When in Roma: Weigh your options at this Wickenden St Roman style pizzeria

At Roma Capoccia you buy pizza by the weight, just like you would on the streets of Rome. This is pizza al taglio, or as we know it, pizza by the slice. But literally it translates, “to the cut,” which is more accurate to what you’ll find in both Italy and Roma Capoccia. Instead of walking into a shop and ordering a pre-cut triangular slice from a big, round pie, you’ll find large rectangular slabs of pizza that are reheated when you order them. (The dough is actually designed to be reheated, due to its high hydration and the fact that it must be fermented for 90-120 hours.) And then you pay based on weight.

In Rome, prices are listed by the kilo (which is why a listed price of €16 may seem alarming, but it’s unlikely you’ll eat two pounds of pizza). At Roma, you’ll find pizza priced by the ounce. This seems like a frightening concept for those of us with an inability to judge what “one ounce” looks like, and for those of us with a proclivity toward one-of-everything-please. I hear you. The first time I got Fro-Yo at a self-serve shop, I ended up footing a $14 bill. I could only imagine that ordering pizza by weight would result in my racking up $75 in charges.

Good news: That didn’t happen. At Roma, I was guided by a pizzaiolo, a helpful employee wielding giant scissors, and she made the final cut. She indicated the size of one ounce by holding her fingers in a small square and told us which pizzas were likely to be heavier based on their toppings. She also gave us an “average” size that people choose, which was a long strip across, about 3” thick. I ordered four of those, as did my friend. It ended up being $13, which means I spent more money on frozen yogurt than I did on pizza.

The best news? Each of those strips was big enough to share, meaning my friend and I got to sample eight different types of pizza! This is bliss, my friends. The menu changes regularly, and the toppings range from traditional (eg, margherita) to inventive (sweet potatoes, candied orange, chestnuts, goat cheese, sage and garlic aioli — this was my favorite). They also offer vegan options, and wine and beer. I recommend the Frescobaldi Rémole red, not only because it’s fun to say, but because it’s delicious. 

Rhode Island’s first Roman-style pizzeria is worth its weight … in pizza, and maybe gold, too.

468 Wickenden Street, PVD; @romacapocciapizza

Eat Your Veggies: Saladworks lets you eat healthy on the go

Photo courtesy of Saladworks

With an anticipated opening of March 25, Saladworks is moving to New England for the first time and settling into downtown Providence.

“There are over 100 locations worldwide,” owner John Pisaturo told me, “but most are in outdoor strip malls. There’s only one other in a standalone downtown location [in Philadelphia] – Rhode Island will be the second.”

John and his wife, Aileen Soriano-Pisaturo, are confident that the walkability of our downtown area and the restaurant’s location — at 75 Fountain Street, where the Providence Journal used to be headquartered — will garner heavy foot traffic. Just to be certain, Pisaturo bought a counter and took data for 10 days, at morning, noon and night, on weekdays and weekends, and discovered that 300 to 400 people were walking past the door every hour. He’s hoping to attract hotel guests, residents from local condos and downtown employees on their lunch break.

Saladworks first opened in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, in 1986, long before the vegetarian and vegan lifestyles became common enough to merit a festival. It appears that the franchise is now, finally, “on trend.”

Those who are strictly plant-based, vegetarian, or — as Aileen taught me — “flexitarian,” meaning you’ll eat a greasy burger one day of the week, but will stick to healthier or plant-based diets on the other days of the week — will discover a satisfying meal at Saladworks. Meat-lovers among us shouldn’t worry; also on offer is pepperoni, chicken (buffalo, spicy peanut and honey bbq, to name a few), shrimp, turkey and bacon.

The main attraction is, of course, the salad bowl. You can choose from one of their signature bowls (Aileen recommends the Farmhouse Bowl, with roasted Brussels sprouts, roasted butternut squash and glazed pecans) or create your own, with more than 60 toppings and 10 different dressings to choose from.

“So, it’s like Subway, but for salads?” I ask.

“More like a Chipotle,” John says.

In addition to green salads, they offer gluten-free grain bowls, sandwiches, soups and wraps (note: any bowl can be made into a wrap).

Saladworks will be open daily, from 11am – 9pm, with delivery service and in-house seating (with a WiFi bar), plus outdoor seating in the warmer months. Next time you’re in need of a healthy quick meal or exhibiting your freedom as a flexitarian, stroll downtown. “There’s something for everyone,” John says, “from the simple to the complex salad lover.” 

Saladworks is located at 75 Fountain St, PVD. fb.com/SaladworksProvidence

A classy – and boozy – brunch at Vino Veritas

I should have expected nothing less than napkins folded into roses from a restaurant whose name sounds like an Ivy League university’s motto: Vino Veritas, Latin for in wine, truth” — which, I would argue, is the unofficial motto for all great institutions of learning. But I had somehow missed this restaurant when it debuted on the corner of Broadway and Harkness, just a stone’s throw away from Nick’s on Broadway, and I realized I haven’t brunched on the West Side in far too long. With the help of my trusty Motif assistant (ie, publisher Mike Ryan), we arrived at high noon on a chilly-but-sunny Saturday.

String lights outline the full-length windows — a twinkling, inviting touch — and underneath the black awning is the entrance. Upon entering through the large lavender door, I was struck by purple. Purple, the color of royalty. Purple, the color of creativity and pride. Purple, the color of ripe grapes at harvest. At Vino Veritas, you’ll find all shades of purple, from the violet rose-shaped napkins to the placemats in stripes of eggplant and periwinkle to the lilac-colored font on their menus. Even the throw pillows on the periphery window seats (not for seating, just for pillows) have purple accents. I loved it — it wasn’t excessive or kitschy, but it did make me feel more dignified. 

The space is the perfect size for an intimate gathering, but not so small it’s stifling. The traditional bar is straight to the back, and the Bloody Mary Bar is just in front of it. Had Mike and I understood this was a Bloody Mary Bar from the beginning, it might have altered our beverage selection (shrimp, bacon and squares of grilled cheese sandwiches are available as garnish!), but we took a different, less traditional route for breakfast imbibing.

With three cocktail menus to choose from — Martini, Specialty and Breakfast — we didn’t even consider the restaurant’s namesake of wine. (Sorry, not sorry?) Mike ordered their other namesake drink, the Veritas Martini, with Ketel One, Chambord, pineapple and prosecco. It tasted like a mimosa-meets-martini, and it was delightfully refreshing. I opted for something fit for a Friday evening, the Advoczar (I dare you to say that five times … not even fast, just five times), with Woodford Reserve, Crave Chili Chocolate Liqueur, walnut bitters and Drunken Cherry. This tasted like a boozy version of a Yoo-hoo with a hint of cherry. It proved to be a great pairing for the dark chocolate hot cakes that jumped out at us from the menu.

Both Mike and I were sold on the hot cakes, especially since we saw they came with bourbon maple syrup. Although the menu isn’t huge, it has something for everyone, and multiple somethings for people like us with childlike sweet tooths. (Do we add Portuguese sweetbread French toast or beignets to our chocolate chip pancakes? We chose the latter because of the promise of crème-anglaise and fresh berries — thus making it a health food.) On the savory side, we saw a range of selections, from tofu scramble to Angus burger, with all forms of eggs in between. And as a special that day, they were offering a breakfast flatbread, with scrambled eggs, arugula, bacon, mozzarella and hot peppers. It was a no-brainer; we chose the special.

I expected a typical flatbread, one that I could easily eat by myself but would share with Mike to feel better about my life choices. This, however, was like no flatbread I’ve ever seen. It was served on a wooden board that nearly spanned the length of the table. The dough was thick, like focaccia or Roman-style crust, the hot peppers adding the perfect amount of heat, and it was the first time ever I couldn’t finish my half — and not for lack of trying. This is a flatbread worth sharing … with several people.

We ended on a sweet note, with our dessert-like breakfast plates, the dark chocolate hot cakes and the beignets, and we couldn’t finish those either. Folks, history was being made that day. These pancakes (three) were topped with a snowy layer of powdered sugar, and they stood tall and proud. Like the flatbread, these were thick. The beignets, after being fully submerged in the crème-anglaise (a heavenly sauce) and topped with a slice of strawberry were the perfect ending to my post-January diet resolve.

The best part of this brunch experience was that we didn’t have to wait an hour to be seated. I’ve now added another notch on the Broadway belt of great brunches, and I’m looking forward to seeing this purple palace when the sun goes down. Latin may be a dead language, but Vino Veritas is fully alive and well.

Vino Veritas, 486 Broadway, PVD @vinoveritasri

Locale Profile: Ellie’s Bistro: From Paris to Providence

“In a sea of Providence’s Italian bakeries, we are the only French bakery — but that’s not to take anything away from our neighbors,” says Alane  Spinney, the “Den Mother” of Ellie’s, having been around since the bakery’s opening day in January 2013. “If you want a cannoli, go to Scialo bakery on Federal Hill. But if you want a canelé, come to Ellie’s.”

I’ve heard Alane give the backstory of Ellie’s a hundred times with RI Red Food Tours, as it’s one of our favorite stops. But now that the bakery has expanded and moved from Washington Street to Weybosset, directly across from the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC), it has transformed into Ellie’s Bistro, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

Because I’d frequented Ellie’s for years, a truly European-style bakery with seats for only seven customers, I was familiar with its high-quality lattes and to-die-for macarons, not to mention their Signature Breakfast Sandwiches and fresh croissants with jam, but I was curious what their expanded menu would entail. So I called my trusted food friend Jeremy, and we made reservations for dinner on a Sunday night.

The new space is beautiful. With glossy white brick and black trim, marble topped tables with fresh flowers, delicately lettered gold decals on the windows, an open kitchen and framed photos of this building’s history, it’s at once inviting and charming. The location that sat abandoned for over a decade, where it was once a piano store and then a pharmacy — where Alane’s father worked half a century ago — now welcomes up to 40 diners, with window seats, booths, a large community table and a handful of bar stools.

That’s right, bar stools: Ellie’s Bistro is serving French wines, ciders and beers, and theater-themed cocktails, such as the Drama Queen, made with Crop Meyer Lemon Vodka, framboise, campari, orange blossom water and bubbles. On this particular night, however, I was craving a white wine, and I knew they offered a great choice because the food tour guests couldn’t stop raving about it. I asked manager Max Hodge to point me in the right direction.

“I think you’re wanting the Domaine,” he said, referring to the Domaine F.E. Trimbach Pinot Blanc. 

“YES,” I said, unable to pronounce half of those words.

Jeremy wanted an espresso martini, which arrived the color of dark chocolate with a light foam glaze, garnished with espresso beans. We clinked glasses, and then made our way through a sea of delectable items on the menu.

We diligently read the description for each entrée (appetizer), plat (main), and accompagnements (side) and, as usual, had trouble narrowing it down to a number of dishes we could realistically consume. We began with the baked chèvre, a smooth white cheese served hot inside a ramekin, with crusty bread, pear confit and pea trendrils, as well as the lightly grilled cucumber, served with ricotta and spring onion pistou.

The baked chèvre, which is a cheese made from goat’s milk, was rich and earthy, its savory nature counterbalanced with the sweet pear confit. It’s a rare day that I encounter a cheese I don’t like (bleu, I’m looking at you), and this is a reliable go-to dish for anyone who fancies cheese.

The cucumbers far exceeded my expectation from the moment they touched the table. Their presentation was nothing short of a painting, an ornately designed arrangement of bright green marinated cucumbers, sunflower seeds, purple flower petals and a bright white whipped ricotta, drizzled with pistou (think pesto but without pine nuts). The cold dish maximized different textures, with the slightly softer but still crisp cucumbers, the crunchy seeds and the soft ricotta. It was a light and refreshing dish. 

For our second course, Jeremy ordered a burger that came with one of my favorite cheeses, gruyere, and a side of pommes frites — aka, fries — with three dipping sauces: duck gravy, truffle ketchup and garlic aioli. Even though this wasn’t my meal, I helped myself, mostly to the fries because I acquired an immediate addiction to the truffle ketchup (and I don’t even like ketchup), but these fries were slender and crisp and delicious. The bite of burger I had was cooked perfectly, juicy and flavorful. 

I was looking for another small-ish dish, so I ordered the Pork and Pistachio Terrine. I was envisioning, however, a tartine — an open faced sandwich — rather than a terrine, which is a pâté made in a pottery container served cold. 

Neither Matthew Varga, the executive chef, nor Melissa Denmark, the executive pastry chef, have ever led me astray, so I dove in adventurously. And I was pleasantly surprised! The accompanying dijon mustard and dressed greens, along with the crispy bread, were perfect complements, and I cleaned my plate.

Unfortunately, my lunch that day had consisted of ice cream, so Jeremy and I regretfully skipped dessert, but I’ve since been back to treat myself to a bouchon, a chocolate toffee chip cookie, and a coconut blueberry cheesecake on a chocolate graham crust, so I haven’t been left wanting. With the same powerhouse that’s steered Gracie’s to eight AAA four diamond awards, this sister restaurant is in good hands. Everything is fresh, local and seasonal, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get Alane to spin you a yarn. “They call me OE — Original Equipment. As a 13th generation Rhode Islander, I can answer any question you might have about Rhode Island in general or Providence in particular.” Then she leans in a little closer. “I know where all the bodies are buried.”

Whether you’re looking for a quick breakfast, a soothing cup of coffee, a relaxed lunch or dinner before a PPAC show, come to Ellie’s and be transported to a little bistro in Paris, along with a slice of Providence’s history.

225 Weybosset Street, PVD; @elliesprov