New Haven's Apizza
Updated: Dec 19, 2022
One of the long-term side effects of Covid over the past 2 years is a rash. No not that kind, I’m talking about a rash of people thinking that because they have an iPhone, a good personality and a decent palette they can be a food critic. Actually, you don’t even need a good palette for that matter, no offense Dave Portnoy. Shit, even I started this food blog during the pandemic and I’m just an accountant in real life. See what I mean?
But long before I decided to cram pop culture non sequiturs into 3-minute food stories, I knew one thing; New Haven Connecticut has the best pizza in the world. Have I been everywhere in the world you say? Good point, no, but I have eaten a lot of pizza in my life and I’m talking about top notch za at some of the best places in New York City, Chicago and even the motherland Naples. 👀You too Old Forge. But besides I’m from New Jersey where we are all natural born pizza experts. Don’t believe me? Check out the Jersey Pizza Joints Facebook Page with over 66,000 fiercely passionate and opinionated pizza connoisseurs, they’ll tell you the same thing. In fact, I was nearly “typed to death” one day, when I posted my blasphemous opinion that there are more quality pizzerias in The Elm City than anywhere else. But I’m not wrong!
It’s Not Pizza, It’s Abeetz
I gotta be honest, I typically get douche chills every time I hear the “wannabe” butchering of the Italian language. “Yea can I get a gabagool and mutz or this gavadeel & brocolli needs a scoop of regot. I mentioned I was from Jersey, right? But call me a hypocrite because there’s something really satisfying about saying "abeetz", the colloquial slang for New Haven’s amazing regional style of pizza.
It started in 1925 when Frank Pepe moved his pizza wagon to a brick and mortar in the Little Italy section on Wooster Street. A decade later, his nephew Sal Consiglio left and opened up Sally's Apizza right down the street. A friendly rivalry has existed ever since. Both are always near the top of The Daily Meal's 101 Best Pizzas in America, with Pepe's taking first place in the last ranking. Other old school spots like Modern Apizza and Zuppardi's, technically in West Haven, always make the perennial hierarchy. And other not-so-new newer spots like Ernie's, est 1971 and BAR est 1991 would easily be the best pizza in most American towns.
A traditional plain apizza has tomato sauce, a swirl of olive oil and a sprinkle of pecorino cheese. In many places, mozzarella is often available only upon request. Every one of these pizzerias deserves their own visit but they all have their specialty. The shucked-to-order white clam from Pepe's is garlicky and delicious. Sally's is where to go for their oblong shaped red clam. Modern's Italian Bomb, a combo of bacon, sausage, pepperoni, mushroom, onion, pepper and garlic pie is literally the bomb! call it the "Italian Bomb". Vegetarians, they make a Veggie Bomb as well.
Across Interstate 95, Zuppardi’s homemade sausage is to die for, although their white clam pie is ridiculously good as well. For a nightcap, finish the evening at BAR for a couple house beers and their signature mashed potato and bacon pizza.
What makes an Apizza different?
Other than the name, this isn't a gimmicky regional pie. It's not baked in an auto parts pan like in Detroit or covered in American cheese like the Altoona Hotel Pizza. It's a traditional Neapolitan pizza. According to The Spruce Eats, the real difference maker is the use of high-gluten bromated flour which has a 70% hydration factor. This results in the distinctly chewy crust with large bubbling air pockets. Also, Pepe's and Sally's use a coal burning stove that gives the undercarriage a healthy char, another signature characteristic.
Despite nearly a hundred years of existence and annual accolades, New Haven Style pizza has yet to receive the national exposure it deserves. The newer generations are working on changing that. Pepe's now has locations in Massachusetts, Maryland and Florida and Sally's & Zuppardi's have expanded their presence within Connecticut. I think it's just a matter of time before we start seeing apizza celebrated across the country.
If you really want to splurge and experience one of the best combinations of seafood and pizza you'll ever have, head to my personal favorite Roseland Apizza in Derby (about 17 miles from New Haven). They make a mouthwatering Ponsinella with lobster, shrimp and scallop on a lemony garlic crust, but be prepared to spend at least a hundo!
Pro Tip, for a really authentic experience, pair all your apizza with a Foxon Park birch beer!