Everyone has their own idea of what qualifies as great pizza. Someone in Brooklyn will likely describe a thinly-stretched dough with a chewy crust. In Chicago, a deep-dish pizza baked in a pan that almost acts as a bowl for the toppings is the local favorite. The suburbs of most American cities are home to Greek restaurant owners making a medium-thick pan pizza with a crisp but oily crust. Confusing the issue further is the fact that people are putting all manner of toppings on bread and calling it “pizza.” We normally think that the basic minimum requirements for “pizza” are dough, sauce and cheese. But what about a Brooklyn style “White” pizza–no tomato sauce! And what to do with a funky, ultra-thin, crispy-crust number topped with tandoori chicken, Indian spices and watercress from a small San Francisco pizza oven? Considering that there is no single standard for how pizza should be made or even what it’s made from, let’s make this simple. Pizza either tastes good, bad, or is forgettable.
Enter Tommy’s Pizza, the local champion dough slinger on Chalkstone Ave. in Providence since 1955. It is small, almost cave-like inside, and the menu is similarly short and focused. Leading with, pizza, pies (calzones) and sandwiches, you will also find a few starters, salad and soup. Portions are large, prices are low, and everything is served up fast and fresh whether eaten in, taken out or delivered.
Tommy’s Pizza offers a unique style of crust that could be described as the love child of a Greek pan style and a thin NY style crust. The bottom is well done, providing a crunch that yields to a chewy texture and a toasty flavor. On top, you will find that the toppings are run right to the edge, leaving almost no naked crust. If there is one takeaway from Tommy’s, it’s that the sauce is exceptional. Not too tart or to sweet, the tomatoes are pureed and seasoned perfectly with Italian spices, leading with a strong kick of garlic and oregano. The cheese is plentiful, mild, melted well and slightly darkened on the edges. Small pizzas are generous 10” rounds cut into six pieces and the large pizzas are huge 12”x15” rectangles cut into 12 square slices. The topping list includes all the standard options. Whatever you order, they are generously applied. Be sure to try the White Pizza ($11.10/$16.30) available with spinach or broccoli. With a small pizza starting at $7.80 a large just $10.85, and a wide variety of toppings, everyone should be able to order up a taste that satisfies.
Another specialty at Tommy’s are the “Pies,” which are essentially calzones. Tommy’s pies are huge pockets of golden dough stuffed with the topping of your choice. Sausage-based pies are called Pigs in a Blanket ($2.60 w/cheese), and they’re full of spicy Italian sausage, tomato sauce and melted mozzarella. The Eggplant Pie ($4.35) has layers of breaded eggplant, sauce and cheese. While the overall experience is pleasant, the thick breading overshadowed the fruity flavor of the eggplant. The Green Monster ($4.35) is filled with sautéed spinach, cheese and lots of pepperoni. Again the portion was huge, the dough crispy on the outside, but the flavor of the spinach may leave you yearning for more garlic and seasoning. Subs are big, freshly made-to-order and can be toasted on request. The large Super Italian ($6.45) will easily serve two and is piled with spicy, authentic Italian cold meats and cheese.
In the end, Tommy’s Pizza is a winner. Three people ate to near bursting and took leftovers home for under $20 including tip. At that price, Tommy’s is a good choice for a quick meal on a budget, and almost anyone can afford to “cater” a dinner party with a feast delivered ($5 minimum, $1.25 delivery charge) quickly to the surrounding area. Tommy’s is located at 936 Chalkstone Ave. in Providence. 401-621-3509. Check out Tommy’s hours and details at their Web site, and be sure to explore their other location in Cranston.