Dining Out

All About the Dough

A taste of Federal Hill right in the East Bay

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In most reviews I start by talking about the setting – the location, the look and feel, something like that. I’ll get to that, but I want to start here by talking about pizza because while, yes, Federal Hill Brick Oven Pizza serves other dishes, I went there to write about the pizza. It’s very good pizza. I’ll go so far as to say they make some of the better pizza in Rhode Island, though I realize that’s a highly personal and somewhat controversial statement.

I love pizza. I really love pizza. I’ve flown to Phoenix, Arizona for less than 24 hours just to have pizza. I’ve eaten pizza in Italy and at restaurants in the United States that are considered some of the best in the country. I’ve also had the great fortune to make pizzas in a wood-fired-oven with one of the best bakers in the world.

Because of that, a reader emailed me suggesting I try Federal Hill Brick Oven Pizza in Warren. So on a wintry Monday evening my wife, daughters and I parked on Main Street and checked it out. Actually, I dropped off my family in front of the restaurant and went to find parking, and when the staff inside Federal Hill Pizza saw my wife with the two girls outside on the sidewalk in the snow they came right out and helped get them inside. The place scored some huge family points right off the bat.

Speaking of bat, the inside of Federal Hill Pizza has kind of a sports bar feel with some team memorabilia on the walls and televisions everywhere. But it wasn’t loud at all. Cross that with the restaurant also looking like a pizza place, or maybe a red sauce joint, and the space is very warm and friendly. The first thing I noticed as we sat, since I had a view of the bar, was the outstanding beer selection – not just in bottles, but on tap too. There’s wine as well – nothing that wowed me but, but some good choices if you want vino with your pizza.

The servers immediately brought us some plain pizza dough, baked as bread, for the girls. The service continued to be that friendly and helpful all evening. We started with the Bruschetta al Pomodoro ($8.99): grilled piadina flat bread, organic cherry tomatoes, red onion and basil finished with extra-virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. It was a good way to check out the dough as a simple dish and I enjoyed the red onions from the brick oven. I would bet during fresh tomato season you’d be hard pressed to find a better bruschetta in the East Bay.

Moving on to the pizza, we ordered four because at this point I was pretty confident that the dough was good and they knew how to cook it in the brick oven. The next task was to see what kind of toppings they used. We got the classic Margherita ($9.75): fresh mozzarella, red sauce and basil cooked well-done and finished with imported Tuscan extra-virgin olive oil. What better way is there to test a pizza place’s ability than with the essential pie? We also ordered the Owner’s Favorite ($14.50), which is fresh mozzarella, red sauce, prosciutto, mushrooms, goat cheese and basil cooked well-done; a modified Zorba the Greek ($13.95) of fresh mozzarella, garlic infused olive oil, spinach, feta cheese and red onion; and another simple Margherita, this time with pepperoni ($11.25).

The dough, as I mentioned, was very good and well-cooked, too. It’s not loaded with yeastiness but still has good flavor. There was a good char on the rim which shows signs of a well-maintained temperature in the brick oven as well as a not-too-shy, but not- too-long cooking time – something that can very easily go wrong when baking at such a high temperature. It was chewy, but slightly crisp.

The toppings were, as chef/owner William Manzo, Jr. says on his web site, of great quality. The mozzarella was tasty, the onions nicely cooked, the sauce is very good. The straight Margherita and the Margherita with pepperoni were excellent. The Zorba the Greek white pizza was good, though it kind of felt like less is more with these pizzas. But then the Owner’s Favorite showed that Manzo’s got good taste in putting together a pie because the combo of fresh mozzarella, red sauce, prosciutto, mushrooms, goat cheese and basil was the clear winner at the table. With four pizzas we had some to take home, but the Owner’s Favorite was devoured at the restaurant.

I was all about the pizza at Federal Hill Brick Oven Pizza, but they do have a wide selection of pasta dishes and burgers. If they’re cooked in the brick oven as well I look forward to trying them. The draw is that pizza though, and we’ll definitely be back for that.