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Sep 12, 2011 06:10 PM

Modern aPizza

My fiancee and I have been making our way through New Haven pizza legends and this trip brought us to Modern. Ordered a roni/garlic/mozz pie and a white clam/mozz pie. Despite the fact that both crusts were nicely charred, the bottom of both pies were mostly white, with only a few tan spots and extremely soggy.

Being disappointed with the product we spoke to the server who had the following explanation:

The restaurant was very busy earlier in the evening (we came in approx 9pm) and the oven had lost heat steadily throughout the night. By the time we ordered the oven was colder resulting in a pizza that was not brown and crispy on the bottom as you would get earlier in the day.

Lesson learned, however, why would a restaurant knowingly serve an inferior product like this? $30+ for 2 pizzas is top dollar (in my book anyways), if they cant make it right after a certain time/quantity, they should close down the kitchen or wait for the oven to be hot enough.

Id like to say I would give Modern a chance, go earlier in the day, but this experience really left a bad taste in my mouth. Frank Pepe's was so much better it doenst feel right to compare the two. Next trip we will try Sallys, hopefully we will have a better review to post!

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  1. Joe...

    First the disclosure: I am a New Haven native and have been eating at Sally's for more than 50 years, I do not eat at Pepe's more than once a decade.

    Years ago, I worked as a baker and a pizza oven man. The server fed you a line of bull as to why your pie was not as it should be. Sally's and Pepe's can be jammed from opening to close and the ovens are maintained at proper temperature. A good oven man knows the hot and cold spots in the oven that occur during the evening and moves the pies as they bake to make sure they cook evenly.

    Personally, I would have sent the pies back as not fully cooked and unacceptable. Unfortunately, the Yalies are back in town and some restaurants serve things they can't get away with during the summer, townies won't tolerate it.

    I eat at Modern about twice a year and generally they produce a good pie. I might tolerate 1 mistake, but not two undercooked pies at one meal. Sounds like an inexperienced oven man to me.

    8 Replies
    1. re: bagelman01

      Funny you should say that because I have worked in the pizza industry before and know all about cold/hot spots. That having been said I am not familiar with how the coal fired ovens work so I (incorrectly) took the server at his word. We thought about asking for new pies but didnt know if they would come out any betterbased on what the server had said. In addition we had spent all day walking around NYC and still had 2 hours of driving after our meal so we werent interested in waiting.

      Thanks for your input bagelman

      1. re: joe777cool

        Modern does not use coal as its fuel. Their brick ovens are gas fired, so the coal argument pretty much goes out the window.
        Living relatively close to Modern, we used to regularly get take out pies from them. A few years ago, they built a second kitchen for take out only, and we have never been thrilled with the product. Invariably, by the time we get home (just a bit more than a 5 minute drive), the pies have become soggy to the point where you cannot successfully pick up a piece without the toppings sliding off.
        If you can get into Modern without a ridiculously long wait, I have always found the pies served in-house to be top quality. If you're in the area of Modern and want a top notch takeout pizza, I highly recommend Amato's, just a few doors down. No brick oven, but a thin, crispy crust that travels very well.

        1. re: lsnhc

          When I do takeout, I always order my pie undercooked and not cut. Then I finish cookinng it at home. Even if you do not plan on cooking the pizza later, ordering it uncut will keep all the toppings from seeping through and making the crust soggy. Just cut it as you like when you're ready to serve it.

          1. re: lsnhc

            My incorrect assumption, for whatever reason I thought NH pizzarias were know for being coal fired.

            1. re: joe777cool

              The old timers on Wooster St have coal ovens, but any post 1950 establishment would have had a hard time getting a permit to burn coal. Both fire laws and pollution regulations come into play. Some places opened in the last 20 years can burn wood, but most use gas pizza ovens, and there is no way they do the job as well.

              I have a brick pizza oven in my yard and generally burn wood, my wife doesn't like the coal dust on our white house <VBG>

              1. re: bagelman01

                All the new Pepe's establishments were able to get permits for their coal ovens, so I guess it's possible.

                1. re: plien69

                  That's why my post says have a hard time, nt impossible. But note that these locations are not in the middle of city neighborhoods as the originals on Wooster Street.

                  1. re: plien69

                    I assume the Yonkers, NY Pepe's location is coal fired as well. The "soot" on the bottom of the pizzas we had there sure suggested they do.

                    BTW, BruRM @ BAR also uses a gas fired oven despite the stacks of wood stored above it.

        2. Frank Pepe is the top of the mountain. You can climb the Modern mount or the Sally's mount, but you will always be looking up at Pepe. I don't always eat pizza, but when I do, I prefer Frank Pepe. Stay hungry my friends.

          1. Anyone who's grown up and lived in the nh area knows a good pie, and knows pepes/sallys is where the touristas and poseurs go...better than the electric oven, sysco sourced abominations they're used to, but definitely NOT king of the hill anymore. pepes was once on top, say 40 years ago, but those days are far, far behind. I always find a better product and experience at modern

            7 Replies
            1. re: BiscuitBoy

              joe777cool: I have to say that this is one of the only times I have heard anything bad about Modern. We go once a month or so and it is always top shelf. We like Pepe's as well but honestly, the servers at Modern are so much nicer. At Pepe's they often seem like they are doing you a huge favor by allowing you to eat there. I'm sorry about your experience but try not to let it sully your opinion.

              Modern is really the best pizza I've ever had. Anywhere.

              1. re: BiscuitBoy

                While agree with you that Pepe's has gone downhill over the years, and that it attracts lots of tourists, I don't agree that that applies to Sally's (not the tourists, but going downhill). No 3rd generation running the joint and franchising the name, Flo Consiglio is still there running the show.

                I find Modern acceptable, but not at the same level as Sally's. A gas oven does not produce the same crust and texture as a coal or wood fired brick oven.

                Once I am willing to eat Apizza from a gas oven, then there are many acceotable choices in greater New Haven: Modern, Amato, Ernies, Papa's (in Milford), Zuppardi's in West Haven, Tolli's in East Haven and Grand Apizza North in North Haven.

                they are just not in the same tier as Sally's and Pepe's. AND I don't care about Pepe's shucking their own clams and Modern using preshucked. I DON'T eat a white clam pie. PLUS, I order with grated Romano chesse only, no mootz for me.

                I love a large Apizza at Sally's with Foxon Park White Birch. But it's a far cry from when the prices were $1, $2, $3 for small medium and large.

                Grand Apizza North
                448 Washington Ave, North Haven, CT 06473

                1. re: bagelman01

                  yes, a small tomato w/grated cheese always went home with the large mozz...white birch and gassosa in our house when I was a kid

                  1. re: bagelman01

                    bagelman – is Sally’s that much better than Pepe’s? We’ve spent summers in the shoreline area for many years and never managed to make it to either until this August. So on August 23 we went to Pepe’s since Sally’s was closed (were they closed for vacation?) and had an earth moving experience due to the quake but not the pizza. We ordered a white clam pie and the fresh tomato pie. While I appreciate a crisp thin crust and burnished caramelized edges, these pies had scorch marks that were clearly burnt crust that tasted like ashes. The clam pie had a great amount of clam but so much garlic that we couldn’t finish it. The garlic was over-powering. The tomato pie was nice, but nothing special. Service unlike what I had been expecting was friendly but slow. After actually sitting down, it took 15 minutes before our orders were taken, another 10 minutes for the single salad that was ordered to come out (salad was great btw) and then another 20 minutes until we got the pies. They could cut down the line just by turning the tables more efficiently (or maybe they want the line to keep the buzz?). Based on the overall experience, we were totally underwhelmed. There’s a fistful of pizza places in NYC that are leagues better. I’d like to try Sally’s but once burned (or actually two pies burned) – you know the rest. Is Sally’s that much better in your view? I would like to try it but fear the result.

                    1. re: Bkeats

                      Let me say that it is a matter of personal taste. I happen to like the sauce better at Sally's. I have always preferred the staff at Sally's to those at Pepe's. I think the current generation of owners at Pepe's are living off grandpa's legend and have cheapened the experience.

                      Sally's only has Apizza, no salads. The wait at Pepe's is often deliberate to perpetuate the mystique, BUT with outlets in Manchester, Fairfield, Danbury and Yonkers, all I can say is what mystique?

                      I don't eat white clam pies or any white pie or fresh tomato pie.

                      Sally's closes for vacation and it takes 3-4 days to slowly bring the oven back up to temperature.

                      Charred crust is true New Haven style Apizza, but that doesn't mean your pie should have been incinerated.


                      the Pepe's servers have no incentive to move fast. Their tables will remain full, tips will average 18% of the checks and the kitchen will only turn out so many pies per hour. It may seem to have taken a long time to get your pies, but you do not know how many takeout orders were ahead of your dinein order. As mentioned above, Modern has a separate oven and counter for takeout.

                      I have a few NYC pizza places that I enjoy, but overall I find their dough to be thicker than I like.

                      If I were to plan a visit to Sally's from out of town, I'd schedule it for early January when Yale is on break and tables are easier to get, unfortunately only very few of us have the private phone number and bypass the long line.

                      1. re: bagelman01

                        or even fewer of us need a number at all, since we're paesan

                        1. re: BiscuitBoy

                          Yes, but the number allows them a jumpstart on making the pie and we can be in and out faster.

                          After all, not everyone can be from Amalfi

                2. I have had the same issue happen twice at Modern. Once it was a busy Saturday night and the second was at lunch and it was not busy. No excuses. The pizza was undercooked both times. I mentioned it to the server and got the same crap about the ovens being off. I have never had that problem at Pepe's. Always done to perfection no matter what day or what time I was there.

                  Modern does not live up to the reputation of being anywhere Pepe's or Sally's.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: awm922

                    If you got the same line, maybe it is a bit rehearsed? Multiple people on this thread alone suggest to me that they may be more into excuse making than pizza making?