At the latest restaurant from the Emily team, you won’t find any of its signature white pizzas, Detroit-style square pies or Instagram-favorite Emmy Burger on the menu.
Violet, slated to open Thursday in the East Village, pays homage to Rhode Island, from the name (the state flower) to the menu’s grilled pizza and seafood.
“I kind of wanted to be slightly different than Emily and Emmy Squared,” says chef and owner Matthew Hyland, who is also behind the wood-fired pizzeria and Detroit-inspired pizza spot, respectively. “We’ll have a little more refined experience, but still the same style of food that we do — we like to have fun. It’s not going to be pretentious or anything.”
The menu does include pizza, but of the grilled variety, inspired by the iconic Italian restaurant Al Forno in Providence, which Hyland frequented while attending Roger Williams University.
“Al Forno is my favorite pizza out there, I think it’s the best pizza there is,” Hyland says. “I kind of want to do an homage to that and not drive four hours to Providence every time I want it.”
At Violet, that means thin, unevenly shaped pies that are grilled over a hybrid gas-wood grill and lightly topped with ingredients like grilled winter squash, broccoli and pistachio pesto, clams, roasted garlic pickle and tahini duxelles. Scissors are served for cutting slices, in a departure from the Al Forno experience.
“It’s definitely influenced by but not strictly adherent,” Hyland says. “The same way we do Detroit pizza — I’m not looking to do a restaurant that’s just Detroit food. I’m not trying to make a Rhode Island restaurant or a Detroit restaurant. These are the things that I like that are inspired by these dishes.”
Those influences can be seen beyond the grilled pizza to the menu’s small plates, which is heavy on seafood, from the clam “stuffies” with linguiça, pretzel stuffing and uni to a play on fish and chips called Fish & Chicks. A homemade pasta section includes spaghetti and clams and, in another homage to Al Forno, a baked fusilli with vodka sauce.
More global influences can be seen throughout the menu, from the grilled shrimp with Calabrian Sichuan butter to the Portuguese malasadas for dessert.
“We’re not trying to get super hard-core nerdy Rhode Island,” Hyland says. “We’ll bring some ingredients in. But we’re just trying to have fun with it.”
Beverages include cocktails, beer and wine, the latter curated by Pizza Loves Emily partner Emily Hyland. The 51-seat space features a four-seat chef’s counter at the open kitchen.
This is the sixth restaurant from the Pizza Loves Emily Group in five years. Since opening its Clinton Hill hot spot Emily in 2014, it has since added an outpost in the West Village. Its Detroit-style pizza spinoff Emmy Squared has locations in Williamsburg, the East Village and Nashville. This past fall, the team had another milestone, with the publication of its first cookbook, “Emily.”
Violet is located at 511 E. Fifth St. For more info, visit violeteastvillage.com.