Pizza Please! Our Favorite Pies
Foodie Hub/Chowzter), an international food blogging site that I’m affiliated with, asked me for a rundown on Connecticut pizza and I was only too happy to oblige. I needed an accessory stomach for this one (my husband is training for a bike race), so I brought along my ever willing friend, Chris Steiner. We chowed our way around Connecticut for our top ten pizza picks. Here’s my list, separated into Old School (classic Neapolitan pie) and New School (modern takes on New Haven pizza).
The first time I tried Bufalina was on the day they opened in 2011. I remember sitting at the teeny counter thinking how are these two adorable twenty-somethings gonna make it? It didn’t seem like a scalable idea due to the wee size of the place and the number of pies they can churn out in an evening. But that was then and this is now, and they are still piling the freshest seasonal toppings on up to 140 pizzas a night. Recently I pulled up a bright red stool to the white marble counter (seating for six!), and tasted my way through their ever-changing menu. I’m a fan of the classics, especially their version of the Margherita, a tomato, cheese and basil pie but with an addition of, well, more cheese! Gooey scamorza! But I branched out. The Primavera boasted the fresh tastes of spring: asparagus, pea leaves and blistered spring onions, embellished with a sprinkle of a light broth that’s tossed together from pecorino rinds and herbs. A drizzle gives the pizza more depth of flavor. Genius! Potato, fennel and sausage hit all the right notes of savory to slightly sweet. Don’t stop there. Order the Nutella for dessert. The pie they made famous, thickly spread with the stuff, and lightly dusted with powdered sugar. Over-the-top and irresistible! www.bufalinact.com
Good to know: if you’re planning take-out on the week-end, call ahead. Outdoor picnic seating available.
Bar, New Haven
Bar is famous for this: mashed potato and bacon pie. And there’s no wonder, because it IS a wonder of cracker-thin crust, loaded with garlic, parmesan, chunks of bacon and a shmear of creamy, silken mashed potatoes. It may sound over-the-top, but it’s one dee-licious pie. You’ll find plenty of other pies here, of course, plus their own house-brewed beer, and a vast cocktail menu but for me, it’s all about that mashed potato pie. The Yalies crowd the place (it’s a nightclub, too), so go early or skip the line and sit at the bar. Good to know: Every Tuesday a special pizza is concocted in collaboration with one of our favorite cheese shops/bistro: Caseus. www.barnightclub.com
Tarry Lodge, New Haven
The pies that are turned out of the 800 degree wood-fired oven every 90 seconds at Tarry Lodge are elegant and elevated, the sort of pizza you eat with a knife and fork. While their Margherita is commendable, we took a tomato and cheese break here. This is the place to experiment with unusual but considered topping combinations (after all, it’s Mario Batali at the helm). Slim slices of salty guanciale (pig jowls), an oozing sunny-side-up egg, with a dusting of truffle would make the perfect breakfast pie. My favorite? A refined combination of goat cheese, purple onion, pistachios with a drizzle of honey. Save room for dessert. The olive oil and Valhrona chocolate soft serve sundae with Marcona almonds and Amarena cherries is an absolute must. newhaven.tarrylodge.com
Otto, Chester (from the-e-list archives)
Krust, Middletown (from the-e-list archives)
Before I ended up in Lyme, I was lucky to live in some uber-hip neighborhoods: Harvard Square, Northampton, MA and Boston’s South End. And while I love it here, we lean fuddy duddy, not fashionable. If you, like me, yearn for a dose of youth, head straight to Krust in Middletown. Here, it’s all about bourbon, beards, and my favorite food, PIZZA. Cozy up to the bar lined with hundreds of small batch bourbons and order a wood-fired pie or two. I’m a purist (Red pie with San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and sea salt), my daughter lives for Meat (delicate chunks of pepperoni, pancetta and salami) and we were hard-pressed to save any leftovers for my husband. Next time, I’m having Sunny Side which, in the French style, features an egg cracked on top. And for dessert? Cupcakes from NoRa, of course, right next door. krustpizzabar.com
Al Forno, Old Saybrook
Lucky for us, we have direct access to some of the best pizza in the US, right here on the Shoreline. And even luckier, this family-friendly trattoria, known for their New Haven-style brick-oven pizza, has now raised the bar by offering a sublime pie made in a 250 year old tradition (which requires certification to produce – no joke!) called Pizza Napolitano Vera. The caputo flour dough rises for two days at room temperature and is topped with house-made slightly sweet, light tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and ribbons of basil. The crust? A perfect ratio of chewy to char. (If you’re planning for lunch, call ahead to make sure the dough has risen.) Gluten-sensitive pizza lovers will be happy to know about their rice flour crust, an entirely worthy substitute. A bright, peppery arugula salad topped with shavings of parmigiano reggiano makes it into a meal. www.alforno.net
Pepe’s, New Haven, established 1925
It’s been a long time since I’ve stood in a line for Pepe’s. With so much great pizza available, it hardly seems worth it. And I was so ready to dismiss this venerable pie. After all, with seven locations in Connecticut, they’re not exactly a mom and pop shop anymore. Was the quality still up to snuff? A hearty YES! If you’re a pizza purist like me, the tomato and mooozz (yep that’s how they say it!) pie has a nicely salted, skinny crust with just a bit of char. And no insipid sauce here, bursting with tomatoey flavor and a chunky texture amplify this pie. Expect a wait, or go 15 minutes before opening.
Modern Apizza, New Haven, established 1934
Modern was our first foray into New Haven pizza when we moved here, and I thought I found the runner up to Totonno’s in Coney Island. (And if you’re a pizza fanatic who’s never been to James Beard winning Totonno’s well, that’s just unforgivable). I still think Modern is the king of crust: charred, never burnt, irregularly shaped and flavorful. The place is not far off the beaten path of Worcester street, but still boasts a line most days. It’s straight up tomato and mooz for me here but regulars devour the Italian Bomb (Sausage, Bacon, Pepperoni, Mushroom, Onion, Pepper & Garlic). After Zuppardi’s pizza (see below) Modern’s clam pizza was a bit of a disappointment.
Good to know: small parking lot next door. www.modernapizza.com
Sally’s Apizza, New Haven, established 1938
Lots of folks call Sally’s their favorite, and if we were anywhere but New Haven, we might too. This old school, no frills joint offers up a classic New Haven skinny crust pie on an oblong metal platter, that clearly has legions of fans (John F. Kennedy and Frank Sinatra among them). When you can’t brave the lines for other New Haven pizza, head here for a veggie pie (hot peppers lend a welcome spicy bite), or salty anchovy, which make up for the rather plain tomato and mootz.
Good to know: cash only. www.sallysapizza.com
Zuppardi’s, West Haven
Because pizza is our favorite food, we thought it crucial that we add Zuppardi’s ballyhooed clam pie to our repertoire. Late on a Sunday afternoon, we were surprised to find the joint in West Haven empty. Was something amiss? We didn’t mind, it’s better than braving the line at Pepe’s. We ordered the clam pie and our sweet server recommended the sausage. We ordered that, too, and a plain for no good reason except to compare. The plain was plain, the sausage is fantastic (chunks of it, freshly housemade and cooked directly on the pie makes all the difference), but oh, the clam. Redolent of garlic, with plump, juicy bivalves studding a thin, slightly charred crust, this is one remarkable pie. A bit of clam broth and olive oil soaks into the crust, adding even more clam flavor. Just a squeeze of lemon completes this memorable feast. Pizza heaven. Call ahead to make sure the clam pie is available. Price varies depending on the availability of fresh clams; on our visit a large pie was $40.
Good to know: Zuppardi’s has a Pizza Truck for catering and parties.