pizza competition with a calzone? – 2 Nom Points

Hudson Street Deli (68 Hudson Street, Providence)
If you know anyone who lives and dines in the West End of Providence, chances are you’ll hear them talking about Hudson Street Deli. They have a dedicated clientele that craves their made-from-scratch sandwiches. Their grinder was very filling, I couldn’t even finish the second half of it. The mayonnaise made me a tad queasy afterward, but that was mostly my doing. Overall a solid sandwich though; I didn’t leave hungry. – 5 Nom Points

Spirito’s Restaurant (477 Broadway, Providence)
Located within the Italian-American Club of Rhode Island is Spirito’s Restaurant. It’s a pretty swanky looking place with a laid-back atmosphere. Their grinder was the only one in the competition served with fries and cole slaw, which added a nice touch. Compared to the others, the grinder itself was fine but it wasn’t anything special. I still enjoyed it though. – 5 Nom Points

Rhode Island Billiards Bar & Bistro (2026 Smith Street, Providence)
This institution is always packed with pool hall junkies and hustlers, and it was no different on when I came to Rhode Island Billiards Bar & Bistro to try their grinder. The sandwich was alright but they really overdid it with the banana peppers and lettuce. They were practically falling off onto my plate when I picked it up to eat it. It tasted fine, but it could have been better prepared. – 5 Nom Points

Willy’s Local Foods (394 Wickenden Street, Providence) – Fed Hill
Willy’s over in the East Side is a quaint little place where you can grab some lunch and while you’re at it pick up some groceries. Their Fed Hill grinder had a similar combination like the others but also added turkey to the mix, which gave it a somewhat earthy taste. It wasn’t bad and I enjoyed it. I’ve heard their breakfast sandwiches are pretty good so I’ll have to stop by there again during the morning and give it a shot. – 6 Nom Points

Uncle Tony’s Pizza & Pasta – Cranston (1455 Oaklawn Avenue, Cranston)
I went to the Uncle Tony’s East Providence location for their pizza and this time I went to the one in Cranston for their grinder. It was gigantic and another classic rendition of the sub with tons of cold cuts and melted cheese. It was a very hearty sandwich that stuck to my ribs. It didn’t really stand out from the rest, but I liked it. – 6 Nom Points

Dee’s Deli (1296 Cranston Street, Cranston)
Dee’s Deli is so popular in Cranston that they have to close early every day due to running out of bread. The locals love them and when I went there for their grinder I could see why. What really caught my taste buds were the herbs that the banana peppers were marinated in. It gave a different taste that packed a bunch of flavor. You better go to Dee’s and see what all the fuss is about. – 7 Nom Points

The Sandwich Junction (86 Kilvert Street, Warwick) – Tutto Italiano
Over in Warwick is Sandwich Junction near the T.F. Green Airport. Their Tutto Italiano grinder was delicious because it had something I was surprised no one else really did with theirs. It had balsamic vinaigrette on it, one of my favorite things in the world. I absolutely have to stop by here again the next time I’m in the neighborhood. – 7 Nom Points

The Big Cheese & Pub (606 Reservoir Ave, Cranston)
I’ve fallen in love with The Big Cheese & Pub in Cranston so I was very excited to see what their grinder was like and it didn’t disappoint. It was huge for starters, a lot of meat was stuffed in the sandwich with a big thing of provolone cheese melted on top. The dressing had that classic tang as well. I’ll never stop going to this timeless establishment and you should check out The Big Cheese if you haven’t yet. – 7 Nom Points

Rocco’s Pub & Grub (55 Douglas Pike, Smithfield)
Rocco’s in Smithfield has excellent wings and it turns out their grinder is on par. What made it so good was the arugula and the baby tomatoes. It was almost as if a salad got put on top of a toasted sub. It was very fresh and you have to come see why Rocco’s has been the talk of Smithfield for the past couple of years. – 7 Nom Points

Ocean State Sandwich Company (155 Westminster Street, Providence) — Ocean State Ultimate Grinder
This little spot right in the heart of downtown Providence is chock full of delicious sandwiches and their grinder was no different. The bread had the perfect amount of tenderness, but what really impressed me was the homemade sun-dried tomato and banana pepper relish. It gave it an incredible kick accented with a tang. I definitely liked the sandwich and I want to head back to the Ocean State Sandwich Company and check out what other delights they have on their menu. – 7 Nom Points

The Sandwich Hut (1253 North Main Street, Providence) – The Allitalia
Being located on North Main since the ‘60s, The Sandwich Hut has been a Providence lunch staple for generations. The Allitalia is a classic with prosciutto, capocollo, pepperoni, provolone, lettuce, a big ole banana pepper, tomatoes, pickles, oil and oregano. I got it toasted and it was fantastic with all the flavors melding together in harmony. With a place that’s been around for over 50 years, The Sandwich Hut must be doing something right. – 7 Nom Points

Roma (310 Atwells Avenue, Providence)
In the Federal Hill neighborhood of Providence there are a few spots that are more than just your average deli. They’re also a combination of a restaurant, bar and grocery store. Roma is one of those places and they’re famous around these parts for their Italian grinder. It was really good, what set it apart from the rest was that it had mortadella and their house dressing was a tad sweet but not overbearing. The whole time I was there I was thinking to myself, “Why don’t I come here more often?” I definitely should make going there a habit – 7 Nom Points

Tomaselli’s at Rosario (17 Rosario Drive, Providence)
Their wings were awesome during the Lord Of The Wings competition in January and Tomaselli’s grinder was pretty good as well. Adding tangy banana peppers and getting it toasted made it fantastic. Everything tasted very fresh, I always like coming here to eat and this time was no different. Great food and great service is why Tomaselli’s always brings a quality time. – 7 Nom Points

Harris Deli (656 Main Street, Coventry)
You know a deli is good when they have their menu written out on white boards in magic marker. It’s a strange fact, but use it to your advantage and you won’t go wrong. Right on the border of Coventry and West Warwick is Harris Deli and they make a damn good grinder. What made it so good was the fresh mozzarella. I’m not talking about the shredded stuff in the bag, I’m talking about those ooey gooey globs of goodness that are the freshest cheese around. It was simply excellent.– 7 Nom Points

Pizza J (967 Westminster Street, Providence)
Everyone in the city already knows how great Pizza J’s pizza and wings are, but I have to say they had the best grinder of the entire throwdown. Why? Their grinder has this pesto oil dressing on it that made the sandwich jump in your mouth. The flavors were incredible and it was an extremely enjoyable eating experience. Consider Pizza J the possessor of the holy trinity of awesome foods now because their Italian grinder is out of this world. – 8 Nom Points

These things are always difficult and RI Food Fights’ Italian Grinder Throwdown was no different. RI Food Fights’ next competition is at The 5th Annual Great Cupcake Championship happening at Hope Artiste Village on 1005 Main Street in Pawtucket on March 20. Get your tickets below and enjoy!

Event page for The 5th Annual Great Cupcake Championship: https://www.facebook.com/events/981336091927023
RI Food Fights’ Website: http://www.rifoodfights.com

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