I don’t believe it’s a stretch to say that we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to Italian food in Rhode Island. Furthermore, we have as many styles of pizza as we do favorite beaches. There’s bakery pizza, stuffed pizza, thick crust, thin crust, grilled, wood-fired and coal-fired. Nevermind all the variations using pizza dough: calzones, breadsticks, garlic knots, dessert pizza.
So when there’s a new restaurant that focuses on pizza, it’s got to be different and it’s got to be special. This is where Pasquale’s Pizzeria Napoletana comes in. Owner and chef Pasquale Illiano was born and raised in Naples and wanted to bring a taste of home to Rhode Island. Having lived in America for 20 years and spending the last 14 of them making NY-style pizza at Vetrano’s in Westerly, Pasquale decided it was time to return to his roots. So, on his 20th anniversary of living in America, he opened Pasquale’s Pizzeria Napoletana in South County Commons, and considers himself to be the culinary ambassador of Naples. “I wanted to bring something 100% Naples when it comes to pizza,” explains Pasquale. “When people travel to Naples, what you find there is what you will find at Pasquale’s.”
Aside from a few secret ingredients that Pasquale will be taking with him to the grave, he shared some very basic, and very delicious staples: natural yeast for his dough, Sicilian natural sea salt, organic tomatoes from the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius, buffalo mozzarella imported from Naples, pasta imported from Gragnano – a small village in the Naples region that has been making spaghetti for centuries – and Neapolitan salami, to name a few.
And the dough, it must be discussed. “The Neapolitan crust is a soft, yet lightly chewy crust,” explains Pasquale. “It’s not crusty; it’s not meant to be crispy in any way, ever. The crust is very fluffy, airy and soft – not soggy. It’s a delicate pizza. Made only with flour that comes from Italy.” Not surprisingly, even the wood-fired oven was made in Naples and heats up to between 800 and 900 degrees, which translates to a very short cooking time.
However, man cannot live on pizza alone. In addition to the Neapolitan pizza, think classic Italian dishes like fettuccine with cream of parmesan cheese, pistachio pesto and crispy pancetta. For dessert, try the Nutella pizza with a little bit of Kosher salt, powdered sugar and toasted hazelnuts.
If you’ve never been to Naples, here’s your chance. It’s not a plane ride away or someplace you need to take a week’s vacation to arrive at – it’s in South County. And although you don’t need to speak Italian to visit, you may want to learn how after experiencing a taste of Naples. 60 South County Commons Way, South Kingstown. 783-2900