West Warwick, R.I. – Ferrucci's New York System is one of the bright spots in West Warwick's downtown business section in the village of Arctic. Locals gather here for breakfast - as well burgers, fries, wraps and seafood rolls. But this local eatery is best known for something else.
"Ah, weenies," says Michael Ferrucci, of Ferrucci's New York System.
Weenies or weiners. Not to be confused with a hot dog. In fact, on my first visit to Ferrucci's I made the mistake of ordering a hot dog. The woman running the grill looked at me as if I was speaking a foreign language. "You want a what?" she asked. Um, a hot dog, I said. With ketchup and mustard, please. "We don't' have hot dogs here. We have weiners." Another customer looked at me and said, "You're not from Rhode Island, are you?"
"A weenie is a Rhode Island thing," Ferrucci says.
Who would have thought that ordering a hot dog - a staple of American fast food from coast to coast - would mark me so obviously as an outsider. But it did.
Mike Ferrucci, who came here from the Bronx 15 years ago, may be Rhode Island's leading expert on the weiner.
"A weenie is basically like a hot dog but smaller, different ingredients in it," he says. "A weenie has veal, pork and beef in it - versus a hot dog which just has regular beef in it; it's more plumpier. It's a Rhode Island thing - like a Dell's Lemonade and a coffee syrup. People from out of state never heard of that."
It's true. And if you come here from out of state you should know how to order a weiner. On my first visit to Ferrucci's the woman running the grill asked me, "Would you like your weiner all the way?" I have to be honest: her question made me blush. But Mike Ferrucci explains, all the way is all about the meat sauce.
"The old, famous meat sauce, they call it, simmered on a stove 30, 40, 50 pounds at a time, six different spices for hours," he says. "They call it the all-the-way-dog is just the mustard, the meat sauce, the onions and the celery salt."
So now I know. I ordered a hot dog, and ended up with a real Rhode Island education about the weiner, and left West Warwick well nourished, and a bit more worldly.