Rhode Island Rocky Point Chowder

by Charlie ~ May 14th, 2009. Filed under: East Coast Recipes, Soups, Chowders and Stews | Print Print

In the little State of Rhode Island you can find three types of clam chowder: white clam chowder, red clam chowder, and clear clam chowder. Native Rhode Islanders and purists favor a clear, thin broth chowder. Rhode Islanders and tourists alike also enjoy the creamy, white chowder also served in Boston and on Cape Cod. Finally you’ll also find the tomato-based red chowder. All three RI chowder varieties share two common ingredients: Quahogs and salt pork. Quohogs are the large clams, chopped and featured in the chowder. Why salt pork? Salt pork gives chowder some flavor and helps create the broth. It also can keep for months, especially on the sailing ships of the 18th century!

Is Rhode Island’s red chowder the same as Manhattan clam chowder (also called New York chowder or Fullton Market chowder)? No way! Rhode Islanders make their own version of. Unlike the Manhattan clam chowder recipe, the Rhode Island chowder contains no vegatables and uses a tomato base, not tomato chunks.

Rhode Island Chowder Recipe

Charlie asked Ray Testa, a long time Rhode Islander and author of Rhode Island Favorites: Back Home Recipes, for his favorite chowder recipe. Below you will find the chowder recipe served for decades at the Shore Dinner Hall at the Rocky Point Amusement Park*, located on Narragansett Bay. The hall could seat a 1000 people and was advertised as the largest shore dinner hall in the world. Although the park and the hall are no more ( closed in 1996 and demolished in 2007), the food from the Shore Dinner Hall lives on.

Rocky Point Clam Chowder

1/2 lb. Salt Pork (finely diced)
1 lb. Onions (chopped)
1 lb. Potatoes (diced)
2 cups Tomato Puree
1-1/2 qts. Quahogs (chopped)
1 Tbsp. Paprika
Water as needed
1 gal. Clam Juice
Salt & Pepper to taste
Oyster or Saltine Crackers (broken)

In a large kettle, heat the salt pork until the fat melts. Add the onions. Cook over medium heat until very soft. Add the clam juice, potatoes, seasonings, tomato puree and a little water. Simmer until the potatoes are soft, then add the quahogs. Heat and taste for seasoning. Add water if needed. Crush some saltine crackers and stir them into the chowder to thicken it further, near the end of the cooking. Makes about 15 servings.

*The Rocky Point Amusement Park was a popular landmark on the Narragansett Bay side of Warwick, Rhode Island. Rocky Point closed in 1995.To learn more about Rhode Island’s famous seaside playground visit Joe Nisil’s excelent resource and photo history page.

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29 Responses to Rhode Island Rocky Point Chowder

  1. Mike Dillon

    Your website looks most impressive.
    I’m attending a Chowder Festival on Long Beach Island (this weekend).
    Is your company participating in this event?

  2. admin

    thanks for visiting! We would love to– but it’s too far from the East Coast.

    What do you feel the differences are in seafood chowder in the West Coast compared to East Coast chowders?

  3. Wendy Mullen

    Hi. Thanks for this recipe. My first job was at Rocky Point.

    I just made your chowda and it is awesome.

    Thanks so much for publishing the recipe.

    Wendy M.
    Warwick, RI

  4. Ray

    Glad you enjoyed the recipe Wendy!

  5. bill

    I was wondering if you had recipe for those rocky point clamcakes?

  6. Jess

    I have been making this recipe up as I go for many years, adding a dash of this and a tsp of that. I use linguica instead of salt pork.
    I knew I remembered it from somewhere as a kid. Thanks for reminding me of the place where I finally overcame my fear of roller coasters (Rocky Point Park!)

  7. admin

    Linguica is a great idea. I bet it gives the chowder a little zip! Rocky Point sure brought some fun memories. The rides and the food were one of a kind. Only in Rhode Island. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Linda

    My Dad (born in 1904) grew up in a French Canadian enclave called River Point in West Warwick. He said after Mass on Sundays, if the weather was nice, his family would go to Rocky Point for the rest of the day – taking the trolley there. Later after he was married and living in Whitinsville, MA and brought his family there maybe once a month on Saturdays – he loved the clam cakes and that chowder that came around in huge tureens. My husband and I continued to go there – first when we were dating and then later driving down from the Boston area. Then one weekend it was closed…what a loss. It was a wonderful way to spend a day…good food, amusements and maybe the beach.

  9. admin

    Thanks for sharing! Rhode Island still has some great spots for clam cakes. Does anyone have any favorites?

  10. Nick

    Do you steam the clams first or put them in raw?

  11. Charlie

    I take it you were doing a clam bake or Lobster Bake? You would put them in raw, live.

  12. Nick

    thanks but no, in the chowder

  13. Frank Mahoney

    What a shame… My first experience of an amusement park as a child was at Rocky Point. I went away for a long while, forgetting what “Rocky Point” was. After some time I returned to my family’s home in Massachusetts due to deaths in my family. I then recalled “Rocky Point”, a wonderful summer breeze of hope and spirit kindling. Once I ventured to embrace my childhood and its dreams, to my dismay found that it too had passed away. What a wonderful memory and feeling. One that you never wish to let go, like a dear friend or family member.

  14. Charlie

    Yes, what a great spot. My father grew up in Pawtucket, RI and would go with brothers and sisters. Today there is nothing to compare–most places are too commercial and the food is processed.

  15. Capt Frank Bourgeois

    I came across your web-site and wow! the memories flowed… I have been in Florida since 1980 and I truly miss the most in RI is clam cakes and clam chowder. I know if someone opened a dinner serving RI chowder and clam cakes here in Florida… I would be there in a heartbeat. Thanks for your website…. I live here as I can fish 12 months with no snow and ice… LOL… If your in my area just north of Tampa look me up bet bring the clam cakes… YUMMY
    Capt Frank

  16. Liz Jackman

    Hi, thanks so much for recipe. I grew up in RI. Spent many a sunday at Rocky Point. Feeding the seagulls (lol) Its so sad that we don’t have places like Rocky Point anymore. I moved to Canada several years ago and I am always bragging about the clam cakes and chowder. They never heard of clam cakes here. I am making the chowder tomorrow and will bring samples to my friends and show them what they have been missing. Thank you again for the memories and recipe.

  17. Charlie

    thanks for visiting! Where do you grow up in Rhode Island? There are still some “old time” seafood shacks still thriving.

    You’ll have to share your clam chowder recipe. As you know there is a big regional difference in how people make chowda in New England.

  18. ray & sarah b.

    We are having a disagreement on the RI red “chowda”—my mother used to use tomato soup as a base for the red. he says there’s no such recipe. what do you say? which do you prefer for clamcakes—Krispee or kenyon?

  19. Charlie

    You sure can use tomato soup for the base for red clam chowder– or make it from scratch with fresh garden tomatoes. Can’t go wrong with Kenyon’s Grist Mill– makes a heck of a Johnny Cake! They have been in West Kingston, RI forever.

  20. Isabelle

    Tomato soup is the base my family has used for several generations.
    I have hear that the smooth tomato base was started by Portuguese
    immigrants but can’t verify it. My family is Irish and French-Canadian but had many Portuguese neighbors, so perhaps that is why we use tomato soup.

    Kenyon’s is the best for clamcake batter.

  21. Pam Mallett-Jones

    I was born in California and have lived here all of my life except for the 6 years (from grades 1-6) I lived in Providence, RI. I have such fond memories of Rocky Point and the Shore Dinner Hall, which is why I was so excited when I ran across your site while looking for a recipe for chowder. Thanks for bringing it all back for me!

  22. Charlie

    Sorry for the late reply. Thank you for visiting! Any favorite seashore dinner spots you remember?

  23. Dan

    Using tomato soup to make the base for your clam chowder is just wrong in so many ways. I have made chowder so many times I have lost count and I have sampled a lot of others also. The ones made with tomato soup have a very odd and out of the can taste that is in no way shape or form what authentic clam chowder should be. Fresh tomatoes chopped very fine work great but canned tomato puree is the best way to go. I was a RI native for sixty years and now live in SC and they just love my RI style red chowder and home made clam cakes. Throw out the Campbells and make your chowder the right way, P L E A S E ! Thank you.

  24. Charlie

    Thanks Dan!– you are correct there is no comparison with fresh tomatoes versus canned when making chowder. This was the original recipe for the Rocky Point chowder we shared. Could you share your chowder recipe if you have a chance?

  25. Karen

    Hey Charlie,

    Last time I was lucky enough to eat at the Dining Hall, it was early in the season. The chowder had a decidedly butter taste to it. Any ideas about that?

    I have never seen a recipe that would explain that…I have my Dad’s recipe…Always used fresh tomato’s and canned puree…Actually just got my box of Kenyon’s clam cake mix yesterday. Will be making a big pot chowder this weekend…YUMMY

  26. Philip

    Charlie; went to the dinner hall many times. It was alway great. Question for you is where did all the chowder pots go? It is not chowder without those pots. Phil

  27. Rochelle

    Followed recipe, but instead used a top brand of Italian crushed
    Tomatoes, found the chowder to be watery and lacking the clamy taste I remember. I also cut the recipe in half and used Cento natural Clam juice. The oyster crackers did not really make it much thicker. Was it a mistake to use the crushed tomatoes?
    Thanks, Rochelle

  28. Charlie

    Try using the crushed tomatoes AND the tomato puree. That will surely thicken it up!

  29. colleen

    Hi Charlie I grew up in Warwick and my first job was at rocky point working in the Palidum and the windjammer and on real busy days the shore dinner hall . the memory is so vivid like yesterday I worked with a bunch of wonderful ladies and gentlemen over the years . I now live in NH and I had to find the original recipe . a friend brought me some Iggys dough boy mix and clam cake mix and now I must have some thanks for sharing the recipe

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