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Via Via Brick Oven Pizza
by Brian J. Lowney
My friend Oswaldo called the other day. "Hey that was a great piece you wrote on Bolivian food," he began. "But have I got another place for you! Have you ever been to Via Via Brick Oven Pizza?"
"Via what?" I shrieked, confusing the well-known East Side casual restaurant with an equally popular Federal Hill establishment with a similar name. "No, I haven’t," I finally admitted. "Let’s meet there tomorrow for lunch so that I can give it a try."
"My brother Silvio and I love the chewy, wood-fired crust and all the unusual toppings," Oswaldo announced. "The cooks at Via Via are always inventing some new and interesting pizzas, so your taste buds are in for a treat. I’ll see you tomorrow at noon."
Upon entering the unpretentious eatery, I soon discovered why the place is so popular with Brown and RISD students, shoppers who flock to nearby Thayer Street and with theatergoers who stop for a sandwich or pizza before going to the movies. There’s nothing fancy about the place – don’t look for ambiance – but the food is good, despite the fact that the prices are a bit steep. (But that’s the trendy East Side).
Recalling our recent outing to another restaurant that I was to review and just how popular Silvio’s idea to set up a "buffet" became, our troupe of three hungry adventurers decided to order "slices" of different pieces, rather than one or two small pizzas. That way we could try as many of Via Via’s delicious pizzas in one sitting. The server behind the counter liked our idea and charged us $16.99 – the price of most of the restaurant’s large gourmet pizzas, as we filled up our box. (It was a nice day so we decided to take our lunch to the park.)
The first pizza that we sampled was the Pepperoni ($2.10 per slice, $6.75, sm., $10.95, large.) This pizza was, for the most part, standard fare, with a chewy, wood fired-crust generously covered with a zesty tomato sauce, slices of pepperoni, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, fresh garlic, oregano and basil. While it was delicious, I probably wouldn’t order it again at Via Via, noting the other more unusual and interesting combination pizzas that are available. (This is simply my preference: If it’s pepperoni pizza that turns you on, then go for it!)
Our next selection proved to be my favorite – the BBQ chicken pizza ($2.68, $8.50, $15.50). This pizza was absolutely delicious and I wished that we had ordered another slice or two.
"Gee, if it’s not too much to ask, may I have a small piece before you gobble up the whole slice?" Silvio whined. Once he tasted it, he immediately knew why I couldn’t stop devouring the smoky, wood fired chewy crust, topped with a zesty yet not overpowering barbecue sauce, chunks of barbecued chicken, slices of red onion, creamy smoked gouda and mozzarella.
"This is heavenly," Silvio proclaimed, after finally getting a small piece. "While this is a great combination of various tastes and textures, it’s the smoked gouda combined with the chicken that really sets this pizza apart." I had to agree.
Another favorite that our trio enjoyed was the spicy meatball pizza ($2.81, $9.95, $16.99). While we had enjoyed meatball pizzas at many equally-popular pizza parlors on past occasions, we found this selection to be truly exceptional. What set the standard meatball pizza apart here was the addition of red onion and Jalapeno pepper slices, which added crunch and fire to what could have been an ordinary pie. Naturally, my Latin-born amigos enjoyed the fiery take on an old Italian-American classic.
Upon Oswaldo’s urging, we also sampled the Eggplant pizza ($2.68, $8.50, $15.50), which featured red onion slices and large sautéed eggplant discs.
"This is absolutely wonderful – just like eating Eggplant Parmesan on a pizza," Oswaldo announced. Again, I had to agree: The vegetables were firm, not overcooked or soggy and the homemade sauce was not so overpowering that you couldn’t taste the toppings, or vice versa.
We were indeed very pleased with our "pizza picnic" and decided that we’d order a few large pies to take to the lake when we head to the mountains later this summer.
In addition to offering great pizza, Via Via also boasts an extensive menu featuring soups, salads, sandwiches, and seafood and pasta dishes, all available for eat-in or take out. One pasta dish that caught my eye was the macaroni four cheese ($7.50), which combines mozzarella, Parmesan, fontina and mascarpone cheeses and macaroni. All pasta dishes are served with garlic bread.
Via Via Brick Oven Pizza is located at 205 Meeting Street, Providence and is open for lunch six days a week at 11.am. On Fridays, the restaurant opens at 3 p.m. For takeout or more information, call 831-8668.
Brian J. Lowney is a reporter for the Providence Visitor and the pet columnist for the Herald News (Fall River) and now for theNew Bedford Standard Times. He enjoys the wonderful Rhode Island restaurant scene and writing about the cornucopia of outstanding dining and retail food establishments we have been blessed with throughout the region.