As Rhode Islanders, anything outside of a 15 minute car ride is considered a day trip. But as a state nationally recognized for it’s expansive dining scene, we need to do better about going out of our way to enjoy these gems that RI has to offer. One of these diamonds we came across may require some of you to travel over a bridge (oh my gosh!). For those of you on that side of the bay, well, you’ve lucked out. Carmella’s Pizzeria in Middletown is best for dinner with the family, before (or after going out), staying in for Netflix & Pizza (the new Netflix & Chill), or just about any occasion. Whether you live down the street or in a different zip code, we want you to add it to your list. You know, the list we’re talking about. the one your significant other made you start so you could stop arguing about where to eat dinner. See! We just saved you from a hangry argument. You’re welcome!
Let’s start with everyone’s favorite carb, pizza. This is my opinion on pizza; all pizza is at the very least “good” because cheese and carbs together can not possible be “bad”. However, if you’re anything like me, you do not care to waste meals on anything that’s not above par. So when it comes to pizza we seek out the best of the best. The creme de la creme. The Madonna of meals. If you take a bite of pizza and it doesn’t immediately evoke the need to touch your four fingers to your thumb and kiss it, maybe yell out a “bellisimo!”, then your pizza isn’t good enough!
We started with a classic margarita pie at Carmella’s and yes, that happened. What makes it so great? The quality of the ingredients Chef Ken Martin uses. It makes a difference when your sauce isn’t coming straight from a can and onto your pizza. That’s right, house made tomato sauce, simmered and seasoned is ladled onto the hand kneaded dough, and then topped with Grande Cheese. I am not going to lie, I didn’t know what Grande cheese was before eating at Carmella’s, but now that I’ve experienced it I don't know that I can ever go back! I’ll save you the trip to Google. Grande is a high quality cheese company that prides itself on production of classic Italian cheeses and the imprint they leave on the environment. Lusciously silky mozzarellas, creamy ricottas and the like. The margarita came piping hot out of the oven, and then topped with fresh basil. It’s quality that counts, and Carmella’s is racking up their points.
Sometimes your friends want pizza, but you’re just in the mood for a hearty green salad. Salads at Carmella’s are treated with the same respect that is given to the godly pizza pies. We gushed over the shaved steak salad, mingling with soft crumbles of Gorgonzola cheese, salty little black olives, sweetly smoked pineapple pieces, shaved carrots, and roasted apples. Wowza, this salad had a lot working in it’s favor. Sweet and juicy with salty and savory all atop a bed of crisp greens. (Real salad! Not just iceberg ends. Never that at Carmella’s!) Always made fresh to order!To bring all of these ingredients together is Chef Ken’s house made balsamic dressing. Let me note that, this is not your average, run of the mill vinaigrette. This is a zesty, creamy, flavorful dressing only enhances whatever it’s added to. Just ask a regular! They’ll tell you to order sides of the dressing with pizza for crust dipping. If that’s not a pro tip, I dont know what is.
Onto sandwiches, we start right off with a classic Italian Grinder. Toasty, crispy bread holds melty cheese, slices salami, genoa, ham, and pepperoni tight in its warmth. Onion and pepperoncini get tucked in with all that meat along with shreds of crisp green lettuce. To complete, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil makes this beauty glisten like the legs of a super model applying tanning lotion. (I’d pick the sandwich, though!)
Our second sandwich was the chicken Caesar wrap, a classic classic. I never met a Caesar wrap (or Caesar anything for that matter) that I didn’t like. But when you find an exceptionally well done Caesar something, you hold it in your arms and promise that you will never let go. Here we have lettuce, tender grilled chicken, shaved provolone and parmesan, tomatoes and crispy chopped bacon. Of course, it is all tossed in a light coating of creamy Caesar dressing before being swaddled in a warm wrap and cut in half.
The next two appetizers we dug into need to come with an important precursor; Chef Ken does not have fryolators in house. So our teriyaki wings and cheesy fries were both baked to crispy perfection. We really respect the fact that these notoriously greasy foods are done “fry-free”, without the extra fats and can be cooked so spot on. You would never know that these sweet, salty glazed teriyaki wings started in an oven! Whether you’re a drums person, or you favor flats, you’ll end up eating the whole basket without preference!
Cheese fries are a comfort food I can get down with. What comes to mind when I think comfort? Sinking into a plush couch, wrapped up to my nose in fuzzy blankets all warm and toasty. That is the embodiment of cheesy fries. Warm, soft and cheesy. The golden french fries are lathered with oozing shredded cheese that melts in between each and every one. As the cool weather sets in, I can’t think of a better, warm snack to pick on. And when you pick a particularly melty fry, watch in awe as the cheese pulls in all of it’s glory
If you’re thinking we couldn’t possibly have anymore carbs, think again! We wrap up this hearty meal with penne pasta (my personal favorite) laden with house made marinara and *here’s the best part* hand rolled meatballs! Three massive meatballs proudly sit atop this mound of pasta like flags waving on the peak of Mt. Everest! It’s no shocker that homemade is the way to go. Bet you never saw your grandma use canned tomato sauce and frozen meat for Sunday dinner. What better way to get a taste of home than pasta and meatballs?
Pizza, pasta, fries, wings, and sandwiches. Can you think of anything else you would add to this list? I literally can not. As a matter of fact, my stomach has reached max capacity. What I love most about Carmella’s is that Chef Ken is able to take our favorite classics and enhance them with high quality ingredients and careful preparation. Ken’s cooking began at a young age, and eventually he became classically trained at the Culinary Institute of America in New York City, an internationally recognized institution. He brings these skills to Middletown, Rhode Island for us to enjoy in the Ocean State. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!