The capital of Rhode Island is Providence. The state's current governor is Gina Raimondo (D), and the lieutenant governor is Daniel McKee (D). Raimondo became Rhode Island's first female governor with a plurality of the vote in the November 2014 state elections. Its United States Senators are Jack Reed (D) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D). Rhode Island's two United States Representatives are David Cicilline (D-1) and Jim Langevin (D-2). See congressional districts map.
Rhode Island is one of a few states that do not have an official Governor's residence. See List of Rhode Island Governors.
The state legislature is the Rhode Island General Assembly, consisting of the 75-member House of Representatives and the 38-member Senate. Both houses of the bicameral body are currently dominated by the Democratic Party; the presence of the Republican Party is almost non-existent in the state government, with Republicans holding a handful of seats in both the Senate and House of Representatives.
From 2000 through 2008, RIPTA offered seasonal ferry service linking Providence and Newport (already connected by highway) funded by grant money from the United States Department of Transportation. Though the service was popular with residents and tourists, RIPTA was unable to continue on after the federal funding ended. Service was discontinued as of 2010. The service was resumed in 2016 and has been successful. The privately run Block Island Ferry links Block Island with Newport and Narragansett with traditional and fast-ferry service, while the Prudence Island Ferry connects Bristol with Prudence Island. Private ferry services also link several Rhode Island communities with ports in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. The Vineyard Fast Ferry offers seasonal service to Martha's Vineyard from Quonset Point with bus and train connections to Providence, Boston, and New York. Viking Fleet offers seasonal service from Block Island to New London, Connecticut, and Montauk, New York.
Several foods and dishes are unique to Rhode Island and some are hard to find outside of the state. Hot wieners are sometimes called gaggers, weinies, or New York System wieners, and they are smaller than a standard hot dog, served covered in a meat sauce, chopped onions, mustard, and celery salt. Famous to Rhode Island is Snail Salad, which is served at numerous restaurants throughout the state. The dish is normally prepared "family style" with over five pounds of snails mixed in with other ingredients commonly found in seafood dishes. Grinders are submarine sandwiches, with a popular version being the Italian grinder, which is made with cold cuts (usually ham, prosciutto, capicola, salami, and Provolone cheese). Linguia or chourio (a spicy Portuguese sausage) and peppers is also popular among the state's large Portuguese community, eaten with hearty bread (though this is also popular in other areas of New England).
Pizza strips are prepared in Italian bakeries and sold in most supermarkets and convenience stores. They are rectangular strips of pizza without cheese. Their rich flavor comes solely from a dense, zesty tomato paste baked on a half-inch (1.3 cm) thick pan pizza crust, and may be enjoyed warm or cold. Party pizza is a box of these pizza strips. Spinach pies are similar to a calzone but filled with seasoned spinach instead of meat, sauce, and cheese. Variations can include black olives or pepperoni with the spinach.
As in colonial times, johnnycakes are made with corn meal and water, then pan-fried much like pancakes. During fairs and carnivals, Rhode Islanders enjoy dough boys, plate-sized disks of fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar (or pizza sauce). Zeppole are Italian doughnut-like pastries traditionally eaten on Saint Joseph's Day, often made with exposed centers of vanilla pudding, cream filling, or ricotta cream, and sometimes topped with a cherry.
As in many coastal states, seafood is readily available. Shellfish is extremely popular, with clams being used in multiple ways. The quahog is a large local clam usually used in a chowder. (The word quahog comes from the Narragansett Indian word "poquauhock"; see A Key into the Language of America by Roger Williams 1643.) It is also ground and mixed with stuffing (and sometimes spicy minced sausage) and then baked in its shell to form a stuffie. Steamed clams are also a very popular dish. Calamari (squid) is sliced into rings and fried and is served as an appetizer in most Italian restaurants, typically Sicilian-style (i.e., tossed with sliced banana peppers and with marinara sauce on the side).
Rhode Island, like the rest of New England, has a tradition of clam chowder. Both the white New England variety and the red Manhattan variety are popular, but there is also a unique clear-broth chowder known as Rhode Island Clam Chowder available in many restaurants. According to Good Eats, the addition of tomatoes in place of milk was initially the work of Portuguese immigrants in Rhode Island, as tomato-based stews were already a traditional part of Portuguese cuisine, and milk was costlier than tomatoes. Scornful New Englanders called this modified version "Manhattan-style" clam chowder because, in their view, calling someone a New Yorker was an insult.
A culinary tradition in Rhode Island is the clam cake (also known as a clam fritter outside of Rhode Island), a deep fried ball of buttery dough with chopped bits of clam inside. They are sold by the half-dozen or dozen in most seafood restaurants around the state. The quintessential summer meal in Rhode Island is chowder and clam cakes.
Clams Casino originated in Rhode Island after being invented by Julius Keller, the maitre d' in the original Casino next to the seaside Towers in Narragansett. Clams Casino resemble the beloved stuffed quahog but are generally made with the smaller littleneck or cherrystone clam and are unique in their use of bacon as a topping.
According to a Providence Journal article, the state features both the highest number and highest density of coffee/doughnut shops per capita in the country, with 342 coffee/doughnut shops in the state. At one point, Dunkin' Donuts alone had over 225 locations; as of December 2013, there are still more than 175 Dunkin' Donuts shops within the state.
The official state drink of Rhode Island is coffee milk, a beverage created by mixing milk with coffee syrup. This unique syrup was invented in the state and is sold in almost all Rhode Island supermarkets, as well as border states. Coffee milk contains some caffeine, yet it is sold in school cafeterias throughout the state. Strawberry milk is also as popular as chocolate milk.