More than most foods, pizza has advocates who line up with firm positions on how they like it: thin or thick-crusted; grilled or oven-baked; a whisper of sauce or a puddle; cheese dolloped or melting everywhere. I've even heard New Jerseyites proclaim that "there's something in the water that makes Jersey pizza great" (don't speculate on what that might be).
|Cosmic Steak, Pizza & Weiners | 401.781.5410 | 1171 Post Rd, Warwick | Call for hours | Major credit cards | Sidewalk-level accessible|
But when foodie friends recently mentioned their current favorite pizza, I took their advice and was introduced to one of those Rhode Island landmarks: Cosmic Steak, Pizza & Wieners, established in 1977. It's the kind of place where the staff greets many customers by name, tries to make newcomers feel completely at home, and banters with each other in good-natured fun. If you listen carefully, you get plenty of stories to take home with your pizza or grinders.
Thus, on my first stop at Cosmic, I overheard a man telling the counter person about the cops pulling a guy over and finding a gas tank filled with money — a specially-built second gas tank for drug-runners. And why was the car pulled over? "It was a tip," he replied, in a thick Rhody accent, "ya know what I mean?"
But even more than the entertainment at Cosmic, it's the food that keeps customers happy: classic pasta dishes, such as eggplant, chicken, or veal parmesan; 13 variations on shaved steak grinders; Friday fish and chips (highly recommended by my storytelling friend); a long list of grinders and pizzas; several salad and calzone incarnations; spinach and broccoli pies; plus hamburgers, wings, and wieners. All at rock-bottom prices in these penny-pinching times.
In a fit of carnivorosity, Bill ordered a small "meat lovers" pizza, the option with "4-5 toppings" ($9.50). This meant that we could identify pepperoni, sausage, meatball halves, ham, and bits of bacon atop the sauce (on a thick and tasty crust) and under the generously applied cheese.
Our friend Baiba, who'd joined us on this expedition, split a baked pepper and anchovy pizza with me (small $6.40, large $10.65 for a "2-way combination"). She also garnered one piece of Bill's, and the three of us felt stuffed from two small pizzas.
She and I both commented on the taste of the "baked peppers" — they looked roasted — as much more successful for pizza than fresh-cut ones. We also appreciated the hefty amount of anchovies.
Across the aisle from our molded Formica booth (there are eight), two teens could not make much headway into a large pizza; they took home a small box of slices. The male parental figure enjoyed the spaghetti and meatballs but also took some home, while the female parent had a "chef's salad," a hearty, meal-sized portion, with lots of shredded cheese on top.
Bill ordered a steak grinder to go called Cosmic's Pride, topped with onions, mushrooms, baked peppers, cheese, and chili. How could a meat-eater go wrong with that combo? He loved it, and he was flabbergasted by the size of the "regular" (10-inch for $6.85. 14-inch for $11.60). He could only eat half at one sitting.
I'd second that for the size of our take-away calzone, kind of like a medium pizza folded in half, with slits to show the sauce, sautéed eggplant, and cheese beaming through. And just as delicious as our pizzas.
The counter person/waitress told me that pepperoni and cheese remains the pizza favorite, though the new "taco" pizza is catching up. The latter features sauce, ground meat with Mexican spices, cheese and, post-oven, shredded lettuce, tomato, and onions. Indeed, several of the hot oven grinders are listed with L, T, and O. Grinders also offer chicken six ways: marinated/grilled, Buffalo, teriyaki, BBQ, salad-ized, and parmesan-ed; regular meatball, plus, meatball with Italian sausage and those scrumptious baked peppers, which also come into play on the pastrami alla Cosmic.
To while away the wait for an order, Cosmic has kindly provided a Spider-Man arcade game. Bill did his best to reach the high score of 172 million, but it looks like we'll have to make another trip for him to try again. Oh, yes, and to grab a couple of these wonderful pies!
Johnette Rodriguez can be reached at email@example.com.