Rhode Island may be the hardest state to “click-on” when on Google Maps, but it sure is rich in history and culture. The lil state is a bountiful mixing pot that simmering with such colorful diversity with populations from all over the world. Hey, that’s why we’re always recognized in the food scene, across the country! When you’ve got so many different family recipes from all over the world, dining out starts tasting reeeeal good. For now, we are looking at one of the most notorious cultures represented in Rhode Island; Italian.
Rhode Island houses the second highest population of Italian-Americans in the whole United States. You want authentic here? You’ve got it. Ask any local, and they’ll point you to Federal Hill. Just look for the pinecone, ya can’t miss it!
*Side note: the iconic archway stretching across the two lane road that is historic Federal Hill, is adorned by a massive pinecone. Many a-folk mistake the beautiful brass ornament for a pineapple, but they have been fooled. The pinecone, or La Pigna, is a symbol of quality and abundance. In Italian tradition, Federal Hill marks its entrance with the pinecone to welcome visitors.
When we had a hankering for some real deal Italian deli sandwiches, Venda Ravioli was the obvious go-to. The prime time real estate is located in DePasqual Square, home of the notorious Fed Hill Fountain. It is a sight to be seen in the summer months; bustling with people, surrounded by the brightly colored buildings and carefully planted flowers. Eating outside at Venda is a true Rhode Island Italian experience that both locals and visitors must try.
I imagine that the regulars who frequent the deli and market feel a sense of home as soon as they walk in the door. The cafe to the left pumping espresso, the barista foaming milk for a cappuccino. The aisles of Italian imported market products, everything from garbanzo beans to canned tomatoes. If your grandmas makin Sunday gravy (red sauce to all of us non-italianos) she may have gotten all of her ingredients right here. The fresh baked bread lines the walls, the selection of cheeses and cured meats hanging above the glass deli case that acts as the main attraction; a centerpiece that excites the senses with house made delicacies. Hand pick each item you want, and the kind staff will heat it right up for you. I always go with a stuffed artichoke heart. There is something about it that you just can’t get anywhere else.
But today, we came for the sandwiches; the #1 seller, the Italian Grinder (obviously) and the #2 the Prosciutto Mozzarella. Every ingredient on these sandwiches is purposeful and high quality, which is what makes these sandwiches far superior to other imitators. A pop of a hot pepper, a drizzle of EVOO and balsamic, these sandwiches are famous for a reason. I’ve had sandwiches in Italy, and these guys are about as authentic and as it gets. Unless you wanna hop on an AlItalia flight for 7 hours. Much easier.