The Best Calzones I've Ever Had at Jeannette's Bakery in Providence, RI


[Photographs: Liz Bomze]

I love reading chef interviews about where they go to eat in their free time, because more often than not, they bring attention to small, local spots with a great dish or two that go otherwise unnoticed by most people and the press.

Take this Meet & Eat with Farmstead/La Laiterie chef/owner Matt Jennings. My two pickups from this interview were Allie's Doughnuts in North Kingstown and Jeanette's Bakery Shoppe, an old-school Italian joint peddling pizza strips and, according to Jennings, the best calzones.

If it weren't for the sign hanging over the door, you'd surely drive by Jeannette's. It appears out of nowhere on a largely residential stretch of Branch Avenue, and it occupies the first floor of a house. (Word has it, though, that there's typically a line out the door—helpful as a landmark, at least. And a good reason to call ahead.) The inside looks woefully understocked, with virtually nothing on display, but it quickly becomes clear that the fresh-baked stuff's in the back. Just tell the nice, patient lady behind the counter what you want and she'll retrieve it for you.

For me, that was the Spinach-Cheese-Black Olive and the Eggplant Parm (both $5, cash only). It was a decision I came to after much deliberation—and some strong but good-natured advice from the long-time patrons in line ahead of me. (They also strongly recommended the Pepperoni and the Bacon Cheeseburger.) And they were by far the best calzones I'd ever had.

The dough, which neatly houses an amount of gooey filling that would surely bulge out of most calzones, manages to be both durable and (dare I say) light-to-eat. That extraordinary combination prompted this rather silly thought in my mind: it's as if the dough was engineered for exactly this purpose, not just a wad of pizza dough stretched into a different shape.

As for the fillings, I couldn't be asked to pick between them. The spinach is chock-full of the green stuff, plus plenty of gooey cheese and salty canned black olives (the spinach deluxe, which adds pepperoni, and the spinach pie get raves, too). The eggplant parm filling looks like mincemeat, has a fluffy-rich texture, and tastes like a version of the casserole you'd find in a good red-sauce joint.