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Jul 5, 2001 12:12 AM

Modern Pizza in New Haven?

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Living far away, I'm heartbroken by Jim's report about Sally's and Pepe's in New Haven. To be honest, every time I went there, I was so hungry by the time the pizzas arrived that I would eat them immediately, sizzling hot, burn my mouth, and impair my taste buds. But no, that perfect sense of proportion....the smokiness--oh, it's sad. Because of the long lines, I always went there with people I wanted to catch up with.

However, this does explain what my New Haven-based family has been saying. "Sally and Pepe's? No way--we go to Modern Pizza now." I believe this pizza parlor is on State Street. Rumor has it that it is staffed by ex-Sally and Pepe's workers, and that the lines never reached the legendary lengths of their predecessors, although the pizza was as good and made in a similar way. Perhaps they have kept standards up?

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  1. Every once in a while I read about new pizza places in New Haven which locals consider to make really good pizza. I've not paid much attention, prefering to fixate on Pepe's. But you're right. There's need to look further. Modern,and more!

    I'm sure it's only a matter of time before some insider New Haven hound pops up to give us a savvy, super-current scorecard, full of alternatives. In the meantime, time to gas up the chowmobile and go eat. One must be eternally vigilant for great chow, because all faves will one day all pass into dust or entropy.


    10 Replies
    1. re: Jim Leff
      Caitlin Wheeler

      Not as good as Pepe's (used to be I guess) but very good New Haven pizza and better than I've had in New York (though I haven't tried DiFara's) can be found at Bar on Crown Street near the Yale campus. It's a pretty pleasant brewpub with good beers and good pizza -- thin crust and I think they have a wood oven. There are lots of toppings, some less classic than others (mashed potatoes are actually good, though) It's worth a try.

      1. re: Caitlin Wheeler

        mashed potato pizza sounds pretty darned good to me! thanks!

        1. re: Caitlin Wheeler

          I wouldn't waste my time going to BAR. If it's busy and you are not good looking enough or don't fit their profile they won't let you in.I and my friends wanted to stop in there for a beer one night and we were turned away. I couldn't believe it. That was 3 years ago and I would never go back there again!!!

          1. re: Richie
            Caitlin Wheeler

            That hasn't been my experience at Bar at all. Did they have pizza three years ago? I think they put in the oven more recently than that. It is primarily a bar (hence the name) and can get crowded and busy, but if you go when it's quiet you can get great pizza and good service.

            1. re: Caitlin Wheeler

              Yes..they had pizza.One of my friends is a cop downtown and he told me that on the weekend some bars in New Haven get very funny. It's funny,,they would let me in but not my friends and his excuse was they had sneakers on but you know what...they next guy that went in had sneakers on.My friend wanted to drive by the place and throw an old pair of sneakers he had in his car at the door man. I'll never go there again..they lost me.As far as I am concerned they are the losers.

          2. re: Caitlin Wheeler

            I just read in the paper that Connie's in Derby on Elizabeth Street just had a wood fired brick oven installed. Has anyone tried them yet?

            1. re: Caitlin Wheeler

              I tried Modern twice, and both times found the pies to be salty, and not particularly satisfying. I can't say that they were "bad" but they were not to my liking.

              On the plus side, the proprietors were polite and efficient (unlike the other two famous places in New Haven.)

              I have other places in the area, as well as in NY state that do a better job of exciting my palate.

              Love Rossinis in Cheshire, like Bimontes in Hamden and LOVE DDs on Hooker Ave in Poughkeepsie, NY.

            2. re: Jim Leff

              Well, Pepe and Sally have both been sliding for some time. There was a death in that community, etc.
              Modern chugs on. Its a fine institution with the same blackened crust, but it was never as good. Avoid the antipasto, and just stick to the pizza. Town Pizza makes a very solid, appreciable oven pizza. They used to make a magnificant cast iron pan pizza "greek style" which meant a shallow deep dish -- but they get more business with their "standard" ital. crust. Try the fried eggplant pizza.
              Bar has that cracker crust like Fig's of Boston. I dislike it, some people adore it.
              Old standby's for the Yale crowd remain Naples (grease fest) and Yorkside (nice, dry crust). A new entrant is "Abate Bros." which is related (fraternally) to the Abate restaurant on Wooster St. The jury is still out. Amato's on State St. is another contender, just a block from modern.

              New Haven has many other things to boast of beside pizza these days.
              Try the Egyptian at Alexandria.
              Issan style Thai (inter thai) up on Mechanic&State. There is Thai taste, on Chapel.
              Royal Palace, in the 9th square, serves great chinese food (try the double cooked pork, or as Jeff calls it, the Chinese bacon... also try the snow pea leaves, the Lion's Head, the Sho Mai, ... aw, its all good, even things ordered from the kitchen that aren't on the menu).
              Hama's on Dixwell has very good sushi.
              Joe Grates makes a mean BBQ.
              Christopher Martins is excellent on both sides.
              Tre Scalini is upscale Wooster St. Italian.

              We also have a great cheese shop at Luizzi's on state, pastries and gelato at Libby's, and kielbasa made at Wozniak's on Grand. New Haven is eating well, despite our sad goodbyes to Sally's and Pepe's.

              All we need now is a good korean restaurant. *sigh*

              1. re: Jim Leff

                Modern is every bit as good as Sally's, Pepe's, and the Spot (the Spot was, at least a couple of years ago, an offshoot of the Sally's/Pepe's kingdom in the parking lot of Pepe's). There is another Pepe's, called something like Frank Pepe's or some variation on the Pepe's name in West Haven that lacked the ambiance, but had the same level of pizza without the lines.

                Bar started serving good pizza a few years ago too. Don't know if they are still around (if not, just hop across Crown Street and grab a burger at Louis) but they did a reliable downtown version of the New Haven style.

                If you've not done Modern, Alpha Dog, you are seriously missing out.

                1. re: Paulette

                  yeah, you're not the only hound to say this. I'll definitely go there next time I'm there. But I'm totally fixated on western CT for the moment...


              2. never ate at modern. drove by last week. has sally's level of lines, not as big as pepe's

                1. We used to get up that way on the way to relatives in Boston about 2-3 times a year for several years in the early-mid 90's, so this may be an outdated opinion. We used to rotate Pepe's/Sally's/Modern (Isn't it actually Modern Apizza?). We found ourselves stopping more and more at Modern and skipping the other 2, once we got the hang of that curious Central Connecticut pizza place custom of ordering your meal in advance even though you're not doing takeout. --Ken
                  PS Actually the best central CT pizza I've ever had was at a place in East Hartford (again, you had to order in advance or wait forever) but since we only got there twice I can't remember the name, altho it was locally famous. Anyone??