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I tried Modern Apizza (New Haven)

  • n

I've never had "New Haven Pizza" before this. I'm not sure what to think of it really. I liked the charred(sp?) bottom and the texture of the crust. Although slightly thicker would've been nice. I liked how it had some herbs or spices stuck to the bottom of it for a bit of flavor.

Toppings were OK. Nothing special.

The worst - Where was the sauce? I could NOT taste sauce at all. There was a slight swirl on the end towards the crust and not really enough to taste there either.

I considered going right to Sally's or Pepe's to compare but it was 1 pm and there was a line out the door just like I read on here.

I probably wouldn't drive back up there for that unless I was bored.

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  1. Pics of my Modern aPizza with pepperoni, cheese and black olives...

    1. the stuff you saw on the bottom was probably corn meal. it keeps the dough from sticking. good use of that photo feature btw.

      try sally's though. as a matter of fact a show on travel channel that just ended showed flo from sally's and pepe's pizza also.

      1 Reply
      1. re: shoreline

        What would be different about Sally's or even Pepe's though? Can anyone who knows these places give more detail on the differences?

        It wasn't corn meal.. was kind of flaky stuff actually in the crust. Not sure what it was really.

      2. By definition, NH pizza is thin, very thin, and doesn't have a lot of sauce. But they're very accomodating, next time just ask for a little more sauce when you order. But not too much, you'll end up with a soaked crust. Try their sausage (bulk) with mushrooms. Or a white clam pizza with garlic (never a sauce problem).

        1 Reply
        1. re: rbailin

          Everyone who talks about NewHaven pizza talks about the white clam. Is that the big thing there?

          I"m not into clams...

          Maybe I'll go to Zupperadis(sp?) and try the buffalo chicken but then I'm pretty satisfied with the ones in RI.

        2. I went to Modern a couple of weeks ago. The pizza was just "good". Not great, not bad but "good". I remember it better. This time it was nothing special and certainly not worth a special trip or to go out of your way. If I am in New Haven already, i will go there.

          1 Reply
          1. re: johnpops1

            I've actually had the same experience the last time I went which was before the holidays. I've had better from them before. Maybe it was an off day for someone??

          2. You have to keep in mind that in New Haven, "pizza" as we know it has always been known as a tomato pie. Hence, the "sauce" is not sauce at all. It is crushed San Marzano tomatoes placed on the pie like a topping. It is not a cooked "sauce" used as a foundation upon which all else is built. If your preference is for a saucy pizza, you will be disappointed.

            25 Replies
            1. re: FoodieJim

              True... I like the NH pizza, but it is pretty dry. I like it sloppy with juices; Chicago style.

              1. re: FoodieJim

                You think all the New haven pizza shops are using San Marzano tomatoes?

                1. re: triggs73

                  I don't know what "all" is. But Pepe's and Sally's traditionally used them. Wouldn't surprise me if they have found suitable substitutes in this day and age where growing and canning are so much more consistent than in the past. In the 30 years that I have been going, I have not noticed a decline in quality of the tomatoes. (Personally, I have never bought in to the notion that it has to be San Marzano or nothing.)

                  1. re: FoodieJim

                    I must have miss read your post then because it sounded like you were saying that all New Haven pizza is made with crushed San Marzano tomatoes. Not a big deal, but just figured that especially now a days with costs going through the roof, I think that San MArzanos are used less than what they were.

                    1. re: triggs73

                      last week we went to pepes and had a clam with bacon that was simply mind blowing.no tomato or sauce,just sweet clams,they totally tasted fresh shucked,with lots of bacon,big chunks of garlic and im sure olive oil.perfect char,simply amazing,way beyond what one thinks of when all you know is tomato and cheese "pizza".get one!!!!!!

                      1. re: im hungry

                        ih, you are a cruel teaser. I'm hungry, and I wish I weren't 1200 miles away.

                        1. re: im hungry

                          Disclaimer: Some folks prefer pizza to clam and bacon flatbreads.

                          1. re: ratbuddy

                            Those "flatbreads" were being made in New Haven - and called pizza - long before the invention of the thick-crusted, sauce-drenched, over-topped stuff that is so common now. But if you like the other stuff, there's always the Pizza Hut in West Haven.

                            1. re: alanbarnes

                              No sauce? Fine, it's a 'white' pizza. No cheese? Fine, it's a .. Well, it's not a pizza.

                              Insinuating that I'm some kind of mass-market 'pizza' goon? Not cool. My personal favorite is Harry's Bishop's corner..

                              edit: Oh yeah.. As the menu board clearly states, it was called a 'Tomato Pie' in New Haven, not a pizza.

                              1. re: ratbuddy

                                The first thing to ever be called pizza - pizza marinara - has only tomato, oregano, garlic, and olive oil. Maybe basil. No cheese. They've been selling it since 1738 at Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba in Naples.

                                In New Haven, pizzas have been called pizzas (or apizze) for more than a century. Frank Pepe was selling them from a cart around 1900, and although the menu board at his place lists "Tomato Pies," he named his restaurant "Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana." Not "Frank Pepe Tomato-Pie-eria."

                                Back to the cheese issue, Frank popularized the white clam pie - no tomato, no mozzarella - long before anything that claimed to be pizza was coming out of the ovens at Henry Bishop's (or Pizza Hut). You may prefer pizza with cheese on it, but claiming that anything without cheese isn't pizza is simply incorrect.

                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                  It's Harry's Bishop's Corner. Not Henry Bishop's. If you want a real good pizza, they're a must-try. If you prefer Pizza Hut, that's just fine too.

                                  Also, while Antica Pizzeria Port'Alba was open and selling flatbreads and other street food since 1738, it did not actually become a pizzeria until 1830. Slightly misleading, although the earlier date is oft-quoted..

                              2. re: alanbarnes

                                Pizza Hut! Ouch! Sorry, I don't have the local loyalty or tough hide required to fight these apizza wars! I also don't get (as I've stated here before), what makes people so crazy about pizza. When I first moved up here (seven years ago), it seemed about all that was discussed on Chowhound or EGullet.
                                I really do like the fresh clam apizzas (except for the pieces of shell), but otherwise, if I get the itch, I make my own. I'm not going through the ordeal of the Wooster Street/State Street scene.

                                1. re: Scargod

                                  Tex, we're in another one of those conundrums of what one knows growing up vs what is "authentic": like the Chile-chili debate. Growing up in The Garden State, another hot bed of Italian food (and dearth of good Mexican), I'm drooling to try a Peppe's clam bacon whit. Maybe in April, we can hit it, if you want, on an off hour. Would a week day mid-afternoon be less crowded?

                                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                                    Modern Apizza Hours
                                    Tuesday–Thursday: 11 am–11 pm
                                    Friday & Saturday: 11 am–12 midnight
                                    Sunday: 3 pm–10 pm
                                    Monday: Closed
                                    I'm sure a late lunch would be preferable. In the evenings I've always seen lines, albeit, some were short.
                                    Here's their website: http://www.modernapizza.com/ Funny, the picture makes the sidewalk look huge, which it's not. Sometimes it's difficult to get past the place because of the crowd. I don't think I will take SO there for Valentine's dinner.

                                    1. re: Scargod

                                      My bro will do us baby backed ribs after we land in LV on VD! Warmth, sun & good Mexican food!

                                      1. re: Scargod

                                        The line thing is, in my experience, a total myth. That's not to say that there aren't lines, but, after going to Modern on about a once a month basis for the last five years, I've only once waited on line for more than ten minutes. At least ninety percent of the times I've gone, the wait has been more like five minutes. Usually, the wait is basically just a backup caused by the hostess only being able to seat people so fast (as opposed to every table being full and having to wait for other customers to clear out). I've also only ever gone in the evening, so it's not like I've just happened to be there at slow points. The line moves very fast. I have seen and heard of longer lines, but only between about 6:30 and 7:30, and only late in the week or on the weekend.
                                        I am not a very patient person when it comes to food. I've left plenty of restaurants over not having a drink in front of me within ten minutes of arriving. Despite that, Modern has only come close to trying my patience once, when I was stupid enough to go at 7 on Saturday of Yale's move in weekend. Even then, from the time I parked to the time I had pizza in my mouth was under half an hour.

                                        1. re: Scargod

                                          For what it's worth, I've been to Modern 4 times, each time after 9pm and I've never waited 10 seconds for a table, sit, drink, eat.

                                          Clam with Bacon is A+++!

                                          1. re: Bill Strzempek

                                            Well...whadda I know? I just see the lines as I drive by, on my way to a place where I have a reservation and a table waiting for me. I'm old; I deserve it. I've paid my standing in lines dues, and now, I'm not going to do it in the freezing cold and being with smokers. Since several of you have clarified that it is not a wait, or a long wait, I will have to try going to Modern, off peak. Is Pepe's the same way? When are the "not long wait" periods?
                                            I'm also (frankly), intimidated by the secret lingo and how to say it. Moz/no moz, not charred, more sauce.. extra this or that. I don't want to be dope-slapped by a surly waitress at Sally's for asking dumb questions or saying something wrong. Is there a primer?

                                            1. re: Scargod

                                              Your concerns are completely valid for Pepe's and Sally's. The lines are far worse at both than at Modern (though still not even close to what the legends claim). They also don't seem to be nearly as efficient, especially at Sally's. Every time I have ever waited at Sally's, someone from the Sally's in crowd has shown up and gotten to skip the line, typically with a party large enough to set the line back a good ten minutes. This has happened to me at Pepe's, but probably only half the time. This doesn't happen at Modern.
                                              Waitstaff at Sally's and Pepe's also are sometimes nasty (again, Sally's moreso than Pepe's) and you can get snapped at for ordering wrong. Again, not as bad as the legends claim, but still a distinct possibility. And again, it doesn't happen at Modern.
                                              Pepe's and Modern both seem to understand that they are an attraction, that many people coming in are first timers, and that this is the reason they make decent cash. Sally's absolutely doesn't seem to get this. Their general attitude seems to be, "If you're not part of our in crowd, you're a damned nuisance."
                                              You have nothing to worry about with lingo at Modern. As much as I go there, I order the same way I order at any other pizza place. They either correctly assume that when I say plain, I mean "sauce, cheese, and dough" or they ask a clarifying question. A lot of the waitstaff in the evenings are eager to please late high school or early college kids (I feel old, no longer being able to distinguish) who understand that being nice means a good tip, which means a better time on the weekend. If you want to be extra careful with how you order, just specify everything you want on top of your dough, sauce and cheese included. But, like I said, if you say, "Plain," they will say, "mozzarella?" And they'll say it nicely.

                                              1. re: danieljdwyer

                                                I never knew Pepe's and Sally's were like local versions of Seinfeld's Soup Nazi episode--GEEZ. But Modern has been on my list of places to try since it was recommended to me some time ago and based on positive comments I've read here...your addition to this thread seals the deal for me. Their clams casino pie sounds delicious.

                                                1. re: danieljdwyer

                                                  Mrs 02sbxstr and I have been many times to Pepe's in NH and have never encountered a waitstaff member with an attitude. We always go at lunch time - maybe its different at dinner. I know of Sally's reputation re the 'in crowd' and that is a reason we have never considered going there. (Aside from the fact they're not open for lunch.) We like Modern, but we're making a special trip from Glastonbury and don't want to settle.

                                                2. re: Scargod

                                                  You can also call in Modern and pick it up at a side door that is just for take-out. You can do a similar move at Pepe's by going to The Spot which is a little side building that houses the original Pepes oven.

                                            2. re: Passadumkeg

                                              there are Pepe lovers and Sally lovers, jfood the latter. Jfood had a clam pie last year, not to his taste. He would skip the clam pie and get a good bacon 'za from sallys.

                                              And if you do go to pepes, order a pitcher of soda, not a glass. When you see it you will know why.

                                          2. re: alanbarnes

                                            Big Al, just curious, how is a good Californicator like you so conversant on NH pizza? Are you a bi-coaster?

                                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                                              I had a parapatetic youth, including six years in Boston. During that time, my best friend was in New Haven, and we spent many a tipsy Saturday evening in line at the Modern.

                              3. I remember standing in line at Pepe’s & Sally’s 30 years ago as a kid and people still do the same thing today. Recently, I’ve gone to Modern because the wait is shorter or go to Pepe’s in Fairfield for the same reason. I still think Pepe’s in New Haven is the best, overall, but the difference is negligible.

                                I’ve tried to stay out of these ongoing Chowhound pizza debates as I’ve come to understand that people, for the most part, have made up their minds long ago what constitutes a good pizza or what a pizza is for that matter. You get north of Providence and you find a lot of places put cheddar in the mix (another CH thread was devoted to that). With regards to NH style pizza I now accept that many people who didn’t grow up with it (my wife being one) may not entirely “get it”. I’ve heard that the edges are too crusty or “burnt,” the pizza isn’t really that “saucy,” there’s not enough cheese, “It tastes good, but I wouldn’t wait in line for it,” whatever.

                                Personally, I love NH style pizza and think the majority of the pizza in the Seacoast region of southern Maine and NH is absolute crap. We now drive to Boston once in a while for Santarpio’s or Regina’s, but honestly, that’s really a hassle with parking and whatnot.

                                Over the summer, I met a man from Connecticut who was looking to move to the Seacoast (specifically Dover/Portsmouth) and we somehow got to talking about New Haven, then we mentioned Pepe’s and he inquired about the pizza situation in NH. I shook my head and said “You won’t find it here, pal . . .” and he knew.

                                With pizza, it’s really all about what you grew up with.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: bewley

                                  If ever in Ellsworth on the way to Acadia Nat'l Park try Finelli's.

                                    1. re: brucekc

                                      On Rt 1N just after the triangle, w/ rt 3. The prices are higher than other local pizza joints and it is better eaten in house as it cools quickly, but it is a quality pizza, especially if you have grown up w/ NY this crust and Not Maine gas station/convience store pizza.

                                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                                        "Not Maine gas station/convenience store pizza"

                                        You mean like that Pat's plaster...err, I mean pizza that you're always waxing on and on about? :-)


                                        BTW, congrats on the Grandfather thing!

                                    2. re: Passadumkeg

                                      Yes, we definitely will try it out, thanks for the rec!

                                    3. re: bewley

                                      Yes, if you are a pizza fan... or fanatic. So, I like a good piece of pizza, once in a while, but it would never be my first choice of what to eat or where to go. Fat, thin dry or sloppy, it can all be tasty if made with care and good ingredients. What you grew up with, know and love, aside, I just meant there was (and perhaps still is), an imbalance, an overabundance of discussion about and slobbering over pizza, here on the New England board. THAT is what I don't get.
                                      There's so much other good, varied food to talk about! Is it cause you can get it delivered, eat it without silverware, goes good with beer or is (usually), unhealthy and fattening? Already looks like a mess before you've made one of it? Makes a lousy Frisbee so you might as well eat it?

                                      1. re: Scargod

                                        Man, all this talk about pizza is making me hungry, "Honey, put on your boots, we're going to Flatbread!"

                                      2. re: bewley

                                        "With pizza, it’s really all about what you grew up with."

                                        I guess that might be true for New Haven, NY and people who grew up on Federal Hill with Caserta('s).

                                        I grew up mostly on Dominos and Papa Ginos. Over the recent years, got bored with it and developed tastes for better pizza. I just..wish I could take my top choices of pizza..and make 1 pizza. Like Caserta has the best sauce... Modern's Crust.....etc.
                                        I don't have any cooking skills like Jeff Varasano to pull it off myself.

                                      3. I still remember my 1st time at Modern. I was with 2 buddies that insisted on getting the white clam pizza. I wanted no part of it as I was not a big clam fan but I didn't want to be a killjoy so I sucked it up. Was one of the best things I ever ate. Just great.

                                        1. Everyone here who loves NH style pizza:
                                          You MUST try Bella Lisa's on Rt. 80 in North Branford.
                                          It is better than New Haven places and they make their own everything, including their absolutely delicious sauce (which they put plenty of on the pizzas - one of my pet peeves is when there's not enough sauce or the sauce is bland)
                                          I grew up on this pizza, so I'm biased, but even my boyfriend, a complete New Haven pizza fiend, admits Bella Lisa's is the best. The owner says he gets those comments a lot, that people don't bother to go to New Haven anymore. It's tiny and dumpy inside, but there's NEVER a wait, and the pizza is worth it. Also on weekends they make bread from the leftover dough which is also amazing.

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: pepoling

                                            Aren't we all our ownpizza snobs based upon experience? I swear ny a Boston Emilio's double fry... and I think Modern was great back in the day because of the pepe's/sally's wooster street maniacs would never stop beating their chests. Modern's meatball... bacon za with 2 rootbeers... Modern's great. They are all great. The collective sum of the parts is greater ...

                                            Love Modern. Love Pepe's as long as someone isn't telling me in line 'how great it is'.

                                            I hate at Sally's when someone says there's a 'back door' - my friend says he knows this guy...

                                            Blackened bottom pizza on wooster or Modern on State?


                                            1. re: ElizabethHenton

                                              I prefer my pizza without drama - that's why I go to Modern and Zuppardi's. Enough said.

                                              1. re: Zina

                                                As a lifelong New Haven resident, I've had innumerable opportunities to go to each of the "big 3" apizza shrines. A lot of what has been written above is accurate (in my opinion), and based on my experiences over many years, here is my take on it:
                                                Pepe's (or The Spot - generally much easier to get into!): White clam (with lotsa "gahlic") is unequalled. The freshly shucked clams make all the difference. Neither Sally's nor Modern use fresh clams
                                                Sally's: The red pies are to die for, but their favoritism policy makes it virtually impossible for an "outsider" to gain admittance in a reasonable amount of time. For me, two hours for pizza is not an option.
                                                Modern: Red pies are very close to the Wooster St. duo and while lines are not uncommon, they generally move considerably faster than the other two. Keep in mind that while they use a brick oven, it is fueled by gas, not coal. I, for one, like a little of the burned/charred bottom that is more easily attained with a coal oven.
                                                One thing that stands out to me is that for whatever reason, Modern's pies "to go" - produced in a separate, newer kitchen - just don't seem to travel well. We live just a bit more than 5 minutes away from Modern and by the time we get the pies home, they are unfailingly soggy, and while still tasty, definitely not as good as when eaten there. Amato's just down the block, while using "conventional" Blodgett ovens, makes a very credible pie that actually travels far better than Modern's.

                                                1. re: lsnhc

                                                  lsnhc: You have captured my thoughts to the letter. When I crave a clam pie, there is no substitute for Pepe's. I am not an "insider" at Sally's but I have close relatives who are. Yes, I feel "special" when I go with them and fly by the line. And yes, I feel like a tool when I am not with them and have to wait an unreasonable amount of time. Hence, I don'e do it any more. If the line at Pepe's and Sally's is too long, I will go to The Spot. I still prefer that to Modern's gas-fueled oven. I used to live in Milford, then New Haven. Back then, any of the Big Three (and a half, if you count The Spot) would do. Now that I live in Central CT, if I go to New Haven for a pie, I don't put Modern on my list. Harry's in West Hartford is just as good and a lot closer. So is the Pepe's outpost in Manchester which I have found to be a worthy replicant of the original. I'm going there tomorrow to get 4 pies take-out for my kid's birthday party and I can't wait. Make that 5. I'll get a small clam to hoard for myself!

                                                  1. re: lsnhc

                                                    I agree on Pepe's clam. Much of a Modern fan as I am, I never get a clam pizza there. If I want a clam pie, it's Pepe's or nothing.
                                                    There's a trick to reviving a transported Modern pie. I used to commute to New Haven from my hometown, a 45 minute drive, and every couple weeks I'd pick up a few pies from Modern on my way out of New Haven. By the time I got home, they were, of course, a cold, soggy mess. Simply reheating in the oven couldn't quite bring them back to life. Eventually, I got a tip from an unexpected source: my father, whose food knowledge is limited to grilling or following the directions on the packaging. Surprisingly, it worked remarkably well. It turns out that when he was a kid, his father, who worked in New Haven, would bring Pepe's home (also about a 45 minute drive, as this was before 95 was built) every now and then. Anyway, the trick is simple. Preheat your oven to 425, and put the whole, closed box in. Large boxes are too big for many ovens, but small pizzas are much better than larges at Modern anyway. As many will remember from high school literature class, paper ignites at 451 degrees, so you don't have to worry about the box catching fire (though that did not stop my mother from being very worried).

                                                    1. re: danieljdwyer

                                                      I have been a Pepe's fan for a long time. Great crust and I loved the tomato pie in the summer months when fresh tomatoes are available. Never like the attitude at Sally's. Modern was good. I moved to Boston and had the pizza at the Regina's in the North end which was near my office. That was very good with crust very similar to Pepe's. Also liked Ernesto's on Salem street also in the North End. Santarpio's in East Boston was hard to get to with tunnels, tolls and no parking. Actually the grilled lamb was better then the pizza. OK back to New Haven. Pepe's as we all know always has a line. Many times the are out of clams by the time you actually get in.

                                                      After reading this board and seeing an article in CT magazine with the consistent winners for pizza in CT, I tried the 1 place I haven't visited in the top 10.. Zuppardi's Apizza in West Haven.. OMG, what a surprise. Visited last weekend and again last night with a friend and SO's. My friend grow up in Ohio and before we met he though pizza hut was pizza. Since I first brought him 20 years about has been a Pepe's freak. Unfortunately he lives in Burlington CT. Pizza was an hour ride and hour waitnd. A he was usually buzzed in the summer from drinking beer in the line. Was he ever shocked.

                                                      First No line. We order a large Sausage/mushroom/Mozz and a large fresh clam pie w/o Mozz. The waiter, who was great. said he would have to get us a price on the clam pie. (to many shocked customers after eating the clam pie and getting the check) The price was a little steep at 32 bucks but he said the clams are cherrystones, opened fresh, not chopped fresh quahogs. We went with both pies. The clam pie was to die for. Cooked perfect with garlic, a little grated cheese and a sprinkle of crush red pepper. Than came the real surprise. The Sausage pie....Let me say that I hate sausage that looks like "kibbles and bits" and worst is the sausage that is sliced like pepperoni. Many places precook the sausage. Anyway, this gorgeous pie arrives with big pieces of sausage and so much of it. Every piece had at least 4 or 5 pieces of meat. This was without a doubt the best pie I have ever had. Cooked and looked like a Pepe's pie on their best day. Tasted like nothing that ever came out of Pepe's, Sally's, Modern, or Regina. NO LINE. I asked to see the owner who said that this place has been open for almost 70 years. She makes the sausage herself with boneless pork butts with very little fat and no additional pork fat added to the mixture. The taste of fennel of evident in every bite.
                                                      I can't wait to return..Shirley the owner of this family business suggested the escarole, white bean, and sausage pie. Sounds like a plan. I am going to sign off now as I just remembered I have 3 pieces of sausage pie in the frig for my breakfast.

                                                      If you like NH style apizza give this place a try. It is located in a residential neighborhood on Union street very near the downtown area. I think I will move

                                                      CHOW for now