Founded in 1636 and home to a relatively modest population of 180,000, the city of Providence, Rhode Island, doesn’t act its age or its size. Instead it’s built a reputation as a lively East Coast destination that balances deep old-world roots with a modern sophistication. And nowhere is this more obvious than in its food scene — ranked among the best in the U.S. by Zagat, Travel + Leisure, and CNBC — which includes not only buzzed-about restaurants and bars but also superlative bakeries. Whether you crave wholesome breads made from New England–grown wheat or the most decadent of Old World pastries, there’s definitely a Providence bakery for you. Here are five of our favorites.
Sin is a lively space — all white-washed brick, ductwork, and wood with a full bar and look-through window to the bakery — but it’s quite all right if you only have eyes for the guilty pleasures it displays. By day, you’ll want an oversize pastry, savory biscuit, or whoopie pie with your tea or coffee, which can be flavored with house-made syrups such as smoked honey. At night, seven seasonal dessert-and-cocktail pairings are as sinful as their names (Greed, Lust, Envy, etc.) suggest. Named a 2019 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Bakery, Sweets.”
Sure, come to Seven Stars for the treats: flaky cinnamon buns, chewy oatmeal cookies, and even sugary-crusty kougin amann. But heaven help you if you don’t take home one of the fresh-baked loaves that have put this place on the map. Co-owner Jim Williams is one of bakers leading the New England “grainiac” revolution, which emphasizes breads made with locally grown and milled ingredients. At Seven Stars, this takes the form of hearty baguettes and breads featuring flour and grains from Skowhegan’s Maine Grains. It also drives Williams’s side project, Backdoor Breads, in which he mills his own regionally sourced organic whole grains. Since opening in 2001, Seven Stars has grown to three locations: Hope Street on the East Side, Broadway on the West Side, and the Rumford Center in East Providence. You also can frequently find them at local farmers’ markets — so what are you waiting for? Named a 2013 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Artisanal Bread.”
With its robin’s-egg blue façade, yellow and white striped awning, and bloom-filled window boxes, this Federal Hill bakery/café exudes European charm. It’s a promise of what you’ll find inside: displays of jewel-like confections that would do any Parisian patisserie proud. There are rich cakes such as lemon mousse and — oh my! — torta di cioccolata, sold whole or by the slice. There are mouthwatering tarts stuffed with fruit and custard. There are eclairs, cannoli, and biscotti alongside all-American goodies like fudgy brownies and wild blueberry muffins. Choosing can be difficult, so don’t rush it. Instead, order one of the expertly crafted coffee drinks to sip as you mull over which indulgence to take home today — and which to come back for next time. Named a 2011 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Pastries.”
This wee bake shop comes with a pretty big pedigree. It was launched in 2012 by Ellen Slattery as an offshoot of Gracie’s, her four-time AAA Four Diamond restaurant in downtown Providence. Overseeing the sweet creations at both locations is Melissa Denmark, the only Rhode Island chef (and one of only five pastry chefs nationwide) to be named a finalist for Zagat’s “30 Under 30” list in 2017. No surprise Ellie’s quickly established itself as the place to go for a mix of classic pastries (croissants, bouchons) and inventive ones (croissant-dough doughnuts, sweet potato Danishes), plus gourmet sandwiches and salads. Be sure not to miss the signature treat, French macarons done in a rainbow of flavors and colors — and sometimes even stuffed with homemade ice cream!
Many a hunt for the city’s best zeppole — the famed cream-filled Italian confection baked to celebrate St. Joseph’s Day in March — ends right here. And for good reason: LaSalle draws on a long tradition of Italian oven artistry that began under Jake DeMaria in 1935 and continues under his successors, Michael and Cheryl Manni, who took over in 1975. Today the bakery operates on Smith Street in the Elmhurst neighborhood and at a second, recently renovated location on nearby Admiral Street. Both stay busy seven days a week from 6 a.m. onward, serving up fine pastries, artisan bread, cakes, cookies, and pies, as well as turning out sandwiches, calzones, and other grab-and-go meals. The food speaks for itself — but it’s also worth noting that LaSalle is the first, and so far the only, Rhode Island bakery to be named Modern Baking’s retail bakery of the year.
Do you have a favorite Providence bakery? Let us know!