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November 1, 2003

Wieners must be ordered ‘all the way’

New York System wieners, according to legend, were first sold on Smith Street in Providence in the 1920s. A Rhode Island favorite, they are unheard of in the state whose name they bear. At least a dozen wiener stands and diners sell them in mainland Rhode Island, and a few in other states. A search online revealed that the "NY System phenomenon" has inspired pages of information, from road food advice and recipe swapping to poems.

A few highlights:

• The business isn’t a franchise, although the recipes are connected. Started by a family of Greek immigrants, the name was never trademarked, but the meat sauce, raw onions, mustard and celery salt are what makes a NY System the real deal.
• The weiners, which are sliced from one very long link, come only two ways: "all the way" or "hold the onion."
• They’re great hangover cures. But be warned, they’re not for those watching their waistlines; as one fan succinctly put it, "If the sauce is not oily enough, it just bombs."
• They go great with Del’s Lemonade and coffee milk.
• They’re often ordered more than one at a time. In fact, at the original store — which is still open after 76 years — it’s not unusual for late-night customers to order 30 at a time.
• Strictly speaking, they should not be referred to as hot dogs, which are made with beef. Wieners are made with pork and veal.
• An excerpt from a song about NY System wieners, to be sung to the tune of "Grease":

"We take dah wieners and we throw them in
Steamed buns, sauce, onions, and celery salt.
There is a chance that we can make it up so far
To our elbow we can be who we are.

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Grease is dah word.
It’s got mustard, it’s got meat.
Grease is dah taste, is the place, is dah motion.
Grease is dah way we all eat.
This is a bag of wieners
Wrapped up in paper laced with grease.
What have we dripping here?"

• From the same website, www.pagesintime.com/ri , how the wieners got their nickname, "gaggas" or "gaggers": "The first explanation is that the aroma will make you gag (usually this happens to wiener virgins). The second explanation is that they’re so addictive, you’ll want to eat them until you’re well beyond full."

"I went back to RI in November for my Pilgrim HS Reunion.
I had my fill of weiners while I was there.........
OH, Look at who I ran into at the reunion !!! I'm on the left, of course.........

Hoping things are well."

Fred Renzi


Fred Renzi & Actor James Woods
(Click on photo for a larger view.)

"What a delight it was when I received this website from a fellow Rhode Islander!! It brought back such wonderful memories of EP High School, I graduated in '53 (where has the time gone?) I was a majorette in the EP High band, and used to go to NY System to get the weiners to take to the football games....I also used to work in the NY System between classes just to get paid in weiners....I think I owe my longevity to all the weiners I consumed there. Went on to be the first Miss East Providence, then in 1955 married my husband, Richard, at The Lady of Loretta Church in EP. We just celebrated our 50th in Flagler Beach, Florida....Just had to let you know what wonderful memories your website stirred up....Will send it on to other Rhode Island transplants here in beautiful Florida....Thanks for the memories........

Rosmarie Price (Rosie Corolla as I was known as in high school)."

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Can you tell me how I can subscribe to the newsletter? I moved away in '74 and come back a couple of times a year (have not missed a summer in 30 yrs) to see family and friends. The website is such a wonderful reminder of the great state I grew up in and it has helped me to re-connect with a lot of high school friends. And some things are laugh out loud funny!!! So I would love to get the newsletter. Thanks for your help.

Cheryl Santos Burns burnscb@comcast.net  Proud graduate of Cranston East and summers at Scarborough.

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Nibbles Woodaway, the Big Blue Bug, mascot of New England Pest Control and a Rhode Island landmark.

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