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Tommy's Pizza Brings a Touch of Federal Hill Providence, North End of Boston to Cranston RI
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Tom Sacco of Tommy's Pizza in Cranston RI
Tommy's Pizza owner Tom Sacco proudly displays Italian style pizza that has been a Rhode Island favorite for three generations in the Providence area

Article and photos by Eric H.

Tommy's Pizza in Cranston, R.I. proves that you can't always judge a book by its cover.

It's certainly easy to mistake this Oaklawn Ave., storefront as just another pizza place. The plain sign with a pizza house name -- that could be located in any town -- suggests yet another assembly-line "10 minutes, please" type of place that favors convenience and dependability over anything that actually tastes good.

That incorrect assumption goes right away when walking into Tommy's Pizza. The spacious, modern yet friendly dining room with wonderful sunlight coming into the space features a wine rack, a bar/counter with an urban vibe rather than a diner-type feel, up-to-date tables and chairs, and wall paneling made from wine crates.

Tommy's Pizza dining room, Cranston RI
The inviting dining room and bar area at Tommy's Pizza

Wine rack at Tommy's Pizza, Cranston RI
Wine rack at Tommy's Pizza

Tommy's Pizza wine box wall, Crnaston RI
Wall paneling made from wine crates

Third generation Tommy's Pizza owner Tom Sacco and his staff welcome diners as if they were family -- quite remarkable as the constant preparation of freshly-made food and the busy, bustling nature of the place could very well take time away from that personal touch.

"You are a stranger once, then a friend after you first come here," said Sacco. "It's just my obsession, I want to make everyone happy."

Sacco has the restaurant business built into his DNA, as the result of grandfather founding the original Tommy's Pizza location at 936 Chalkstone Ave., in Providence, R.I., in 1955. Through the years, Sacco listened, learned, worked his tail off and gained culinary and business wisdom. Most importantly, it seems Sacco has always had the gift of genuinely liking people.

A retired businessman, who comes to Tommy's Pizza, about four times a week quipped, "Tommy really pays attention to detail here -- I mean, he knows how I pick apart my fish. He'll tell you exactly how I do that. Where else are you going to find that attention to detail? You won't find a better fresh baked cod, either!"

"Fish tales" aside, the Cranston and Providence locations have thrived as, unlike many other family restaurants, the newest generation decided to continue the business without compromising any of the quality. It not only shows in the food and thoughtful dining room layout, but also in the spirit of long-time employees like Karen and Meghan who have worked here for years.

Waitresses at Tommy's Pizza, Cranston RI
Long-time waitresses Karen and Meghan ready to serve some delicious Italian dishes

While the Chalkstone St. location focuses on pizzas, subs and salads, Sacco's six-year-old Cranston restaurant has more in common with Italian restaurants in the Federal Hill area of Providence and the North End of Boston -- two prominent Italian neighborhoods know for outstanding Italian restaurants.

Tommy's Pizza in Cranston might not have the more formal or "date night" sheen of some of those restaurants, but the informal, inviting dining room and outstanding food selections make for a fantastic, convenient Italian cuisine alternative in an easily accessible suburban Cranston location, virtually right off the highway (Route 295).

Pizza is clearly a specialty here -- somewhat of a hybrid between traditional Italian and Sicilian. Don't stop there, though: selections like the chicken parm, "Tommy's Combo" of sausage, meatballs peppers and pasta, and homemade Italian-inspired soups will bring you into a delicious, authentic Italian dining state-of-mind. Tommy's extensive menu includes antipasto, pasta fagioli, eggplant pie, baked macaroni, linguine with calamari, chicken marsala, veal spezzatino and homemade desserts.

Chicken parm and pasta from Tommy's Pizza, Cranston RI

Even just the basics like homemade bread, a meatball sub, fries and salad go way beyond the typical Italian cuisine found in suburbia...

Tommy's Pizza Cranston - meatball sub, fries, beer

Tommy's Pizza Cranston - homemade brad, salad, beer

"My sister-in-law comes in here -- and she eats in the North End and Federal Hill -- and orders the veal medallions, "says Karen. "It is just as good (as Federal Hill and North End restaurants), and the veal melts in your mouth!"

Sourcing locally plays a huge role in the fresh-tasting foods.

"We do our best to go local -- squash, native tomatoes and other locally grown veggies" said Sacco. "Even meats, and we also have a local fish guy that we buy from."

Additionally, Tommy's favors a family-friendly atmosphere.

"When we created this restaurant, I wanted to make sure that it was family-friendly," said Sacco. "Sure, we do have a liquor license, but we don't push it. People could be drinking at the bar, but there could be a (kids) soccer team eating at the tables. So, we keep that in mind and try to make it a great experience for everyone."

The quality of food, the good prices, friendly service and nicely appointed dining room and bar area result in a beloved local restaurant, and a place that will completely surprise an out--of-towner thinking this is just another pizza place.

"My grandfather opened the Chalkstone St. restaurant in 1955 and we expanded, opening the Cranston location," said Sacco. "This (the Cranston location) is not a pizza place. It's really a place where you can get  authentic Italian meals. I have great pride in what we have here."

Tommy's Pizza is located at 870 Oaklawn Ave., Cranston RI. Tel. (401) 944-8669. The Providence location: 936 Chalkstone Ave. Tel. (401) 351-4141

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