Federal Hill Pizza and Chef Billy Manzo–it just doesn’t get any better.

Students were rapt as Chef Manzo humorously and candidly discussed his philosophy of making pizza and doing business. He, along with his wife and partner Christine, enthusiastically answered questions, their obvious passion–and lots of hard work–explaining their success. Federal Hill Pizza is located both in Warren and Providence.

Billy & Christine

An Abbey student encounters pizza very frequently—both the hardly biteable ones served at Stillman or the greasy ones delivered by North End Pizzeria. These pizzas epitomize the fast-paced spirit that dominates our student life. Pick up a pizza, devour the cheese,meat, and grease on it, and proceed to the next event. 

But are we missing out the beauty of pizza delicately created by the balance of proper ingredients and the process of cooking itself? Certainly at the Abbey, but not at Federal HillPizza. Last Sunday, our trip to the Federal Hill Pizzeria gave me a little insight into the beauty of pizza. Expecting a simple grab-and-go pizza trip, I was surprised and amazed by the incredible reception and lecture from Chef Billy. 

Chef Billy began with a long talk about his personal experience and the business side of the pizza business,reiterating his philosophy of creating a different mode of pizza business that differs from Domino’s almost assembly-line-like mode. Instead of optimizing hisprofit, he wanted to make the best pizza with the best ingredients. He also talked about the process of cooking itself, explaining the nuances of ingredients and cooking appliances. 

The most exciting part—eating—came after these cool experiences. The freshly-baked Margherita Pizza truly embodied Chef Billy’s cooking philosophy, harmoniously combining some of the best cheese and flour. The savor of Caesar Salad, pasta, and the dessert was also simply beyond the power of my description. 

Sitting on the bus on the way back to our lovely Cory’s Lane, I realized that the trip was not only about tasting the food but also about learning about the philosophy of cooking and appreciating its beauty. The trip offered me a new perspective of pizza, an often oversimplified and underrated food. – David Sun ‘19

Pizzas out of the thousands-dollar Neapolitan brick oven are something else. Unlike that of worldwide chain pizzerias, a bite off a slice of pizza from Federal Hill Pizza is nothing of greasy pepperoni, dense bread, and cheese that taste like plastic. And a note-taking moment from Chef Billy: Federal Hill Pizza uses authentic and original pork pepperoni, instead of beef ones that just make the pizza overall oily. From the buttery and fluffy bread to milky cheese, those pizzas taste fulfilling, but by no means heavy. The most surprising taste experienced was a watery sensation, accomplishing the rich but light texture of the pizzas. 

One cannot help but wonder who the chef behind the juicy deliciousness is. Chef Billy from Federal Hill Pizza is a true character. When asked about his vision for the restaurant, he confirmed his hope for expanding, but also stating the belief that the most important thing for any restaurant is quality. In the midst of the rapid development of the food industry, he firmly holds on to his identity and stays true to who he is. His charismatic confidence and humor will brand his restaurant and educate more eaters, as he wishes.–Evelyn Long ‘19

Chef William Manzo Jr. not only serves up some of the best pizza in Rhode Island, he does so with such charisma and enthusiasm. Hidden behind a seemingly small and innocent pizza shop lies a great hidden gem of Providence. After passing behind the counter,one finds themselves in a whole new restaurant, dark and dimly lit, with an air of romance in the decoration. From the red brick walls to the hanging light bulbs,the interior design evokes a sense of romance which can only be truly describedby the man at the centre of it all: Chef Billy. Even after 30 seconds of hearing him speak, it is evident the clear passion he has for his craft and thelocation which means so much to his own upbringing. He details the lengths he has gone to in order to obtain the most natural ingredients, which leads into the amazing taste of his final products.

The simple Margherita pizza Chef Billy presented had a certain je ne se quoi which differentiates it from others. Perhaps it was the special cheese with butter fat which gave it that extra flavor, or the impressively grand brick oven imported from Italy that made the bread just right, but the compilation of many different factors made the simple dish perfect. It was clear that in making such a basic dish,Chef Billy has dissected every small detail of the process to ensure the best quality. From water pH levels to atmospheric humidity, no factor was considered too small in serving the best dish to his customers.

Overall, Chef Billy has created a truly special dining experience, integrating his attention to detail with traditional Italian flavors, forming remarkable dishes.– Jonathan Susilo‘19

Upon taking the first step inside Federal Hill Pizza, the smell of brick ovens and cooking pizza dough danced around the room,adding to the both endearing and highly professional atmosphere of the restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island. Chef Billy Manzo, a man with one of the widest varieties of past employment imaginable, found a love for making real pizza, and it shows. His process of gathering ingredients alone, before even attempting to make the pizza, is noteworthy. He researches what ingredients will be the best, from what region of the world and for what pizza. One of, if not the most important factor in pizza is the care that is put in to making its foundations the best quality itcan be. Then, of course, the magnificent brick ovens from Italy cannot be ignored. Every detail is accounted for—the way the bricks were put into the oven, the type of wood used for the fire, and the temperature the dough should be before going into the oven.

            After learning about the intense science, business and art behind pizza, an aromatic smell wafted through the air signaling it was finally time to eat. The star of the day, the Neapolitan pizza. Dressed with cheese that had a slightly savory butter fat and an astounding red sauce on a perfectly cooked dough, each bitewas met with utter harmony. The cheese instantly melted into the amazing gooey texture cheese should be. Combined with the sauce and the crust with a slight crisp to it, it was clear the precise care that was put in to creating that pizza. That pizza tasted as pizza should. And, even with a full belly, it would be impossible or extremely regrettable to turn down the Nutella and fried dough balls. The chocolate spread melted onto the warm fried dough, making it soft but still maintaining a crispy bite. They are dangerously addictive. It’s an experience filled with enticing smells, friendly company, wonderful presentation and, of course, some of the best food any one person could ever indulge in. –Abby Gibbons ‘19

For most Americans, pizza evokes thoughts of quick delivery and greasy cardboard boxes, but at Federal Hill Pizza, one Rhode Island chefs aims to make a change. If only one word could be used to summarize Chef Billy Manzo’s philosophy of pizza, it would be “quality.” This dedication to quality starts first with the ingredients, which Manzo explained needed tobe not only excellent, but more importantly, consistently excellent. Next, the methods must be equally consistent. In developing his “flavor profile,” Manzo said that every conceivable variable, including the composition of the atmosphere, the pH of the water, and even the temperature of the dough before it goes into the oven must be taken into account to avoid huge differences in the final product. Although Manzo’s high-quality equipment, including ovens especially imported from Italy and wood that’s hand-selected from New England trees, comes with a much higher up-front cost, the businessman-turned-chef explained that in the long run, such investments actually saved money as they lasted longer with lower maintenance costs in addition to making better pizza.

            Although some might call Manzo’s attention to detail “obsessive,” the results of his commitment to quality became quickly apparent with the first bite. The first flavor to make itself known was the dough, so often an afterthought in fast food pizza. The wonderful taste and consistency of the warm pizza dough immediately concretized everything that the chef had said, from the Italian double-zero flour to each painstakingly controlled environmental variable,creating a rich and wonderful flavor independent of the toppings. We sampled two different variants of Federal Hill’s signature Neapolitan pizza, one made with shredded cheese, and the second featuring what Manzo describe as “real cheese,” containing over 18% butterfat. Just as the pizza dough had taken on a whole new dimension, so this contrast showed the same phenomena for the cheese,elevating it to a hitherto unknown richness of flavor. Atop this foundation,the fresh toppings provided just the right amount of refined and detailed flavoring in perfect combination. Through his remarkable focus on quality, Chef Billy Manzo not only turns pizza-making into an exact science, but also a fine art. – David Sozanski ‘19

To me, pizza has always been the epitome of fast food. Parmesan cheese with tomato sauce on top of kneaded dough, together were placed inside an oven for two minutes. However,just like my friend Patrick Flanigan said: “There is a beauty to a pizza;”pizza has the potential of becoming a gourmet dish, such as the one that I sawat Federal Hill Pizza in Providence. After a brief two hours with the owner,Billy, I realize that he is an absolute perfectionist. His parmesan cheese was home-made, pepper brought in only from Turkey, dough was made under the perfect conditions with filtered pH 7 water. To top all these meticulous details, heimported an original Italian oven at the price of thousands of dollars.

Billy had a vision for Federal Hill Pizza very different from money-making. In fact, he looks down upon Dominos and other pizzeria and refer to them as “tech companies.” As a high school student, I have great respect for his idea. Combining Top-Class ingredients with the intention of only making Top-Class food, Billy truly differentiated himself from the mediocre pizza places. All of these are exemplified and consolidated in his Margherita pizza. Steaming, with cheese that pulls string, and the fresh olive scent, that pizza was the best that I have ever tasted. —Peter Liu ‘19

When walking up to Federal Hill Pizza, it looks like any other small town pizza joint. However, after walking in you see all the history in the building and every calculated decision that makes the restaurant what it is today. Then there is the story of Billy Manzo Jr., who has seemingly done everything imaginable from working on movie sets to liquidating as a banker. But having worked with Wolfgang Puck himself, there is no doubt that he has a passion for making pizza, something that is evident the minute you step into his kitchen. It was clear that he enjoyed our presence, and he answered every question we asked with a huge smile on his face. One piece of advice in particular that he gave us was reallymoving: “Do because you want to do” instead of doing because of what people will think about you if you do. 

As for the food, every piece was melded together in perfect harmony. The dough had to be the right temperature in order to be baked perfectly. The cheese was made from 14% butterfat which made it extremely creamy and gooey. The tomatoes provided the perfect amount of acidity. He drizzled a mixture of olive oil and animal fat on top,the richness of which tied the whole thing together. Lastly, it was baked at 725 degrees at a lightning fast minute and a half. The whole meal was topped off with donut holes that were crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside dusted with powdered sugar and Nutella drizzled on top. The toppings added the perfect amount of sweetness to the dish, which was surprisingly very light considering it was fried. –Sarah Costa ‘19

As the gigantic poster on the wall of the restaurant phrases it, Billy Manzo is a pizza magician: inmethod, taste, and philosophy.  

The high-quality ingredients put on Mr. Manzo’s pizza like Chilean pepper should cost him a lot,but not for Mr. Manzo; he buys them for free. After buying a few trailers of Chilean peppers, he retails half of the peppers to individual shops, profiting him enough to pay for the peppers and transportation. He only uses the remaining half for his pizzas, of course, for free. 

Billy Manzo reminds that cooking and baking—capturing the perfect taste of food— is simply chemistry.But it isn’t simple chemistry. He calls his food “product” for a good reason.Like a master-chemist writing chemical formulas and drawing chiral structures of an organic compound in a laboratory, Mr. Manzo controls anything that can influence his pizza’s taste: pH ratio, temperature, protein structure,pressure, and the list can go on. His pizza is baked under a brick oven with ventilation capable of withstanding 3000º F. This makes it possible to bake his pizzas crisp and hot in a mere one and half minutes. He also built the oven in Naples to fit the atmospheric pressures of Providence. The bricks inside the oven are freely suspended by the weight of the oven, allowing them to expand and contract. He also controls for the pH of water using water filtration system so that every food ingredient that meets the water remains neutral,which creates a purer pizza taste. Keeping everything in room temperature(73-73º F) is crucial, Mr. Manzo says, because he wants to cook the pizza foran exact amount of time, at room temperature, in the oven he selected. He compares the process to a Tango dance: “If the dough is too cold, the dance in my oven isn’t going to go too well.” This is what he believes cooking should do. His cooking reflects the man’s integrity. 

Surely the taste of hispizza does not, and cannot, betray the laws of chemistry. A simple Margherita pizza can taste a million different ways, but his pizza demonstrates the importance of ingredients and scientific attention to details. The dough was crisp, blending in with the juicy flavor of the 50% butter-cheese. The surface of the pizza was waterier than expected, but abundance of crust on the edges seemed to balance out its wateriness. The al taglio on the rectangular dish tasted more like a common pepperoni pizza and was drier than the margherita,but no less impressive. The crust did not feel like a burden hindering the taste of the pizza or the leftover, but a part that completes its toppings.   Jason Lim ‘19

Due to the ease of getting pizza anywhere at any time, I have never truly thought about all of the steps that go into making one pizza. Chef Billy Manzo showed how each decision he makes about the products and method he uses to make his pizza influences the end result. The carefully filtered water, the flour without sugar, and the twice yearly recipe adjustments show Chef Manzo’s careful attention to detail. Every decision is thought through both in respect to the amount of money that certain things would cost and the overall result it would have on the pizza. Chef Manzo’s unique background allow him to create a business in which he can buy a crate of red peppers and sell half of them to pay off the price of the entire crate. This allows him to use those peppers at basically no cost. The location of the restaurant in Providence, an old movie theater Chef Manzo used to frequent,adds to the overall story of Federal Hill Pizza. Chef Manzo showed us how the cold pizza dough gets stretched and kneaded to the perfect temperature. The red tomato sauce coats the top and the rich slices of 18% butterfat mozzarella cheese are sporadically placed around the pizza. Then the Californian olive oil is sprinkled the top of the pizza before it goes into the unmortared brick oven. Even the super dry logs are carefully chosen to ensure the best experience.The pizza comes out of the oven mere minutes later. The pizza is cut, and every single element of the pizza looks and smells amazing. As I take my first bite,the mozzarella tastes buttery and delicious. The crust is perfect, not too thin,but adds just enough support that the end does not droop each time I pick it up. I could have eaten the puffy golden-brown crust alone and still enjoyed this experience just as much. Every minute spent at Federal Hill Pizza, I learned how to appreciate both the pizza and the story behind it. –Elise Banderob ‘19

As we first walked into Federal Hill Brick Oven Pizza, we thought it was only a small store until we stepped into two spacious dining areas. Chef Billy showed up in his favorite fanciest chef jacket and asked us to introduce ourselves. His experiences aftercollege were really impressive as well as his ideas of pizza.

According to Chef Billy,making pizza is like conducting chemical experiments. He is really strict with the ingredients and the recipe so that everything will be perfect. From the acidity of water to the amount of yeast and from the temperature of the doughto the oven, he has his own particular measurement. Different types of pizza are like different chemical products resulted from different procedures. 

Chef Billy made and baked the most classic Pizza Margherita himself, and no one waited for the pizza to cool down. The rich mozzarella melted on the top and complemented well with the red sauce. The taste of basil and olive oil was really fresh. Everything went together perfectly without any excess. –Sylvie Qiu ‘19

Federal Hill Pizza, a place to adore, and a pizza shop bursting with enthusiastic employees. Owner and head chef Billy Manzo is one of them, greetingour group with his utmost appreciation and sharing his life story prior to a truly wonderful meal. Pizza not only satisfies hunger, but also brings people together. Chef Manzo set this impression upon the group, and the pizza did not disappoint. Knowing every ingredient that goes into any food before eating it makes the dish that much more delicious. What Federal Hill Pizza was able to accomplish was that, and much more. The chef had a knack for storytelling,while also introducing a perspective of fine dining, which amazes and excites at the same time. His knowledge of the business is quite respectable, and to recommend his shop to anyone would be an understatement. Indulge in this cuisine, and enjoy Federal Hill Pizza’s stunning atmosphere.  —DanTeravainen ‘19

The Crew and Billy

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