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Jan 7, 2003 04:37 PM

New Haven Pizza expidition

  • g

I'm going to be in New Haven on Friday and would like to try at least two pizza places while I'm there. To that end, I'm looking for suggestions for places I must try.

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  1. Modern Pizza on State Street (any toppings, but especially sausage) and BAR on Crown (try the mashed potato). HANDS DOWN, without a doubt. Don't bother w/ Wooster Street unless you want to wait in line to have your pizza thrown at you. (Many many people argue Pepe's v. Sally's, and although both are good, the two I mentioned are far better). Make sure you have Foxon Park soda w/ your pizza at Modern, I don't think they have that at BAR but you could ask.

    I grew up in the area and crave Modern constantly. Haven't found anything to come remotely close in Boston. It's rather pathetic.

    15 Replies
    1. re: Missykins

      There are only two that have international reputations and are discussed endlessly on this board: Pepe's and Sally's. Modern IS excellent but if you go there you will leave not knowing if you have really had the best pizza. As for the lines, of course there are lines when you have two parlors a block apart judged best in the world by various publications. There is a lot to be said for coal oven pizza.
      There is also great pizza in Boston at Santarpio's.

      1. re: Joe H.

        I won't perpetuate the debate (I really love all of them but she said to pick two!!) so let's split the difference, try Pepe's - the classic old school and then go to BAR (cool setting, different topping choices) if you only have time for two.

        1. re: Joe H.

          It's true that Pepe's and Sally's are the ones with international cachet (and also true that BAR began it's pizza-serving life under the direction of a former Pepe's pizza chef, though I don't know if he's still there), but I must urge you to be a true chowhound and spend one of your pizza nights at the Pizza House on the corner of Howe and Edgewood. Pizza House has been around for at least 35 years but it's a shabby little place and never earned the fame of the better-known New Haven joints. Still, in my opinion (which must be at least somewhat valid as I grew up in New Haven), it's the best pizza anywhere. It's greek style with an incredibly crisp, high-collared crust - not the charred super-thin crust of Pepe's (also, indisputably, delicious).

          Go and have a simple sausage and mushroom or pepperoni pie. You'll be glad you did, and you'll have entered the ranks of an elite minority.

          1. re: New Havener

            Someone with I have worked with for years has been telling me forever to try the Pizza House. I think I might very soon now.

            1. re: Richie

              Yeah, it's tough to get anyone to try a new pizza place in New Haven - there are so many good places, and everybody already has their favorite, so when you're in the mood for pizza, that's what you want, and you don't want to venture into unfamiliar territory. Personally, I grew up on the Pizza House, left New Haven when I was 10, came back for college and tried all the other places and then redisovered Pizza House. So I feel like I have an informed opinion (though it's completely subjective, of course). But I'm as stubborn as anyone, and if I'd never left town, I probably would have stuck with my traditional place and never shopped around.

              Also, it usually takes a couple of tries before you can really appreciate a new place, since the first time you try it, all you're doing is measuring it against the expectations set by your established favorite. The first time I took my fiancee to Pizza House, she said, "Well, this is very good, but I don't know if it's THAT amazing." She was hedging, and she mentioned her own favorite places as comparable or even better pizza. But because she was my girlfriend, she had no choice but to get dragged back for a second try. After that second pie, she said, "Well, ok, maybe this IS the best pizza I've ever had." It took a couple of tries for her to appreciate what's special about Pizza House pizza. Most people aren't willing to be that experimental, and it frustrates me because those other places get so much press - I'm always worried that my beloved Pizza House (which is staffed mostly by the same ancient and grumpy men who worked there when my father was picking up pizzas for his college study breaks) will expire for lack of attention.

              Then again, it's only pizza. Maybe I should calm down.

              1. re: New Havener
                Kelly Monaghan

                I have fond memories of the Pizza House from MY college days (which means it's been around at least since the mid sixties).

                When I moved back to the NH area I tried it for old times sake, but was underwhelmed.


                1. re: Kelly Monaghan

                  Hmm. Well, maybe the intervening years had lent the pizzas of yesteryear an aura of perfection that could not be recreated by the pizzas of today. Personally, every time I eat at Pizza House I am reminded that life is a precious gift.

            2. re: New Havener
              Michael Hoffman

              Thirty-five years ago the only restaurant at Howe and Edgewood was the New England House.

              1. re: Michael Hoffman

                Wow. You're a real scholar of corner-of-Howe-and-Edgewood lore. All I can tell you is that my dad was ordering Pizza House pizzas when he was a freshman at Yale. He graduated in 1970. It's 2003.

                But maybe they moved. Or maybe they used to sell their pizzas from a secret underground bunker BENEATH the corner of Howe and Edgewood that you never knew about when you were innocently sipping your clam chowder at the New England House.

                1. re: New Havener
                  Michael Hoffman

                  I was a little off. The New England House was there in 1964. I don't recall ever having clam chowder there, though. The clams casino and lobsters were good.

                  1. re: Michael Hoffman

                    Hah! Well, I may have got you on this small point, but in the future I think I will have to defer to your knowledge, which seems to be fairly encyclopedic. :)

            3. re: Joe H.

              The situation is never as simple as it might seem. In my opinion, Pepe's and Sally's make the best crust, better than Modern. That does not mean that Modern would not be the best crust in just about every other town in the country, but it just falls a little short of the other two. The situation with toppings is a little more variable. Personally, I am a minimalist. I do not like to pile cheese and items upon items on my pizza and I believe that the crust is at least 3/4 of the pizza. Usually, I go for one major flavor with some added counterpoint from a few others and I often have to specify how much of a particular item I want. To go back to Pepe's, some of their toppings were inedible and I had to scrape them off; I particularly remember some rubbery clams but I think there were others. The tomato sauce is generally too heavy for my taste in many of the New Haven pizzerias. A little goes a long way, so I generally ask for a light hand on tomato sauce and even cheese, depending where I go. However, whenever I go to New Haven I first go to ... Modern because that's were I found a combination of toppings that makes me forget Pepe's superiority in crusts. I order the following pizza: white pizza (no tomato sauce), fresh tomatoes slices, fresh garlic and crab. You can do the same at Pepe's minus the crab, and there is the rub, for nothing else at Pepe's comes close to the sweetness and quality of crab at Modern. If Pepe’s actually had some good buffala mozarella that would make it a difficult choice. My recommendation for Pepe's is to forget the clams and anything that requires special handling, scale down the tomato sauce, and go for a few of your favorite basic toppings, which are about average for an Italian pizzeria. I think next time I go to Pepe's I'll bring my own mozzarella and fresh basil and savor the crust. Enjoy...

              1. re: Octavian

                octavian, i went to sally's and i have to agree. the crust is phenomenal. pizza crust should have that black bottom. it's reminiscent of grimaldi's in brooklyn. but sally's had the same problem that it sounds like pepe's has--they don't use good mozzarella and the sauce was bland. with some fresh mozzarella, sally's would be a perfect pizza.

                1. re: lawyerlady

                  5 year old thread.

                  I sure hope he's tried New Haven pizza by now! LOL

            4. re: Missykins

              If modern is busy, Amatos is pretty good too!

            5. Two words: Sallys Apizza

              1. I would have to with Peppe's. However, Modern is right there and is often much easier to deal with.

                Also, I have been reading the food Guy's blog lately about New Haven food and he has some good spots.


                8 Replies
                1. re: jsco1112

                  Any update on which Pizza places to visit during a three day stay? Pizza once a day is fine by us.

                  1. re: Rick

                    Then you should do the "Holy Trinity" of Pepe's, Sally's and Modern. I suggest you not miss the White Clam Apizza at Pepe's.

                    1. re: Scargod

                      A hint to avoid lines at Pepe's - go there for lunch. It's open and there is very little waiting!

                      1. re: Scargod

                        Starting to revise our plans, may spread those three days out to a few other places in the area. If you had to pick one pizza place, which of the three would it be? From the various reading I've been doing it seems it'd be a toss up between Pepe's and Sally's.

                        1. re: Rick

                          What about Roseland Apizza, in Derby, for something different?

                          1. re: Scargod

                            Roseland would be an excellent choice. Don't know if it's a consideration, but it's only open for dinner, not lunch.

                        2. re: Scargod

                          While the Holy Trinity are all worth a visit, they do not display the full range of New Haven's offering. I'd suggest replacing one of them (either Sally's - a real pain for a visitor to get into - or Modern, if he's already been to both Pepe's and Sally's) with a visit to Bar on Crown Street for something a little different.

                          1. re: linguist

                            I think that Bar's white clam is equal to Pepe's.
                            A surprise find for pizza is Nica's on Orange St. I have had many great sandwiches there and thy have great produce, but really like the pizza as well.
                            I have never tried their white clam,.

                    2. i recently moved here from brooklyn, and heard so many good things about the pizza here, so far i have tried modern, which i liked, but it didn't blow my mind, and frank pepe which really wasn't that good at all...and the service was worse than rude, really horrible attitude... i miss my favorite pizza in the city so much, i need to try bar still, of course, until i can find time to go back to Lucalis in Bk