Monday, July 15, 2024

Thanksgiving Pizza Is a Beloved Tradition in Providence, Rhode Island

The day before Thanksgiving, most of the lines you see around the country are at grocery store checkouts, as people hurry to pick up last-minute ingredients. But if you walk down Wickenden Street in Providence, Rhode Island, on the third Wednesday in November, you’ll see a line of hungry customers down the block waiting for the most popular slice of pizza all year long.

Every year, for one day only, Fellini’s Pizzeria offers its famous Thanksgiving Pizza, topped with classic items from the holiday dinner table. Unorthodox among both pizza parlors and Thanksgiving celebrations, the unusual combo has inspired cult devotion, pre-orders months in advance, and annual crowds, who jostle for one of the coveted slices.

To make this iconic holiday feast of a pizza, the pizzeria bakes a whole wheat crust with mozzarella, then tops it with a layer of mashed potatoes, a pound of freshly house-roasted turkey, dollops of stuffing, and a generous splash of gravy. Customers can (and should) add cranberry sauce. As someone who has personally sampled this limited-time treat, if given the choice between one of Fellini’s pies and my actual Thanksgiving dinner, I’d take the pizza without a second thought.

Fellini’s has been a fixture on Providence’s historic East Side since 1989, turning out solid New York-style pizza most days. The Thanksgiving special came about 17 years ago, when owner Kristy Knoedler had a quandary familiar to anyone who celebrates the holiday: what to do with all the leftovers (after you’ve already made one beautiful, perfect leftovers sandwich). So she took them to work, and she got creative.

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“I had leftovers at my house from Thanksgiving, and I brought all my leftovers in and made the staff a leftover pizza, and it was incredible,” Knoedler told The Providence Journal in 2022. “So we’re like, ‘All right, we’ve gotta do this,’ and we did it the following year.”

In the beginning, Fellini’s offered only 20 or 30 of the Thanksgiving Pizzas, but then word got around. Now, the pizzeria and its sister location in nearby Cranston serve about 2,000 of them, moving the festivity from a leftovers extravaganza to the day before the holiday. Pies go for $47 each.

Despite the high price tag, the pizzas are almost impossible to get. On September 14, Fellini’s laid out the rules in a Facebook post: “Pizza pre-orders start Monday, September 25th at 11am. Call or walk-in to place your preorders! We sold out in four hours last year, and anticipate similar results this year. Thank you for your patience and support with our favorite time of the year! May the odds be ever in your favor!”

Customers reported trying to call to reserve their pies literally hundreds of times before getting through:

“I called over 100 times last year and I guess it just wasn’t my year to try this pizza…maybe this is my year,” Mel BC commented.

“Gotta keep calling,” Jessica Messier responded. “We got up to 250 before we got through.”

“Every year I try…every year I fail,” Erika Iafrate said. “This will finally be the year I get one!”

In just a couple of hours, pre-order spots were totally full at both locations. For everyone who missed the window, there’s always that line stretching down the block. Fellini’s offers walk-up slices for about $7 each.

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Pro tip: Wear comfortable shoes for the wait. And if you succeed, don’t try to pick up and fold your slice. Thanksgiving Pizza is best enjoyed with a knife and fork.

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