Rhode Island Party Pizza, What Is It & Why Is It So Good?
Rhode Island is known for two things: traffic and good food.
Italian cuisine is the state’s specialty, so when GoProvidence announced Pizza Week this week to celebrate its varied, delicious forms, the state flocked to participating restaurants to indulge.
All this talk of pizza over the last week got me wondering about a Rhode Island creation that baffles out-of-towners with its simplicity and surprisingly good taste.
Pizza strips, aka Party Pizza. When was it created and why did Rhode Island keep it alive for all of these years?
What Are Rhode Island Pizza Strips?
Pizza strips, also known as party pizza, are made with Italian bread dough, topped with tomato sauce, and sometimes sprinkled with grated romano cheese. It’s either cut into long rectangles or square pieces and layered in a box with wax paper instead of a traditional pizza box.
It’s simple, but Rhode Islanders are crazy about it.
Who Invented the Rhode Island Pizza Strip?
Eric Palmieri is a fifth-generation Italian baker at Palmieri’s Bakery in Johnston, Rhode Island. It’s where Rhode Islanders go for top-notch comfort food, and he weighed in on the origins of the pizza strip.
“There are lots of theories and stories, (but) my understanding is that it was originally made in the home by Italian immigrants around the turn of the century, and then shortly after was sold in Italian bakeries, my great-great-grandfather, Domenico, being on the forefront of that,” he said. “One of my theories is that because of its simplicity, it was likely a very cheap and affordable food item during the depression, which may have led to its eventual popularity, which seemed to stick and become somewhat of a Rhode Island must-have at parties.”
Palmieri also believes that as the government began regulating food establishments more and more, party pizza was one of the few items that could be sold at room temperature, just like the other Rhode Island staple known as spinach pie.
Truthfully, I have yet to narrow down the exact origin of the pizza strip, but Palmieri believes that’s part of the allure.
“I think the mystery behind it is part of the appeal,” he said. “It’s so strange, nobody outside of Rhode Island knows what to make of it.”
The hunt continues for the Pizza strip’s origin, but one thing is certain; you’ll be hard-pressed to find a Rhode Islander that hasn’t indulged in this notorious strip.