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A Tale of Two Wieners

17 03 14 - 10:36 Guy Fieri has spent years trying to perfect his recipe for them. Health magazine named them to their 50 fattiest foods in America list. But last week, the James Beard Foundation -- the arbiter of all things outstanding in the culinary world -- bestowed Olneyville New York System Hot Wieners in Providence with a 2014 "America's Classics" award.

According to the Beard Foundation website: "This honor is given to regional establishments, often family-owned, that are treasured for their quality food, local character, and lasting appeal."

Wiener "joints" are numerous in Rhode Island, and part of the unique culinary landscape of the state. They first appeared in the early 1900s and are as popular today as ever.The wieners are made from pork veal and beef and cut to about four inches in length. Because they are small, most people eat three or four at a sitting. When counter help prepares them, the buns are stacked up on the clerk's forearm, the wiener is inserted, and the rest of the ingredients are slopped on (really, it's designed to be an un-glamorous process) according to taste. Order them "all the way" if you want everything: mustard, chopped raw onions, celery salt and the iconic meat sauce.

Olneyville New York System is one of the most popular and has three locations in Rhode Island. Greg and Stephanie Stevens are the fourth-generation owners.

Original New York System Hot Wieners on Smith Street in Providence is also at the top of the list in wiener popularity. Generations ago this location was owned by the same family as the Olneyville restaurant, until a disagreement led to a separation.

David Giardino is the new -- the first generation -- owner of Original New York System Hot Wieners. A born-and-raised Rhode Islander, he is a successful entrepreneur who owns the Turino Group in Providence, a well-regarded company that works closely with government agencies and private corporations throughout the life-cycle of heavy highway transportation and construction projects. Giardino bought Original New York System from its former owners because, as he says, he "grew up with wieners and coffee milk and wanted to help preserve the tradition."

Olneyville New York System Hot Wieners, 18 Plainfield St., Providence, RI 02909, (401) 621-9500
Original New York System Hot Wieners, 424 Smith St, Providence, RI 02908, (401) 331-5349; David Giardino's cell is 401-487-4827.

For more information, email Mark Brodeur, Rhode Island Director of Tourism

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