Order this... More than pizza at Block Island Pizza Pie Co.
As things quiet down on the island and fall rolls in, life becomes more simple.
After Columbus Day, most places will close and you might be wondering where you can go to get a cup of coffee, maybe a breakfast sandwich, or something for lunch or dinner. This year you can add Block Island Pizza Pie Co., located on Corn Neck Road, to a list of places that will be serving coffee and breakfast along with hot hearty meals from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Thursday through Sunday through the end of December.
Steven Grandolfi, the general manager and head chef at Block Island Pizza, has a long history with food and restaurant work. He began, as many do, washing dishes at his cousin’s restaurant, then worked in a restaurant as part of a work-study program in high school. He went to Johnson and Wales Culinary Institute, made his way to Kentucky to cook at an Italian place there, and ended back in Rhode Island at The Mews tavern in Wakefield. When The Mews acquired a wood-fired pizza oven he became the pizza guy, and that spurred Kevin Finnegan to ask Steve to come out and manage his pizza business on Block Island.
Steve speaks highly of both the community and the employees who he has come to know this year and last. When he opened the business last year, it was one week shy of July 4 and he had to hit the ground running. He says that “everyone helped —Turtle, Cathie from the bank, and others — they all helped me get everything working right away so we could start taking orders almost immediately.” Steve is especially complimentary toward the international workers, many who have come back this year. He said that not only are they fantastic workers, but he has fun with them, too. Steve also has great respect for owner Finnegan, who, he says “runs his businesses very well.”
With kitchen facilities limited to a pizza oven and an induction burner for a stove, Steve is creative about making magic with food. Some of the new fall entries will feature refried beans and pulled pork and chicken, all made from scratch. He has also created a breakfast pizza with tomato sauce, eggs, bacon, ham and peppers that’s topped with french fries.
Here’s some more about Steve:
Q: What’s your earliest food memory that made you think “I want to work in a restaurant?”
A: My first memory is as a kid watching my mother have to cook for our family after working a full day. I started helping her with making box cakes, small tasks, doing dishes, etc.
Q: How did you end up cooking on Block Island?
A: Kevin Finnegan, who owns the business, is a guy I’ve know for 30 years. He approached me and asked if I was interested in taking over the pizza place out here. I had started the pizza segment of The Mews tavern on the mainland and have also owned my own pizzeria, so I said I’d do it.
Q: Who is your most memorable customer?
A: Joe Po (works for the town). I remember him from the old days at The Mews, but I hadn’t seen him in a long time. One day I’m working and he comes in; I hear that voice and even though I haven’t seen him in 25 years, I knew who it was right away. He is a great guy and always gives me constructive criticism as long as I get him a Harpoon IPA.
Q: If you’re eating out on the island, what other restaurant do you go to and what do you order?
A: I go to Kimberly’s and I order the steak au pouivre.
Q: What is your favorite food to cook with on the island?
A: Pizza, of course!
Q: What’s your favorite dish to cook right now that you wish everyone would order at least once?
A: My new favorites are the fall specials that are about to debut on the menu: a bagel and egg sandwich with bacon and tomato, the breakfast pizza, beef lasagna, chicken and pork burritos, and pot roast with mashed potatoes and gravy.
Q: What is the one food you never want to eat again?
A: Sushi, that is one thing I never want to eat again.
Q: What would you want to eat for your last meal?
A: I’d like a 42-ounce T-bone steak and French fries.
Q: What was your best-selling pizza this summer?
A: The Block — House sauce, cheese, tomato, prosciutto, fresh mozzarella and roasted peppers, drizzled with balsamic glaze.
Q: As a pizza guy, what is your favorite pizza to eat?
A: Pepperoni. I believe in keeping it simple.
Chef Steve brought us a great sampling of many of the dishes he’ll be offering for the fall.
A breakfast sandwich was served on an onion bagel, filled with a fluffy egg/spinach frittata, crispy bacon, tomato and mozzarella/cheddar cheese. The onion in the bagel gave the sandwich a nice tangy taste, and we felt the sandwich size was perfect for a hearty breakfast meal.
The next three entrées spoke along the same lines — comfort food that is perfect for cool weather days. A beef lasagna was generously sized and brimming with seasoned beef, ricotta cheese, marinara sauce and fresh garlic, and was served with delicious, perfectly toasted garlic bread.
Steve spoke of the burritos as his “pride and joy,” and we can see why he feels that way.
We enjoyed the chicken burrito, another plentiful dish served with Mexican-seasoned rice, lettuce and tomato. The pulled chicken was savory and the house-made refried beans added a lovely spice to the dish. Steve noted that in the fall, the burrito will also come with guacamole, sour cream and fresh salsa. An ample serving of pot roast and mashed potatoes rounded out our tasting. The pot roast was fork-tender and covered with Steve’s house-made gravy. My husband pronounced the dish had a “traditional, homemade Sunday dinner flavor like my mom used to make.”
Steve said the restaurant will still carry the usual menu items into the fall such as chicken fingers, wings, mac and cheese and pizza.
The burrito will come with either pork or chicken and Steve is open to other ideas, as well.
If you’re looking for comfort food at a reasonable price, stop by to visit, chat with Steve, and maybe try the breakfast pizza or make some suggestions of your own.
Block Island Pizza Pie Co. is the place to go.