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Help me understand New Haven Pizza!!

First a little background, so you know what my pizza roots are:

I grew up in central New Jersey, where there's a decent to great family run pizzeria in every strip mall, all "New York style" (though I never would have known to call it that when I lived there).

After 4.5 years at school in central Missouri (total dearth of any kind of decent pizza.... google Imo's Pizza for examples of the weird proto-casseroles on a saltine cracker that they call pizza), I've now been in LA for 10 years. It's rare, but out here you can find a decent NY pie (not great in the way DiFara in Brooklyn is great-- but decent pies where you might be fooled if you closed your eyes). Of course there is the "California Pizza" with toppings like lox and cream and chicken tikka masala (but that's a whole other thing entirely.)

OK-- that brings us to New Haven. I've never been, and I don't understand it. What exactly IS New Haven pizza? What do they serve up that makes it (supposedly) the best pizza in the country? I've heard Sally's and Pepe's bantered about for a long time now, not quite understanding what it's all about.

For ease of response, I'll list out my questions here:

1. What exactly IS New Haven pizza? What makes it unique?

2. Where did New Haven pizza come from? What's the history? Does it have roots from New York Italian immigrants who migrated out of of the lower east side in to the Connecticut suburbs? (i.e. is it "modified" New York style pizza, or is it in fact it's own creation?) I'm wondering if there's any link between the 100+ year old New York based Lombardi's/Patsy's/Grimaldi's type places.

3. Is this New Haven style of pizza copied in other places in Connecticut?

4. What is the quintessential New Haven pie? (I've read something about clams and bacon... By comparison I'd say that in NY/NJ, the classic cheese slice is the standard by which to measure a great pie)

5. Are Sally's and Pepe's pretty much the only game for great New Haven pizza?

6. Are there any quintessential rituals associated with going out for New Haven pizza?

7. Many of the 100 year old NYC places like Lombardi's and Totonno's still use super hot coal-fired ovens (though they are illegal now, these old places were grandfathered in). Do the New Haven pizzeria's use coal ovens? Wood ovens? Regular pizza ovens? (any visit to Di Fara will illustrate that a coal oven is not necessary to make a great pie)

8. Is New Haven pizza available by the slice or pies only?

9. Are pies divided into 8 triangular slices (as god intended it) or are they hacked up into crazy irregular squares (as I've seen done many, many times during my midwest pizza encounters... even one place in LA does this, inexplicably)

Thanks for your input, 'hounds! Hopefully I'll make it out to your neck of the woods sometime soon....

Mr Taster
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  1. While one of our New Haven mavens might have better answers, I'll take a stab at it.
    1. New Haven pizza has a very thin crust, often charred from the hot oven. Plain pizza comes without mozzarella, but most customers seem to ask for "the mutz" on their "a-peets". I prefer the red over the white version because of the tasty sauce.
    2. New Haven, with an active seaport and fishing industry around the turn of the century, was the recipient of many Italian immigrants, although some undoubtedly also came from NYC.
    3. The majority of southern CT appizas seem to copy the New Haven thin crust, though there are a few exceptions.
    4. White clam pizza, supposedly invented by Frank Pepe as a joke, is the signature New Haven pie, but not necessarily its most popular one.
    5. No. Modern Apizza has won many of the recent "favorite pizzeria" polls, and I can think of quite a few other good places. Some suggest that Sallys or Pepes may have passed their peak, but tell that to the lines waiting outside those two Wooster St. flagships.
    6. Other than waiting in line (see above) I haven't experienced any rituals.
    7. Most popular places have coal or wood fired brick ovens. The one at Pepe's is enormous.
    8. I only patronize places with whole pies.
    9. Sectors, as God intended. I haven't had a rectangular slice since I left the Chicago area lo these many years ago. (And yes, I prefer New Haven over Chicago deep dish.)

    I'll close with a poem I produced for another forum two weeks ago.
    Fast food is rarely worth the bother,
    In one end and out the other.
    One exception anyone eats: a
    Sizzling pepperoni pizza

    16 Replies
    1. re: DonShirer

      Huh, it seems you addressed a question I hadn't even thought to ask...

      10. Is there any specialty lingo associated with New Haven pizza?

      What is this "a-peetz" "the mutz" business? Do people actually call it that with a straight face? It seems so.... peculiar, like I thought I knew pizza from that part of the world (that part being NY pizza) and suddenly I'm finding out there's secret codewords that I had no idea existed.

      Mr Taster
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      1. re: Mr Taster

        A-peetz = short for Apizza
        Mutz/Mootz = Mozzerella

        Just pronounciations that are prevalent in New Haven County.

        Not sure if this is universal, but sometimes the pizza is referred to as a pie, short for pizza pie.

        1. re: Jestner

          Is that Apizza as in "lets order a pizza" or is this some new word I'm unfamiliar with?

          "Pie" in reference to pizza is most definitely NOT universal... it's primarily a New York area thing. When I went to school in central Missouri, I would occasionally manage to drag my friends out to "D'Bronx" pizzeria in Kansas City-- the only New York pizza for about 1000 miles. I once lost my mind there and ordered a pie and the girl at the counter said "we don't sell dessert."

          Mr Taster
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          1. re: Mr Taster

            Apizza = Pizza. So you might say "I like a-peetz"

            1. re: Mr Taster

              It's some new word that most Italians (you know, the kind in Italy) would also be unfamiliar with. Ditto "mutz."

              1. re: Rick_V

                So it's really a very localized Italian American dialect. Pizza is the catalyst for learning so many interesting things.

                Mr Taster
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                1. re: Rick_V

                  "apizza" (a-BEETS) is the term immigrants in New Haven chose for that style of pizza (a corruption of some word in the dialect of Naples, I guess). "Mutz" is the corruption of the word for mozz., but I forget what it is. From what I can tell, the words are pretty much only used right around New Haven.

                  1. re: the scribbler

                    And don't forget about prazhoot -- you know, from Parma!

                    1. re: tripster

                      Is there another way? That's what I order at the deli counter and they look at me like I have 2 heads until I say pro-shoot-oh.

            2. re: Mr Taster

              I grew up outside New Haven, and my dad always ordered a "pie" with "schamozz" (pronounced ska-moats) Not sure where that came from!

              1. re: jillian

                scamozz is a hard mozzarella. it usually is found hanging with a small string knotted around its nub.

              2. re: Mr Taster

                To Mr. Taster

                They aren't code words; a-beets or a-peetz and mutz - mootz are English phonetics for Italian words.

              3. re: DonShirer

                I still prefer Pepe's to Sally's or The Modern (let's face it, though, this is almost a religious thing with most people there). However, I often go to the Modern since I can get 90% of the quality with often little or no wait. I only go to Pepe's or Sally's if the line looks tractable.

                1. re: DonShirer

                  1. I grew up in New Haven. You can pronounce it "NEW Haven" like the Yalies who get off the train. I pronounce it "n'HAY-ven" like the Yalies who grew up ten blocks away from campus.

                  2. Pepe's clam. Otherwise, I am a Sally's person. Yes, if you grew up in New Haven you are either a Pepe's person or a Sally's person, although you'll gladly eat either.

                  3. Sally's hot cherry pepper pie, no mutz. To die for.

                  4. Modern's terrific too, but definitely in third place. In fact, I was surprised how good Bar is.

                  5. Minervini's in East Haven. Not quite the same style, excellent secret. Originally in Fair Haven, that's why.

                  6. Ernie's in Westville. Secret. Shhhhh.

                  7. Foxon Park diet birch.

                  8. New Haven used to make Hull's Export Beer. Know why they called it "export"? Because no one in New Haven would drink it!

                  9. ah-BEETS not ah-peets. Mutz as in you gots two foots.

                  1. re: Mikelawyr2

                    I am new to ChowHound, and I have found this discussion on New Haven Pizza. I was born in New Haven and lived there until I went to college. My family was a Pepe's family and Sally's was off-limits. When we didn't want to trek to Wooster street, Ernies was our closest pizza shop. I was quite surprised to see Ernies being mentioned here.

                    When I met my wife about 17 years ago, I lived in Rochester, New York. I told her stories about Pepe's, their ovens, the wait in line, and how it was the best pizza I had ever had. She was like "right, everybody thinks that the pizza where they grew up is the best!".I couldn't wait to take her there.

                    When I took her home to meet my family, we went to Pepe's. After her first bite, her eyes widened, and all she could say with a smile on her face was "This is pretty good!". Needless to say Pepe's is a part of every trip to New haven. My wife wanted to try Sallys, and I stepped on enemy territory to take her there. She thinks that both places each had their strong points, but we go primarily to Pepes. Usually twice when we take a weekend in New Haven.

                    When my wife was pregnant with out first child, she craved Pepe's pizze. When we visited New Haven, we drove to Wooster Street, and as luck would have it they were closed for vacation. She literally sat in the car crying.

                    When we used to stay at a hotel near my families house, my wife and I used to go to Ernies, and take it back to the hotel. We would look for excuses to leave my moms house early so we could go get our (as my wife called it) sin pizza. We would sit on the bed and scarf down the pizza. It ain't Pepes, but it was still 1000 times better than anything that we could get in Rochester. I was quite surprised that Ernies made the top three pizza stops in New Haven, because to me, it was just the place we went to because it was the closest pizza shop. Oh, and about 9 years ago, if you pre-ordered, they would make slice and freeze a pizza for you to travel home with you.

                    We continue our tradition with our kids. To this day, they STILL ask when we can go to New Haven again, not to visit relatives, but to go to Pepes.

                    Last thing, our favorite New haven pizza combo is bacon and moots. There is no precooked bacon here. They take raw bacon, throw it on the pie and bake it. It is the most wonderful (and greasy) pizza that you have ever had. No pepperoni for us when in New Haven!

                  2. There is also an awful chain called Randy's Wooster St pizza that attempts to recreate the New Haven style on a mass scale. Clearly something was lost in translation...

                    1. I'm far from a New Haven pizza aficionado, but I do really like the stuff in my limited experience (a couple pies at Pepe's and one from Modern, haven't gotten to Sally's yet, but hoping to soon). I do think, however, that there are a few very unique attributes to New Haven pizza as compared with, say the NYC pizza lineage (Lombardis, Grimaldis, Patsys et al). One thing is that the crust, is extremely chewy, much more so than I'm accustomed to. I loved this about it, and it's noticably different. Second is that the layers (crust, sauce, cheese) seem somehow more unified in New Haven Pizza, melted more firmly together.

                      That said, both of these were true at Pepe's but not so much at Modern (which I found less unique and less exciting), so maybe this is more a Pepe's-specific post? New Havenites, feel free to correct my assumptions. Either way I love the stuff.

                      My friend from new haven also tells me that New Haven pizza fans are convinced that the modern, American form of pizza was invented in New Haven. I can't speak to that, but...

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: celeriac

                        Yes - I'd agree with the differences. I think the crust has more elasticity to it. Overall it is thin, chewy, yet also has that bottom layer of crispiness.

                        1. re: Jestner

                          I grew up in Stamford, halfway between New Haven and Manhattan. New Haven pizza is the cornerstone of a style seen in southern New England. Because the bar has been set so high, there are many outstanding pies throughout the region. While Pepe's (including its annex, The Spot, its original building) and Sally's are the big two, there are others on Wooster Street that are very good. Abbate has excellent pizza.

                          It's hard to say there is a New Haven "style" generic to the area; I think Pepe's and Sally's, for example, are rather different. In general, good Connecticut pie is characterized by a relatively thin crust with a well-blistered rind, ashy bottom, tangy fresh-tasting sauce and rich, elastic mozzarella, which are traits found in New York and New Jersey, too. Pepe's pies are kind of rustic; irregularly shaped like ameobas, rapidly hacked into random slices; their pepperoni is also hacked into a variety of chunks and slices. Sally's pies are also rustic and tend to be somewhat more round than square, kind of in between, and more evenly sliced; they are generally redder than Pepe's. Their clam pie is very different from Pepe's, who uses fresh whole clam bellies.

                          The pizzerias all have their followers. I believe that Bill Clinton and Garry Trudeau favored Sally's when they were at Yale; the Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra, also was a Sally's guy. Jerry Vale favored a place across the street from Pepe's. Frank Pepe opened his shop on Wooster in the 1920s. I believe he may have worked at Lombardi's in the city after arriving from Naples and before settling in New Haven.

                          Connecticut pie is less about a precise New Haven style than a very high standard set by the New Haven elite. There are many awesome pies in the area -- Perrotti's in the Southbury-Middlebury area, Lorenzo's in Sandy Hook, Carminuccio's in Newtown are just a few, the list is a very long one ... many restaurants in the area that are not pizzerias routinely serve excellent pies -- Il Italia in Norwalk is one. The Colony in Stamford, which is a bar, is famous for its light, thin product, but it does not resemble Pepe's. It is, however, unmistakeably a southern Connecticut pie.

                          All told, the definitive pies in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey are related interpretations of the Neopolitan-American style.

                          Or, I should say, "Nahblahtahn!"

                          1. re: misohungrychewlow

                            A few years ago I brought my ex's dad (from Milwaukee) to Pepe's for the clam pie. He thought it absurd, but played along. After two bites, he proclaimed it the best pizza he'd ever had and bought one to take back with him to Milwaukee the next day.

                            Now, "nahblahtahn" (which I used to hear as 'nahbilDAHN') is from Long Island (lawnGUYlin) not from New Haven, far as I recall. I last heard that from a guy hailing from Erster Bay.

                            For the record, I grew up in Stamford, raised by Fitz and Skeets at the Colony, am now in Pgh. Before I left Stamford in the late 90s, a number of peers were beginning to use the term 'Za' (I believe some shop actually opened up with that name) in addition to "pie", although "apizza" is definitely a New Haven County thing. "Motts" also more common that "Mootz" or "Mutts". Then again most folks dropped the 'a' and 'i' off most dishes (e.g., ricott, manigaut, annapahst, etc.)

                            Anyway, yeah, NH pie was the topic... it's the crust. A paper thin layer of crispy goodness below a 1/4" of chewy goodness, topped with stuff that doesn't slide off.

                            1. re: Panini Guy

                              "Now, "nahblahtahn" (which I used to hear as 'nahbilDAHN') is from Long Island (lawnGUYlin) not from New Haven, far as I recall."

                              I grew up on Long Island (and GOD I miss the pizza!) but I have no idea what this means. I've just spent 5 minutes trying to decipher and I give up. What is "nahblahtahn"?

                              1. re: sheil

                                I'd never heard "nahblahtahn"; I guess it's SO-CT Italian for "Napolitano".

                                1. re: sheil

                                  "nahblahtahn," or "nahbilDAHN," is the local pronunciation of the Italian word "Napolitano," or Neopolitan in English.

                              2. re: misohungrychewlow

                                We ate at the Spot, then at Pepe's, about a month apart. The Spot had the edge, although Pepe's was fine. On an earlier occasion (all these visits in Winter-Spring 2005), we had an anchovy-mozz pizza at Modern, very good, and satisfying.
                                I have some pics here: Modern Apizza Anchovy-Mozz Pizza
                                http://www.pbase.com/panos/image/4010...

                                Pepe's and The Spot: http://www.pbase.com/panos/pepes_pizz...

                                "That said, both of these were true at Pepe's but not so much at Modern (which I found less unique and less exciting)..." I would tend to agree with that. There's nothing wrong with the pizza at Modern, but it's not unique. (Given, we've only been to these 3 places one time each.)

                              3. re: Jestner

                                The crust is what I always considered the standout feature of Pepe's, since it's more elastic and chewy than the others.

                                Sally's I'd say the sauce (which more red, as others have noted) is the key feature.

                                Since we're mentioning other places, the one other place I occasionally go if I'm not in the standing-in-line mood is Bimonte's in Hamden is quite good (and, IIRC, Bimonte's was started by a former Pepe's guy).

                                1. re: kaszeta

                                  Is Bimonte's still there? We drove by not long ago and it looked like it had been swallowed up by Eli's, or turned into another eatery. We didn't get a close look though.

                                  1. re: Roundelay

                                    Actually, I had forgotten, it did get swallowed up by Eli's, but the pizza was still good last time I was there (around a year ago).

                                    1. re: kaszeta

                                      Last I checked, Bimonte's had moved north to Cheshire.

                                      After several years in New Haven (many, many years ago), I moved to Hamden and discovered Bimonte's, which became our regular favorite.

                                      Haven't been back in years, so not sure if the Cheshire location is still open, but if it is, and if it's as good as the original, it's worth the trip...and the "Joanne's pizza" was a personal favorite.

                            2. A little follow up to earlier posts: 1) The oven at Pepe's appears to be about the size of a handball court. The paddle looks like something one could pole vault with. It is said that the coal-fired oven has been heated continuously since it opened, and is cleaned with a long brush to gather the charcoal particles. 2) The Spot is the same family and similar product. The white clam pie with lots of garlic is the Spot's signature dish. I don't recall the whole belly, just fresh clam pieces. 3) Local italian dialect tends to drop the final vowel from words that seem to have enough vowels already, hence 'a-peetz' ( the 'p' has a little of a blended "b" sound). 4) People wait in long lines with umbrellas in a cold rain for prime time at Pepe's. Don't like that part? Don't go. That's part of the ritual. And then, a dozen clams oregano or casino wlile you warm up. 5) Modern (on State St.) was an early arrival on upper State St., when State St. looked like a war zone. (It had been an industrial area). That area has enjoyed a wonderful renaissance during the intervening 20 years, and offers better parking. 6) No woosie pizza squares on Wooster St. Triangles of varying angles. Whole pies.
                              7) Why take our word for it? GO!!!!!!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Veggo

                                With regard to 2, New Haven and Amalfi, Italy are sister cities because a large number of Amalfi Italians migrated directly New Haven. Amalfi is about 20 miles from Naples, hence the direct "Nhablahtan" connection.

                                #4 - Clam pies may have started as a joke, but they are freakin' delicious. We even make them at home when we need a fix, though it's obviously not the same.

                                #5 - Add Roseland Apizza in Derby to the long list of Sally/Pepe-comparable pies.

                                #6 - Roseland also observes the ritual of standing in the rain (or the sun, if it's not raining) while you wait, though you can sign up on a sheet and wait to be called. They do takeout, though, and their food is as good as their pies.

                                And in some towns around CT, when someone asks for "moz-ah-rel-lah" they often get either a (subtle) roll of the eyes or a "you're not from around here, are you?"

                              2. Anyone know of any passable CT pizza significantly EAST of New Haven?

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: celeriac

                                  Luigi's in Old Saybrook is decent, but it's a far cry from Pepe's.

                                  Mostly, east of New Haven you quickly get into the Providence style pizza, which is an entirely different beast.

                                  1. re: celeriac

                                    I like Nuzzo's in Madison-- it has mixed reviews here but I love it. Very New Haven style.

                                    1. re: madisoneats

                                      As someone born in New Haven, you'd think I would be able to give all the details on all the different places. But no. My family always and only went to Modern Apizza. And we still do whenever I'm back at home visiting. In fact, I brought my three month old son there a few weeks ago to absorb the atmosphere and prepare to eat the pizza.

                                      My parents say we went to Modern initially because the lines at Pepe's and Sally's were too long to wait in (although Modern's lines are nothing to sniff at). But it has become a tradition and the idea of going to another place is scoffed at.

                                      my freeform summary of new haven pizza (mind you this is modern):

                                      -Thin crust that you need both hands to hold a slice with, but chewy at the ends and blackened at the bottom. tomatoey sauce without any real distinct seasoning (orgeno, etc), but not as fresh tasting as new york pies. not too much sauce, it never drips all over the place because it melds right into the cheese. the cheese is really the unique thing - shredded "mootz" that strings all over the place. plus the quality of the pepperoni and sausage (not slices of sausage - the uncased chunks) they use is just wonderful.

                                      and the cold leftovers are the best breakfast i've ever eaten.

                                      1. re: royal bisquit

                                        Cold New Haven pie as breakfast!?!?!
                                        You did grow up with it!
                                        Gotta agree with you on that point.
                                        We alway bring at least a small home and it'd gone before noon the next day.
                                        Isn't the rivalry something else?
                                        People pick a team and they are die-hard.
                                        My uncle is for Modern.
                                        My wife is for Sally's
                                        I'm for The Spot (but I'll go to any).

                                        The rivalry and loyalty really is a big part of the experience.

                                        1. re: royal bisquit

                                          Chewy, but a bit floppy. The crust is not stiff -- especially towards the middle.

                                          Man, I miss New Haven pizza.

                                          1. re: royal bisquit

                                            I'm a native New Havener myself and I love Modern as well, although I was in my thirties before I tried it. I used to live on Wooster Street and always went to Pepe's with my teenage friends on Saturdays for lunch because Sally's didn't open until 5:00pm. When Mrs. Pepe died sometime in the late 70's the pizza took a downturn (I think maybe less expensive ingredients) but it is still good. However, my favorite pizza in the area is Zuppardi's on Union Street in West Haven. Their signature pie is the sausage and mushroom and it is to die for.

                                      2. I grew up in CT.
                                        I've gone for New Haven pizza all my life.
                                        I've even worked at Perrott's in Middlebury.
                                        So here goes.

                                        1) I think "New Haven Pizza" is a type of pie created by Frank Pepe and then duplicated elsewhere. It is unique to other types of pies ("New-Haven-Pizza-ese" for pizzas. People also say "a-beets", same thing). What makes it unique is
                                        a) fresh ingredients, I believe they import their mozzerella, could be wrong on that though
                                        b) thin crust but not saltine crust
                                        c) burnt cornmeal bottom. What afficianados call a "dirty pie". Yum!
                                        d) SUPER HOT. Cooked in essentially a blast furnace. Oven is so hot that when you order a bacon pizza, which I reccommend, they put the bacon on raw and it cooks on the pie.
                                        e) very oily
                                        f) Must specify ALL ingredients! "I'll have a small, all red (sauce), all mozzerella, all bacon.
                                        g) LONG LINES to be seated
                                        h) Rivalry with die hard advocates. You grow up with either Pepe's or Sally's the way you grow up in CT with either the Red Sox or the Yankees.
                                        i) BIG SECRET: LIBBY'S! Liberato's Bakery is the place to go after a New Haven Pie on Wooster because the pizzerias don't serve deserts. Fresh made italian ices and gelatos in all flavors along with italian cookies and canollis.

                                        2) As far as I know Originated with Frank Pepe of Pepe's and then duplicated after that. He wanted to serve a nutritious, hot meal that the common worker could afford.

                                        3) YES. Some great places for New Haven Pie
                                        a) Pepe's: The standard, however they are kind of touristy now and I don't think that they cook their pies long enough anymore so that they can seat and serve more people. Wooster Street.
                                        b) The Spot: BIG SECRET! Right next to Pepe's. In fact, it IS Pepe's. If you go in everyone is wearing the Pepe's uniforms. Same pie BUT ACTUALLY COOKED. This is where the wife and I go when we want New Haven pie. Wooster Street.
                                        c) Sally's: The other team in the epic Pepe's/Sally's rivalry. Reknown for their sauce. More of an Italian family kitchen dining experience while Pepe's is a little more slick and touristy. Wooster Street.
                                        d) Modern Pizza: The most notable contender. This is where the wife and I go when we don't go to The Spot. GREAT bruschetta. Excellent marketing. State Street
                                        e) Bar: A New Haven bar that also does New Haven Pie. Good pie , HORRIBLE service. If you are not a 20 something beautiful person hipster doofus you will be ignored and not seated. Too bad, no a half bad pie. York Street.
                                        f) Tolli's: A New Haven pie in East Haven. Excellent choice, very good pie. This is where the wife and I go when we don't go to Modern. East Haven, Main Street.
                                        g) Perrotti's: Not technically a New Haven pie but close and very good. Having worked there I can vouch that their kitchen is very clean and that Bill & Jen Perrotti are very good people. Homey, in touch with the neighborhood, not at all pretentious. This is where the wife and I go when we want pizza or sandwiches and we want to stay local. Middlebury, Store Road

                                        4) The quintessential pie is all up to taste. However I judge a New Haven pie by ordering two types, a plain (just sauce), and a red/mozz/bacon. Others will say the white clam. My wife says the white chicken. Sally's does a really interesting and very good rosemary and potato designer pie.

                                        5) NO! See 3

                                        6) Rituals:
                                        a) Waiting in line, in the rain, in the snow.
                                        b) Letting the family out of the car to wait in line while you look for parking.
                                        c) Bringing something to keep everyone busy while waiting for your order, the longer you wait, the more likely the pie is going to be cooked to perfection.
                                        d) Specifying everything on the pie.
                                        e) Ordering "Foxon Park" soda to drink, a local brand.
                                        f) Going to Libby's for desert.

                                        7) Not sure which ones have which type of oven. I know Pepe's has a brick coal oven. I think all New Haven type places, regardless of oven type, run their oven's hotter than regular pizzerias.

                                        8) Depends on the place. When I go for New Haven pie, I go to gorge, one slice isn't going to do it. So I never noticed.

                                        9) Neither and both. The pies are hacked into crazy, irregular, center radial triangular slices.

                                        Hope that helps.
                                        I know that New Haven Pizza, especiall Pepe's has a lot of links online if you look.

                                        One side note.
                                        I have a friend from college who grew up in NYC.
                                        For YEARS he refused to believe that New Haven kicked NYC's butt in pizza.
                                        After 20 years I finally conviced hime to go and took him on a New Havn Pizza tour.
                                        He is now a believer.
                                        His favorite was Modern, good choice.

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: WannaBeFoodCritic

                                          I have to say, the couple of times I've been and just ordered a cheese pie (not specifying red, mozz for example) I was given exactly what I expected, a pizza with tomato sauce and mozzarella.

                                          1. re: celeriac

                                            Maybe it's just something that the old timers do then.
                                            As New Haven pizza has attracted more than just New Haven people, as I said Pepe's is kind of touristy now from what it was, maybe they differentiate ordering styles.
                                            A point to consider though: a plain at a lot of places is dough/sauce/cheese. a plain at a New Haven pizzeria is just dough/sauce.

                                            1. re: WannaBeFoodCritic

                                              Exactly, I guess if I said "a plain cheese" they would realize that I wasn't a real New Havener (Havenite?). At any rate, the cheeseless thing is interesting. I wonder if that's the missing link between New Haven pizza and RI pizza strips, which are very different but sport only a dusting of romano or some other hard cheese, never mozzarella or anything like that.

                                              1. re: celeriac

                                                wannabe, you know I grew up in NYC too (Bronx), have always been what people in CT call a pizza snob. Have not found a really great pie in Norwalk where I live. I keep saying I just have to get up to New Haven to see what all the hub bub is all about. Maybe since the weather is getting better it is time to wait in line, do a pie and then take the family for dessert at Libby's. I miss good italian pastry too!

                                                1. re: dajuma39

                                                  In all my experiences, if I say "I'll have a large pepperoni" I get a large pizza with red sauce, mozz and pepperoni. The only difference to that is at Pepes where you may specify a red or white pie.

                                                  There is a pie that is a traditional pizza, which has red sauce and sometimes a sprinkling of parmessean...the crust on those sometimes has a different texture in my experience due to the lack of cheese in the cooking process perhaps. Those are quite tasty when done right.

                                                  The other thing is - the blackened bottom occurs from the soot of the brick oven, and the oven temperature. Some pizza makers find that using corn meal is a cheatful method (to get the pie to slide on and off the peel easier).

                                                  1. re: Jestner

                                                    Went to Sally's yesterday for the first time in over 10 yrs. Was pretty disappointed. The pies aren't nearly as good as I recall them being. They aren't bad (in relation to general pizza) - but the flavour was pretty bland this time around. Crust still was great. You need to specify mozzerella here if you want it on your pizza (I didnt mean to exclude them in my above post)

                                                    Also - as is usual at Sally's - the service was real bad. Certain people have a special phone number whereby they can make reservations. This not only allows them to cut waiting lines, but it also gives their order priority. As such, you may be seated at 6pm, order immediately, and be served at 745p, 30 minutes later than the guy seated at 645p and served at 715.

                                                    If you are in New Haven looking for the meaning of New Haven Pizza - I'd recommend Pepe's for the old school environment or Modern for consistency.

                                                  2. re: dajuma39

                                                    If you live in Norwalk, try the Frank Pepe's branch in Fairfield. It's on par with the one in New Haven and it's a much shorter drive.

                                            2. re: WannaBeFoodCritic

                                              I'd agree with everything you said except one thing - you forgot the Mets fans. And there are LOTS of us.

                                              Obviously you were not welcome at Bobby V's in Stamford, Norwalk or Milford ;-)

                                              I'll add that we now have a Harry's here south of Pittsburgh. I never went to the one in West Htfd when I lived in CT, but apparently it has a legion of followers. Harry's is the closest (really, the only) thing to actual NH pizza out here and it's becoming extremely popular. It's expensive as Pittsburgh pies go and the white clam is, well... you don't come to Pittsburgh for the clams. But the other pies at Harry's here are fab.

                                            3. I'm from North Jersey and have lived here for 4 years following an extended period in the South.

                                              After Southern pizza (where Papa John's and Domino's are considered "good pizza"), New Haven pizza was actually pretty decent. I don't like it as much as the NJ/NYC pizza I grew up with, though.

                                              Pepe's is good. Very good. But their red sauce and mozzarella pizza isn't as good as Jersey pizza. If you want the New Haven pizza experience, wait in line and get the white clam pizza. They shuck the clams fresh there...and it is the standard of New Haven pizza.

                                              However, I found it to be too burnt. In fact, nearly all of "New Haven style" pizza whether Pepe's, Modern, or whatever, is too burnt for my taste. Your mileage may vary.

                                              For me, it was an awful long wait for a burnt pizza...but it was tasty. The clams were very flavorful and it makes for a very different type of pizza. I doubt I'll ever go back to Pepe's, but I might try The Spot.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: rmmcgrath

                                                You can ask for a pie "lightly baked" if that is your preference.

                                                1. re: rmmcgrath

                                                  The "burnt" crust is what everyone goes for. That's what a coal-fired oven does.

                                                2. if you need some pizza links, check out http://www.pizzatherapy.com/

                                                  1. Wow, pretty interesting thread. I consider New Haven pizza to be a variation of NY style, as in, "That pizza is New York style, New Haven variation". I'm now living in SE Michigan and Mike Weinstein, who is a CIA-trained cook and studied pizza-making with one of the New Haven pizzaiolis, has a place in Farmington Hills, MI called Tomatoes Apizza, and he makes the New Haven variation of pizza. They're delicious. They're so delicious, in fact, that I've stopped having pizza flown in from NY.

                                                    My brother and I are from Yonkers. He's six years older than I, and he remembers Italian kids in Yonkers saying, "A-beetz" (apizza) for pizza. We're talking 1940s and 1950s here, folks. So the "apizza" term covers more ground than just southern CT. Anyway, it's a great thread and I'm gettin' hungry.

                                                    Here's a link to a great pizza site: http://www.sliceny.com/ that gives some history.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: Summerfield

                                                      my nomination for the greatest thread in 2 years

                                                      1. re: Summerfield

                                                        I have to disagree that New Haven pizza is a variation of NY style. Once you get beyond the fact that both feature a thinner crust than most other styles, there is very little similarity. For one thing, apizza is always very thin, usually moreso than even the thinnest NY pies. The sauce also tends to be very different (even taking into account the differences found within each style). Generally, aside from the fact that it's rare to see high quality mozzerella on a New Haven pie, I'd say apizza is far closer to Neapolitan style than to NY style. I've always thought of apizza as a Neapolitan pizza that's been cooked for far longer at over twice the temperature. There is also very little reason to believe New Haven style is derived from NY style. Though there were a small number of pizzerias in NY and the immediate surrounding area before Frank Pepe began making his tomato pies, it's hard to imagine that they were at all well known by 1925 when Pepe's introduced the apizza style. Pepe likely was basing his creation entirely on what he remembered from Italy, altered somewhat by the difference in available ingredients. Also, as other posters have noted, New Haven Italians generally came directly from Italy (particularly the Amalfi coast) and did not filter through New York first. Most of the New York Italians that came to CT went to the more suburban areas, or to Bridgeport.
                                                        As for the word apizza itself, it's rare to see in the US outside of the New Haven and Bridgeport area. However, I have seen it used in Italy, in a pizza shop at the leaning tower of Pisa. It's important to remember that Italy has an incredibly diverse array of spoken languages that are not all very closely related. Standard Italian was still a very new language at the time when most Italian immigrants came to the US. It's actually sort of surpising that there aren't more words for pizza, or a bigger difference between the terms, considering how in Italy one cheese or one type of pasta can have thirthy different names that sound nothing alike.
                                                        Some other notes on apizza. While there are a lot of places, both in New Haven and in the surrounding area, that serve authentic apizza, it's important to note that even in New Haven itself, most pizza is not New Haven style. In CT in general, the vast majority of pizza is either NY style, or else what we call Greek style. I grew up a mere half an hour from New Haven and never ate a real apizza until I had gone to college and learned of it from other CT natives. Now I live in New Haven, and while I have at least a dozen NY style places in walking distance, there is only one place that could be called New Haven style. As for single slices, BAR is the only place I know that sells apizza by the slice. Interestingly, it is also one of the few places that does not cut slices in the normal triangular shape, rather they are rectangular. They also only sell them on certain nights (weekends for sure but maybe other nights as well) and don't start selling them until near midnight (basically as a concession to the drunk crowds). While BAR isn't the best example of New Haven style, I recommend it highly because of the beer. Nothing goes better with pizza than a good beer, and they brew their own, very good beer (I highly recommend the stout). But I'd say if you're only going to try one apizza pie, make it Modern's.

                                                        1. re: danieljdwyer

                                                          Thanks for your elucidations...very informative. Here's a link to a Slice article about some New York pizza aficionados traveling from Brooklyn to New Haven to sample the pies there. It's a long article (like yours) but worth reading. The authors seem to think that Pepe's crust is thicker than what they are used to in NYC. Anyway, I have no problem accepting New Haven pizza as its own style. In my original assessment, I was probably affected by, shall we say, regional chauvinism. As I previously stated, Tomatoes Apizza in Farmington Hills, MI (a New Haven style of pizza) is delicious and reminds me of home, at which point "style" becomes just a word. I'm gettin' hungry.

                                                          http://www.sliceny.com/archives/2004/...

                                                      2. growing up and living in detroit, home of big chain pizza (domino's, little caesar's, hungry howie's, and jet's), i am not well versed in east coast pizza. back in january, i was in ct to visit a customer and he took me to pepe's to settle a wager we had made (my tigers beating his yankees in the a.l.c.s.). his office is in bridgeport so we didn't go all the way to new haven. not sure which outpost we went to but the drive was less than 10 minutes. there were five of us and we ordered three pizza's with different toppings. i thoroughly enjoyed it. great crust. nice sauce. right proportion of sauce, cheese, and toppings. my only regret is that i did not get to try one with clams. next time.

                                                        7 Replies
                                                        1. re: xman887

                                                          I have been watching this for like two months...there are other good places for pizza...come on folks...open up a little...

                                                          So much of Wooster St is about the ambiance...admit it ...it;s cool to say you went there...it't like when the Beanie Babies came out...had to have one before the next guy.

                                                          It is unfortunate that most people will accept a mishapen, almost black edge crust ..(maybe you don;t have a choice after waiting for two hours in the rain)...but if you try it in other places ...it does not fly.

                                                          In regards to the old coal oven...sure it is hot...and looks good...but if the age of the oven meant so much...the one I see them building at the new Pepe's in Manchester looks pretty brand new to me...will the pizza be poor until it ages a few years?

                                                          By the way...there is already a Pepe's in Manchester on Middle Tpke...they make a good sandwich...wonder if they are concerned about the name...

                                                          All in all...pizza was and is meant to be a pedestrian food...we've put these NH places on such a pedestal that they are un-reachable for the common person who just wantrs to eat...leave it for the Yalie Yuppies.

                                                          Other places I think are good...Operating Room in New London, Mulberry St, Manchester, Tony's in Willimantic, Flatbread in Canton...and that place with the trains in Old Saybrook is good.

                                                          Happy dining!


                                                          You can get the same effect with a Blodgett 1000...most good shops use them...the reason they keep them lit is because it costs more to cool them down than to just keep them going ..like a deisal engine.

                                                          1. re: sodagirl

                                                            I know it's a drizzley day in CT today -I wish we could have one in Florida- but I think you need a mood enhancer. Eat two slices of clam pie from the Spot, and call us in the morning :)

                                                            1. re: sodagirl

                                                              What the heck is wrong with all of us for accepting a pizza that isn't a perfect circle. Shame on us all. Perfect circle pizzas truly do taste so much better.

                                                              1. re: sodagirl

                                                                I disagree with much of your argument, but more importantly, you've given me new leads on good pizza further east! Can you tell me anything more about the pizza at Tony's in Willimantic and the place in New London, which a quick google search seems to indicate is actually called "the Recovery Room?" Are their styles similar to the New Haven stuff we've been discussing here?

                                                                1. re: celeriac

                                                                  I dont know anything about Tony's in Willimantic - but the Recovery Room is actually more expensive than New Haven pizza. Recovery Room is decent - but its nothing to write home about in my opinion, and definitely not worth the price.

                                                                  I find it ironic that Sodagirl is bashing everyone for putting a pedestrian product on a pedastal - and then recommending Recovery Room which bandies about, saying their speciality is "Gourmet Pizza". Doesnt that bother you Sodagirl?

                                                                  Flatbread is also quite expensive. Go upto the main Flatbread location in Waitsfield VT where you pay over $20 for their specials. Doesn't sound pedestrian to me.

                                                                  1. re: Jestner

                                                                    i grew up near the recovery room and always stop by there when i'm driving thru ct (i live in nyc now). i still have to try the new haven places, so i can't really compare. recovery room seems very decently priced to me (i only order pizza)...maybe that's b/c i live in the city and everything outside of it seems like a great deal! i love difara's here, which is completely different than recovery room style. recovery room has a thin, non-greasy crust. i haven't tried too many different types on the menu b/ci tend to stick w/ what i like. the pesto pizza is really delicious, it's subtle and not that gross aflredo-type pesto way too many ppl serve. just basil, garlic olive oil, some romano cheese and sauteed mushrooms on top...very very good.
                                                                    the focaccia(sp?) is awesome, 99 cents for basically a pizza pie of focaccia...crispy, slightly drizzled with olive oil, parm and romano cheese and some rosemary. i love it!
                                                                    basically, recovery room--from the pizza's i've tried--, is really delicious NOT ny style pizza and i think it's reasonably priced. if you're in the area, it's definitely one of the only good places around there to eat!

                                                                2. re: sodagirl

                                                                  I agree completely that Wooster St is overrated. I think the best of New Haven is definitely found outside of Wooster Square. Obviously there is also very good pizza elsewhere in CT, much of it in completely different styles.
                                                                  Two places I would add to your list: Carminuccio's on Route 25 in Newtown (definitely not even close to New Haven style); and the way too famous Mystic Pizza, which is far from sublime but is very solid pizza in the very eastern part of the state.
                                                                  I also agree that the age of a pizza oven matters little. I do think the fuel that fires it makes a big difference though, so I don't think a coal oven and a Blodgett 1000 produce the same results. That's not to say you can't make equally good pizza in one. The thing that attracts people to the age of Pepe's oven, and to Pepe's overall, though, is a (probably subconscious) sense of history.
                                                                  Also, I don't see any less merit to a long discussion of "pedestrian" foods than one involving the heights of gourmet eating. In the sense that you have used the word pedestrian, William Shakespeare could be called a pedestrian playwright. However, while 400 years of linguistic evolution has rendered Shakespeare difficult for most to understand, I don't think any amount convolution on our parts is going to put the appreciation of pizza out of the reach of the "common person".

                                                              2. 20 years ago, my chowbaby's first piece of solid food that he grabbed and gummed all by himself was a pizza crust at Frank Pepe's. He shouted for joy and waved it about. Even the grouchy old waitress cracked a smile. And so the twig was bent.

                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: atheorist

                                                                  Nothing bothers me...I eat alot of Pizza and travel all over the country to find good restaurants...read my note again...is this a Pepe'sSally's, The Spot adulation site? I have adifferent opinion thats all and look deeper than just telling everyone how great my last visit was.

                                                                  You know how frustrated you get in these sites when some asks about a good place to eat and someone recommends Friday's? And so it goes...(KV)

                                                                  and

                                                                  It's not rainy here..actually sunny and warm but finally some real dialogue...you are missing my point...but you have to admit it caused some discussion...

                                                                  I like the burned edges and mishaped pie...what I was saying is that becaus the general public doesn;t ...most restaurants don;t try it...

                                                                  I know one good pizza shop that tells me all the time...you are the only one who asks for the pie well done..everyone wants it "lite baked"...they probably drink "Lite" beer with it. Life is more than that.

                                                                  My opinion is that most baked products are not cooked long enough...ever get puff pastry that is white?..it supposed to be dark brown ...this is when the sugars carmalize and release their true flavor...how about the under cooked proof and bake rolls you get in most restuarants...what happend to the crust that hurts the roof of your mouth when you bite it...

                                                                  Tony's in Willimantic is down by the thread mills past the bridge with the frogs on iut...also worth seeing...it is not thin crust...but is cooked long enough...the dough is not just white bread...maybe greek style cooked at a high temp is a good desriction...lock your car if you go there.

                                                                  Flatbreads...I had a mushroom pie there two weeks ago...very good...the difference is they use fresh mushrooms...a little too trendy for me though.

                                                                  Recovery Room..thaks for the clarification is great when not busy...the people who write the menu don't always cook the food...so don;t ask me about my opinion about menu description...way overdone..if someone says it's "Gourmet" ...I could care less about that..it is what is served and I think they do a great job.

                                                                  By the way I ate at Mozza out in LA last month...welcome to the new millenium.

                                                                  1. re: sodagirl

                                                                    Sodagirl said: My opinion is that most baked products are not cooked long enough...ever get puff pastry that is white?..it supposed to be dark brown ...this is when the sugars carmalize and release their true flavor...how about the under cooked proof and bake rolls you get in most restuarants...what happend to the crust that hurts the roof of your mouth when you bite it...

                                                                    The most accurate thing to appear on the entire thread.

                                                                    1. re: sodagirl

                                                                      In the past few months, I have been to Mozza, Pizzeria Bianco (Phoenix), Pepe's and the Recovery Room. I might try to hit Sal's in Westbrook tonight or tomorrow. Here's the short story.

                                                                      1.Pepe's

                                                                      2. Pizzeria Bianco

                                                                      3. Mozza

                                                                      4. Pizzaiolo in Oakland

                                                                      5. Recovery Room.

                                                                      Pepe's edges Pizzeria Bianco on clam pizza, old-world atmosphere and the fact that I grew up going to Wooster when you could still get shot there. Mozza is the best thing in California, but a pale third on my list. (Yes, Nancy made my pie.) Recovery Room is only allowed room on my list because it's 10 minutes from my dad's house.

                                                                    2. re: atheorist

                                                                      I love this post! Priceless! Wish I were there with a camera ...

                                                                    3. I'd guess that if a good NY pie is your standard, New Haven pies would disappoint. The quality of ingredients (particularly sauce and cheeses) is way below what a self-respecting pie joint in NY would consider serving. I think a lot of the rep of New Haven pies probably springs from the nostalgia of far-flung Yalies. The reality is not nearly as tasty as the memory.

                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                                        Ah..someone from my side of the street...

                                                                        1. re: sodagirl

                                                                          Soda and Pica,

                                                                          Not usre if it is an us versus them discussion. Jfood loves pizza and does not give a hoot if it's NY, NJ, CT, CHI or Fl. Jfood feels there is an "A" list for pizza and Sally's in on it, John's in NY (Bleeker only), Giordanos, Colony (STM) and until recently there is a pizzeria in my town in FFD county that jfood thought was primo until the old-guy died and the new-guy just ain't cutting it.

                                                                          There is also a pizzeria in Norwalk/Wilton, Leitizia, that everyonen raves about so jfood strung on the pepperoni feed-bag and off he went. Gotta tell you, not impressed, but just an opinion.

                                                                          Years ago when jfood lived in NJ and mrs jfood's parent would visit from NH they always bought a Sallys. Yum. Several years ago jfood won four tickets to see 'NSync in NH (opening act was B Spears, tells you how long ago) and jfood dropped of the girls and went to sally's by himself. Fantastic. And looking around, there were few Elis but lots of locals.

                                                                          Do college kids like pizza, jfood hopes that is still a right of passage for Yalies and all college kids in NH. Likewise Giordano's was a rite of passage for Jfood in school in Chicago. College and pizza is like, well, college and pizza.

                                                                          But Sallys and Pepes are institutions. Others likewise have moved up to "A" listers as well. Maybe the lines will shorten. Some think Sally has gone down since Sally died, and it might be true. But that burnt edge delight is still remains on the "A" list for jfood, lots of locals and the Yalies.

                                                                          Now if either of you have some good pizza recos in western FFD county jfood would appreciate it. Getting tougher by the minute.

                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                            pepe's in fairfield, of course.

                                                                            1. re: jfood

                                                                              jfood, I grew up in Stamford and visit family in western CT several times a year. Since most of them moved north and east, I'm not fully up-to-date on pizza in the panhandle (no pun intended). Little brother and I -- east side kids -- grew up on:

                                                                              The Colony, very good but overrated, I think -- I had many more of them after I attained, er, drinking age. The "grill" room was named Jimmy and Bobo's, Bobo and Fitz tended bar, and Sammy was the guy with the towel on his shoulder who made the pies in the back. It's good snacking pie; for real eating pizza we would head down to downtown Greenwich to DaVinci's, who made the best meatball pies I ever had. I believe they closed in the last year or so.

                                                                              Nick's in Glenbrook -- delicious, but you know how memories can be ... the place was run by blue-eyed twins from Amalfi ... (I often wondered which one was Nick) ...

                                                                              Cove Pizza -- not bad, representative pie.

                                                                              Pellicci's -- west side -- not bad, used lots of pungent salty cheese in the blend.

                                                                              The Post in Darien -- good Greek pizza.

                                                                              More recent takes:

                                                                              John the Baker in Bull's Head had pretty good pie; so did Mario the Baker on High Ridge. I think Mario's is considered the better of the two, but I don't have sufficient recent data to verify.

                                                                              Uncle Joe's in the Broad River area of Norwalk makes excellent pies.

                                                                              Italia, more of a restaurant on old Route 7, also has terrific pizza.

                                                                              1. re: misohungrychewlow

                                                                                miso

                                                                                many thanks. those you listed are about the best but still pretty mid-level (except for colony whichis the best of the bunch). Worked at 3003 summer for a few years and mostof those in that 'hood were delivered for lunches and dinners and you know how too much leads to staring at the box.

                                                                                So jfood continues in the search.

                                                                          2. re: pikawicca

                                                                            The far flung Yalies were mostly getting sloshed at Morey's. The core constituency on Wooster Street is the large population of Italian immigrants in New Haven County. Look at the people in the queue at Pepe's: are they wearing Brooks Brothers suits and extracting square roots in their heads while they wait? It's not a Yale thing at all. It's italian. And for all the years I lived in Texas, Colorado, and other areas with few italians, I sure did miss them, as I do in Florida, today. For my New England vacation in July, Wooster St. is top of the list. And a canole at Lucibellos.

                                                                          3. Go to MODERN PIZZA on State Street and Humphrey's. It's the best...melts in your mouth. BAR on Crown St. also has great pizza- try the mashed potato, no kidding!When I first moved here about 20 yrs ago- couldn't understand that hype. After all, it's only pizza, right? It is as thin as can be, flavorful and simply melts in your mouth. Personally, I think Sally's and Pepe's are both over rated; longs lines are not worth it. Visit b/c they are both landmarks but there are other wonderful pizza places in NH.

                                                                            As far as where it originated from - am convinced that NH area Italians immigrated from Naples, Italy b/c when I visited, Naples pizza tasted just like New Haven's (or the other way around, I should say).

                                                                            Visit and check these places out! Try the "plain, plain with a bit of parm and a bit of garlique" at MODERN. Translations: tomato sauce only, sprinkled with parmesan, and garlic. Simply out of this world.

                                                                            I am spoiled now and no other type of pizza will do it for me.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: LCM

                                                                              I Think you guys have won...my last post was pulled!

                                                                            2. For some reviews and pictures of Hew Haven Pizza, check out http://www.roadfood.com

                                                                              1. I hope this isnt too off topic: I am driving from providence to new york tomorrow and im gonna make a stop in New Heaven for pizza (first timer). I would like to go to Pepe's but I am not willing to wait more than 15-30 minutes to get a table. If I go around 2-4, will there be a long line. Approximately how long.

                                                                                I really want to try Pepe's, but modern will do if the wait is too long.

                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Sambossanova

                                                                                  I think the "New Heaven" typo exemplifies the paeans to New Haven pie on this board -- big chuckle!

                                                                                  1. re: Sambossanova

                                                                                    You should be fine going at that time of the day...but I'd suggest getting there closer to the earlier end of your range. I haven't stood in a pizza line at Sallys, Pepe's or Modern for years..its all about when you show up. I think you'll be fine.

                                                                                    1. re: Sambossanova

                                                                                      Our experience was that Pepe's or the Spot didn't open until 4 or 5 P.M. That was a bit over 2 years ago.

                                                                                      The Line at The Spot http://www.pbase.com/panos/image/4148...

                                                                                      1. re: Anonimo

                                                                                        He asked about Pepe's. Pepe's in open for lunch on Friday & Saturday - approx 11:30 (and around 2p on Sunday). Its been open for lunch on those days for quite some time now - over 3 yrs ago at least.

                                                                                        Sallys & Spot are, indeed, only open for supper. (Although the Spot is open around 230 or so on Sunday)

                                                                                      2. re: Sambossanova

                                                                                        This won't be of much help, since it's already 4 the next day, but it's goo to know that Pepe's, Sally's and Modern all accept takeout orders. In my experience Pepe's required 1-2 hours advance warning, so if you call as you're hitting the road you should be good.

                                                                                      3. I drove from providence to new york today and to be frank I didn't think Frank Pepe's pizza was that great. The wait was aIright, about 30 minutes. Got half pepperoni/half mozzarella and it was good with a nice char. I thought the crust was a little to thick and I am not sure if they only use mozzarella cheese, but if they do I didnt find it to be top notch quality as I expected. Maybe a little too much cheese.

                                                                                        I am being overly critical. The pizza was very very good but not that much better than some of the pies I have had in the new york area. It might be because I am spoiled having grown up in Italy. Pepe's was good though and it is nice they keep the prices reasonable unlike some places in NYC. I'll have to try Sally's or Modern next time i make the drive.

                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Sambossanova

                                                                                          Pizza's great in New Haven, but there's a lot more going on nowadays so if you don't feel like waiting in line, try the sushi at Miya's, Indonesian at Bentara's, awesome Indian at Thali, even tasty vegan at Ahimsa. That said, after you live in New Haven for a few years, it's hard to settle for the "pizza" down south in NYC. Usually way overpriced, less than fresh and dished out by surly Albanians. Only thing worth making a special trip to "Civilization" for, in my opinion, is Crispy Soul Chicken at Vegetarian Paradise.

                                                                                          1. re: newhavener07

                                                                                            I'm having a hard time imagining what "Crispy Soul Chicken at Vegetarian Paradise" might be. Please enlighten.

                                                                                            1. re: newhavener07

                                                                                              What a bizarre post, which in no way addresses my original question!

                                                                                              MANY THANKS to all those who did reply-- I have been tracking your enthusiastic responses over the past few weeks and even here in my current location in Tokyo I find myself dreaming of New Haven.

                                                                                              Mr Taster

                                                                                          2. As far as coal fired brick oven pizza goes, Pepe's is the best. You now have four options, Pepe's in New Haven, The Spot (next door to Pepe's New Haven), Pepe's in Fairfield, and newly added Pepe's in Manchester, CT. After visiting many coal fired brick oven pizza places, brick oven pizza places, and regular pizza places, Pepe's wins hands down. Perhaps one of the finest pizza's is the white, clam, with bacon with or without mozzarella. Although a new favorite from the Fairfield location is a white, shrimp with bacon with mozzarella, simply delicious. I've never been disappointed in over 50 visits to Pepe's. That includes Pepe's, The Spot and the Fairfield Pepe's location. Yes, there is char on the crust, but what a crust. Even with the toppings the pizza stands straight out when held up. The gravy (sauce for you pizza nuts) is just the right blend of sweetness and spices. I've combo'd many varieties and have found that it is hard to ruin a great pizza. The New Haven style pizza wins hands down for me. I've tried many pizza's in 47 years and think to myself why try others when Pepe's exceeds them all. Yes, the wait can be long but you do have options around this (The Spot or one of the other Pepe's locations or just get there early). This of course is only my humble opinion. Have turned my daughter and brother from California on to Pepe's and they both agree, simply the best. By the way I travel from New Jersey (about 1 1/2 hours) to enjoy Pepe's pizza and also order pizza's to take home. It's well worth the drive. And don't forget about the Italian Bakery next door, I agree with other posts as to it being a great spot for ices and desserts.

                                                                                            8 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: robertjsweet

                                                                                              white pizza with broccoli and onion from DePalma's on Main St in East Haven is probably my favorite pizza in the whole world...but I now live in North/Central Jersey and there is good pizza here too. Was never a fan of Pepe's or Sally's-I like Modern but I would take DePalma's in East Haven or Zuppardi's in West Haven over Wooster St anyday.

                                                                                              1. re: heathergt

                                                                                                I am also a big fan of Zuppardi's. I only get it once or twice a year due to where I live, but I enjoy every bite!

                                                                                                1. re: sam21479

                                                                                                  The original poster asked:
                                                                                                  I'm wondering if there's any link between the 100+ year old New York based Lombardi's/Patsy's/Grimaldi's type places.

                                                                                                  Pepe's, Totonno's, Lombardi's, Patsy's and Grimaldi's all stem from the original Grimaldi's recipe and, much more importantly, method of cooking.
                                                                                                  Whether the oven i gas, coal or wood fired, the key (according to the chief man at Totonno's) is the heaty of the oven - upwards of 800 degrees F.

                                                                                                  All original owners worked at the original in NYC. (I think Grimaldi's but maybe Lombardi's.)

                                                                                                  If you get to Totonno's during the chief cook's break, a tallish, thin man. try to catch him when ge goes out front for a smoke. Intersting and informative guy,

                                                                                                  1. re: CapeCodBob

                                                                                                    That's not entirely accurate. Frank Pepe never worked at any New York pizzerias, and there is very little connection between New Haven style apizza and New York style pizza.
                                                                                                    Antonio Totonno Pero started selling his pizzas out of Gennaro Lombardi's grocery store in 1905. Prior to this, he sold them as a street vendor. He would later leave Lombardi's to start his own pizzeria in 1924. The current Lombardi's has only a vague connection to the original, and, according to many who ate at both the original and the new one, serves an entirely different product. Totonno's is still serving the original style. Grimaldi's Brooklyn location was originally Patsy's, and was opened by Patsy Grimaldi well after Pepe's. He learned pizza making at his uncle Patsy Lancieri's pizzeria, but it's possible Lancieri learned it from Totonno. Unfortunately, the Brooklyn location came under new ownership about five years ago, and the product has gone downhill since (most dissapointing pizza I've ever had). The Hoboken location still makes a very good pie.
                                                                                                    Frank Pepe was already selling pizza as a street vendor when Totonno started selling his pizza at Lombardi's market. Similarly to most of the New Haven Italians, he came directly to New Haven from Italy. He also came from a different region of Italy than the founders of the New York places, hence the differences in style (both similar to Neapolitan but diverging from it in different directions) and terminology (Italian was a brand new language at the time, and it's very unlikely any of these men spoke it). They might all use similar levels of heat, but the dough is prepared differently. Apizza is also typically cooked for longer, and a standard pie was not topped with cheese. The original cheese used in New Haven was scamorza, with mozzarella preferred in New York. Scamorza is much more similar to the processed cheese most places are using on pizza these days.

                                                                                                    1. re: danieljdwyer

                                                                                                      danieljdwyer, certainly a very informed and informational post, even coming to it 16 months later. I agree that Grimaldi's has fallen off ...

                                                                                                      Tho off subject, if Pepe and Totonno didn't speak Italian as you alledge in the post, , what did they speak? Not Latin.???

                                                                                                      1. re: louuuuu

                                                                                                        i had to be in brooklyn last night and friends from the bronx suggested we meet up at grimaldi's for dinner. my first time there but i had just recently read this thread. i must say that the pizza was fine, but NOT worth the 75 minute wait on line and certainly not something i would travel for (had i not already been in brooklyn).

                                                                                                        what a shame...

                                                                                                        1. re: hungrykids

                                                                                                          Agree. I went there Monday because I had to pick something up for work nearby. All three (plain, sausage and pepperoni) were decent margarita style pizza with fresh basil and mozzarella. I called ahead and did take out but the sign on the door said same line for dining and take out. After about 10 minutes a man came out and asked if anyone was doing take out so I got to go in and get my pies.

                                                                                                          Nice view of Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge but not worth waiting in line for 90 minutes that's for sure. I think it's a case of The Emperor's New Clothes.

                                                                                                           
                                                                                            2. I was born and raised in the Bronx. At 27 I relocated to New Haven, and was immediately assaulted with a chorus of "New Haven pizza is the best!" At first I was insulted, but damn if they weren't right. I can't (or don't feel like) answering all your questions, but in regards to:

                                                                                              # 3) Absolutely. You can get uniformly exceptional pizza all throughout New Haven County. Tolli's and Minervini's in East Haven are both excellent, as is Abate's in North Branford (it's my daughter's favorite).

                                                                                              # 4) White clam, without a doubt. 'Nuff said.

                                                                                              # 5) See # 3 above. Modern, on a good night, is the best of them all, imho.

                                                                                              1. I'm a New Haven resident born and bred and grew up eating New Haven pizza. Living here and eating pizza regularly might give me a different angle on the whole thing.

                                                                                                Not all New Haven folks say abeetz or mutz or even use the term pie, though we do not blink when we hear the terminology used. I've eaten pizza that I have enjoyed very much in NYC. I've had some tasty stuff in Chicago that I was told was pizza, but it sure didn't seem like pizza to me.

                                                                                                When they are on their game, Sally's makes the best pizza I have ever had. The wait is a drag, the place is an ugly little hole in the wall that was last decorated in the 1970's style that I would describe as "Shall I slash my wrists before or after I pick up my welfare check?". The bathroom is tiny and grubby enough that it would fit in just fine in Chinatown. And the pizza, while always good, is not always magical.

                                                                                                But oh, when they are on, they are really on! You get in line when they are first opening up, because you want to be in the first wave. You wait and wait because they're bringing that brick oven up to temperature. The cooks look dour and grubby, don't be fooled, they are craftsmen. Much has been said about the cheese being imported (You can get perfectly lovely cheese from Luizzi's in North Haven and it is FRESH, so why the hell import it?) and the shape of the pie. But as any baker can tell you, the nature of the oven and the temperature is key. Sally's cooks preside over their ovens like Japanese master potters standing over their kilns for a raku firing.

                                                                                                When they are on, the pizza is so good that it will make your eyes roll up into your skull. It doesn't need much cheese. I prefer a pie with olives and onions or some vegetable combination. The sauce is lovely and the crust is perfect and there is a synergy there that is magical.

                                                                                                Okay, that being said, on a day to day basis, I don't have the energy to wait in line at Sally's. I'm over fifty. I eat pizza about three times a month. I do not eat pizza outside of New Haven. I've tried places in the area over the years, and I never care for it as much. So I go for other options when I am elsewhere. I remember visiting New Orleans and having a local suggest pizza to me, and I rolled my eyes and said, "Look, I'm from Connecticut, from New Haven. You can kick our ass at any other kind of food. You have AMAZING food. But you are suggesting that I eat the ONE kind of food that we can, I assure you, do better than you can.

                                                                                                So, as a rule, I opt for bar on Crown Street. The beehive brick oven is spectacular, the pizza is wonderful. The salad is great and the beer is very very good. And even if one does have to wait, sometimes, one can wait in the bar and drink that lovely ambar beer and enjoy some fine people watching in comfort. bar is huge. bar is a scene. The pizza stands up to regular consumption. I've decades of bar pizza under my belt. Hoo-boy, do I!

                                                                                                Pepe's makes a great white clam pie if you are into that sort of thing. The pizza at Pepe's and at The Spot underwhelm's me. Pepe's appeal relies overly much on reputation and appeals to those get excited about anything covered with cheese. The restaurant itself is more attractive than Sally's, but then the rest stop restrooms on I-95 are more attractive than the dining room at Sally's. Pepe's pies are too greasy, too salty and these things overwhelm the rest of the experience. They do not pre cook the bacon, so if you order a bacon pie, it comes awash in rendered bacon grease, which is nauseating. There are people who eat that way, but if you do not have the palate of a frat boy, give it a pass. Both Sally's and bar precook their bacon and make pies that are not so freakin' salty. Salt and cheese, salt and cheese, too much of either, let alone both, tastes like crappy processed food to me.

                                                                                                The appeal of Modern continues to mystify me. Pepe's has the reputation and they do make a great clam pie, but Modern is mostly a Yale thing. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Grad students don't get out much. When Starbucks opened on Chapel Street some years back, Yalies voted with their feet and abandoned Willoughby's, so that tells you all you need to know about their tastes. Granted, they are better than the students over at Southern who, given the choice between having a Willoughby's, a Starbucks, or a Dunkin Donuts on campus, voted overwhelmingly for Dunkin Donuts, but that is damning the Yalies with faint praise indeed.

                                                                                                Modern is the saltiest and greasiest of the big four (In order of fame: Pepe's, Sally's, Modern, bar). I've seen them finish sweeping the floor and then use the same filthy broom to sweep out their ovens, which explains some of the nastier tasting pies I've been offered from Modern over the years. Full disclosure: I've only eaten in the restaurant about a half dozen times in the last ten years, because I rarely choose to go there. When I do go, it is because I'm being a sport and am with some soft-headed naugahyde-palated friend who is jonesing for a Modern fix. I hate to enable such feeblemindedness, but sometimes one lowers one's standards for friendship's sake. Most of the pies I've had were take out. The last pie I ate in the restaurant was so nasty that I knew I was in trouble the moment the waitress put it down on the table in front of me. It was just a uniform sea of pitted cheese swimming in grease. My throat constricts at the recollection.

                                                                                                The servers, however, at Modern, are lovely. The staff at Sally's are usually okay, but you get the feeling they are doing you a favor, while, in all these years, there has never been a server at Pepe's who made any impression on me at all, come to think of it. And I guess that is a good thing, they are busy as hell and doing their jobs. The servers at bar are good. They are young and attractive. I've never seen an older person working the floor at bar, and the only men I've seen working there are either making pizza or bartending. Never had a male server, not in decades. So whatever else, there is a sexist fuktard making the hiring decisions. Something is up. But the staff are good. I've heard people tell stories about being treated badly at bar, which mystifies me, because in 20 some years of eating there, I haven't had a bad experience. And it isn't because I am a regular because the place is huge and a bit of a zoo. The worst thing about eating at bar is the decibel level can be a bit much if you are feeling tired.

                                                                                                Eat at bar. Order the salad, it has mixed greens and blue cheese and pears and candied pecans and is yummy. The pizza is damn good. Don't get too many toppings, you want that crust nice and crisp. And drink the beer, the stuff they make, the ambar is very nice.

                                                                                                And that's all you need to know about New Haven pizza.

                                                                                                -----
                                                                                                Willoughby's
                                                                                                20 Main St, Rockport, MA 01966

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: Pipenta

                                                                                                  Very nice write up.
                                                                                                  Agree on Modern - - - good pizza but not sure what all the fuss is about.
                                                                                                  I've been to Sally's a couple times but not since 1991 - - - I had such a god awful, unprofesional, rude service experience I vowed never to return and to tell everyone I ever knew never to go there. I don't find their pizza much different than Pepe's so given the choice betwen the two I'll pick Pepe's on account that they aren't @#$@#$!!!
                                                                                                  I live in Fairfield now so my Pepe's experience has not involved New Haven in more than 3 years. I'm not a white clam pie lover, but that seems to be their signature. There are 2 pizzas I really like from them: their plain tomato pie (no cheese) and their sausage and cheese pie. The tomato pie is just super simple: crust, sauce, olive oil, and a sprinkle of grated cheese. Something about the char of the crust and the plain red sauce just does it for me. The sausage they use is super rich and put on raw such that it is not over cooked. I find this richness combines well with the salty (as you mentioned) cheese. This cheese/sausage pie is heavy and rich and not something I can eat every week - - - but it is something I crave every now and then.
                                                                                                  Bar? Unfortunately have never been. My sister works in NH and goes at least once a month and swears by it.

                                                                                                2. What makes New Haven pizza unique is how much time is taken to make the dough and how little time is taken to cook it. Pepe's and Sally's and Modern let the dough rise for at least a day or more, but most other pizza places let it rise for less than six hours. Baking the pie in a hot coal fired oven cooks it fast and gives it a nice char. Coal ovens get over 1100 degrees, but gas ovens can only get up to 800 or so; it's not the same.

                                                                                                  1. You New Jersey people a funny bunch. You pretty much think you're the experts on everything Italian-American. The truth is that Connectiuct has the highest percentage of Italian-Americans in the nation. Repeat: in the nation. Higher than New York and higher than New Jersey. The reason most people don't associate Connecticut with Italian-Americans is because we don't have the Sapranos, Gotti, or Jersey Shore weirdos televised from our state. Our Italian-Americans have NOT developed a SUB-culture like our friends in NJ or NY. We're just classier by comparison. Yes, classier. We share the same ancestry and cuisine as their Italian-Americans, but we just don't act or look like them orange-tanned weirdos. Hollywood finds us too tame by comparison and therefore doesn't focus on our Italian-Americans. Freaks and side show behavior will always get the camera's attention.

                                                                                                    In New Haven county 1 out of 4 residents can trace their ancestry back to Italy. In NYC, that statistic is 1 out of 12. In Brooklyn, that statistic is only 1 out of 8. So take a guess where you're MORE LIKELY to find better pizza??? New Haven or Brooklyn??

                                                                                                    What I'm getting at is....we KNOW pizza in Connecticut. It's that simple. That's a shock to many NY and NJ who visit our yankee-heeled New England state, but if they knew simple CT statistical demographics or lived here for a little bit it should be no surprise.

                                                                                                    I won't even get into about Rhode Island. Because that's a whole other story....

                                                                                                    10 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: Joey_Z

                                                                                                      J_Z, I don't have a horse in this race as I'm not of Italian decent, but I have to point out the fatal flaw in your agrument. You say that NH has better pizza than NYC because 1 out of 4 residents are of Italian background and the proportion in NYC and Brooklyn is less. While the percentages maybe different, the absolute numbers tell a very different story. Using your 1 out of 4 for NH, given a population of 124,779 for 2010, there are 31,194 people of Italian heritage in NH. Brooklyn's population in 2010 was 2,504,700 so 1 in 8 gives you 313,087 Italians (almost triple the population of all of NH) and for all of NYC, its 8,175,133 with 681,261 Italian-Americans, again using your ratios. Since NYC has more than 20 times as many as NH, I think I have a decent shot of finding good pizza in NYC. I spend a lot of time in the NH area and the pizza is good though I don't understand the obsession with Pepe, but have you ever tried the best of NYC? I will agree with you that the typical NYCer thinks pizza was invented there and I've have shocked people by telling them that NH does have a legitimate claim to being one of the birthplaces of pizza in America. Have you tried the best of what there is in NYC? Its pretty awesome stuff.

                                                                                                      1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                        I understand what you're saying. But if you want to look at mere quantity numbers (and not pecentages) then look at California. They have more Italian-Americans than any other state. And just look at what great pizza and Italian food they have (rolls eyes).

                                                                                                        Yes, I've been to New York. In fact, I'm a former New Yorker.

                                                                                                        I wrote what I wrote tongue in cheek of course. But the facts are the facts. You're more likely to run into an Italian-American in CT than any state in the union. Many NY and NJ people don't get that, and think everybody here is from old yankee heritage.

                                                                                                        1. re: Joey_Z

                                                                                                          >> [California has] more Italian-Americans than any other state.

                                                                                                          We do? What's your source for this?

                                                                                                          Mr Taster

                                                                                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                            I was going from memory, but I was off a bit. CA actually has approximately the same number of Italian-Americans as NJ. The big difference is they comprise 4% of CA's population, while they comprise 18% of NJ's population. Likewise CT has an overall population that's proportionate to it's geographic size, while its I-A percentage is 19%.

                                                                                                            But my point remains the same....concentration and population size are two different things. That's why I purposely highlighted the words MORE LIKELY in my original write-up, Bkeats. I was refering to the odds, the probability, the chances, etc. Any good statistician would not be surprised to find good pizza in Connecticut if they knew the facts.

                                                                                                        2. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                          Sure Bkeats, NYC might have 20 times more Italian-Americans, but they probably also have 20 times more Irish, 20 times more Greek, 20 times more Puerto Ricans, etc..etc. You get the idea. It doesn't change the fact that New Haven county has a higher concentration of Italian-Americans than anywhere in NYC or your odds of running into an Italian-American. There's no flaw there.

                                                                                                          1. re: Joey_Z

                                                                                                            I get your point about proportions, but if we extrapolate from your argument, then there will be 20 times as many great pizza places in NYC than in NH. The proportion of great pizza to othr types of restaurants will be lower, but the absolute number and variety of choices will be much higher giving the diner more options for great pizza and therefore more places to argue about. I'm not saying there isn't great pizza in NH, but there will be more in NYC.

                                                                                                        3. re: Joey_Z

                                                                                                          Generally speaking, any kind of opinion that begins "you people" (or a derivative of ) is usually dismissed out of hand to those it's being force fed to. True to form, your argument follows the same trajectory. I happen to love New Haven style pizza. In fact, with the exception of Neapolitan - it's my favorite. But your crude stereotypes and asinine demographic citations do nothing to buttress your argument.

                                                                                                          If you would have told me that the city and the outlying area had deep pizza making roots that trace way back to Frank Pepe and his Italian baking background - I would have completely agreed with you. But your demographics argument is extremely flimsy, not to mention your ugly characterizations of Italian Americans.

                                                                                                          1. re: ladybugthepug

                                                                                                            A good pizza place doesn't need to have roots tracing back to Frank Pepes. An overwelming number of Italian immigrants settled in the New Haven area at the turn of the century (many from the Nepals region). Frank Pepe was just one of many who opened a pizza joint. There are numerous lesser known pizza places in the outlying area that could definitely hold their own against some of NYC's best heavy hitters. Tourists only know Pepes.

                                                                                                            Little known trivia: The word "pizza" was first mentioned in a major motion picture where its setting took place in New Haven. Not in NYC or NJ. The exact words were "Pizza, what's THAT?"

                                                                                                            By the way, I wrote what I wrote tongue in cheek. I've lived in NYC for many years. And I'm hardly characterizing ALL Italian-Americans because I'm merely saying ours is better then theirs. That's tongue in cheek too. OK, no it's not ;-)

                                                                                                            1. re: Joey_Z

                                                                                                              Do you think Sir Edmund Hillary munched on some "Nepalese" pizza on his way back down from Everest? Do tell;) *Tongue in cheek*

                                                                                                              1. re: ladybugthepug

                                                                                                                lol. I was first thinking what an interesting variation on Naples, but now I have an image of sherpas packing pizza up vesuvius. ;)

                                                                                                        4. All good info! Thanks. We will be in NH for the Easter weekend to visit our Yalie.

                                                                                                          Gotta say this--all of the NH dialect --is pretty local.

                                                                                                          We lived in Italy and have traveled that nation extensively.

                                                                                                          And the mootz, apeetza etc...is not vocabulary used...though entertaining.

                                                                                                          I should think similar words for Polish foods, Germans foods, etc etc have all been changed by the locals, adapted by those with accents other than the mother tongue etc.

                                                                                                          Thanks for the NH pizza culture education. I think we may take Pipenta's advice and go for Bar instead of Pepe's....we will see what the group wants ...and I am cutting/pasteing Pipenta's review to my fam.