Colony Grill- "Hot Erl"
I don’t want to say I told you so, but for years I have been shouting from the top of anything that I could climb that Connecticut is the Pizza Capital of the World. Neither Brooklyn nor Chicago, not even Naples Italy has a larger quantity of quality pizzerias in one area. I know what you are probably thinking. “How dare he! What does he know?” But it’s true and thankfully, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Each year The Daily Meal website ranks the Country’s 101 best pizzerias and it’s almost a given that New Haven Connecticut’s Frank Pepe’s will take the top spot. Still not a believer? Check out fellow pizza connoisseur El Presidente Dave Portnoy’s 9.2 review of Sally’s Apizza, also in New Haven. In fact, of the top 50 spots on the aforementioned list, 6 are from the Nutmeg State!!
In the future, I am sure that I will write all about Abeetz, the colloquial pronunciation for New Haven’s regional pizza, but for today I am going to give a little shine to a unique pizza topping – Hot Oil.
After I tried pineapple and ham pizza, I thought that I had officially sampled every traditional pizza topping. Now you might be inclined to challenge my use of the word “traditional” when it comes to ham, pineapple and pizza but believe it or not, this exotic combination was created in 1962 by Sam Panopoulos and is therefore an OG topping worthy of its own blog post. But like I said, I "thought" that I had tried every pizza topping. Then one day while I was golfing in Connecticut, my buddy told me about the Colony Grill and their Hot Oil topping.
For those of you that don’t know, in 1935 the Colony Grill started out as an Irish American owned tavern in a predominately Irish neighborhood in Stamford CT. Like many bars at the time, the owners wanted to serve just enough food to keep their customers from leaving while also remaining sober enough to continue to buy drinks. According to their website, an Italian cook introduced a “bar sized pizza pie”, smaller in diameter than a traditional pizza that allowed it to fit on the narrow bar and topped with just the right amount of cheese and sauce so that a slice could easily be managed with one hand, while the other was free to hold a glass of beer. The bar pie was a success and became even more popular when they started drizzling a unique pepper infused oil on top. This signature pizza topping simply named “Hot Oil” has been the star of the show ever since.
At first glance, the spicy condiment is practically unnoticeable as it mixes with the natural oils of the charred mozzarella. A single stinger pepper placed in the center of the crispy pizza is the only foreshadowing of what’s to come. As you take your first bite of the hot slice, you will catch the peppery inhale. Your lips will start to tingle and your tongue will try to decipher what’s going on. When paired with any of their other toppings, the Hot Oil will leave a pleasant, not overbearing, reminder of what you just ate. I suggest pairing with chunks of the locally sourced sausage for a dynamic taste bud experience.
I have eaten a lot of pizza and in all of my travels, I have yet to find another Hot Oil topping anywhere else, making this truly a Connecticut Foodigenous worthy of a trip ride.
In addition to the Stamford location, The Colony Grill has 4 other spots including one in New York State. All locations offer a full bar menu and feature some really good local CT breweries to pair with your pie.