Stamford Hot Oil Pizza
I never wanted to be "that" old man who talked about how things were "back in the day", but I guess some things are inevitable, so here goes me accepting being middle-aged. There was a time, not that long ago, when the only toppings you could get on a pizza were pepperoni, sausage, peppers, onions and mushroom. And if you wanted something daring, you could order anchovy. But nowadays every pizza place seems to sell a taco pie, salad pizza, Philly cheesesteak or chicken bacon ranch just to name a few. Surprisingly despite all of these exotic choices, there's still only one place in the country that's known for serving "Hot Oil" pizza, a serrano pepper infused olive oil invented by The Colony Grill. This spicy topping will leave your lips feeling like they were kissed by the devil without overpowering the taste and really adds a level of enjoyment to a cracker thin, well-done bar pie.
The Pizza Capital of the World Keeps Getting Better
By now, everyone knows about New Haven Connecticut's status as one of the great pizza capitals. Names like Pepe's, Sally's and Modern known for their deliciously charred crusts are consistently at the top of all the Best Pizzas in the Country lists, but foodies and pizza lovers alike need to start putting a little "respeck" on this neighborhood bar chain.
The Colony Grill started out as an
Irish American owned tavern in 1935 in a predominately Irish neighborhood in
Like many bars at the time, the owners wanted to serve just enough food to keep their customers from getting shit faced so they could buy more drinks. According to Colony's website, an Italian cook introduced a “bar sized pizza pie”, smaller in diameter than a traditional pizza which allowed it to fit on the narrow bar and topped with just the right sprinkle of cheese and sauce so that a slice could easily be managed with one hand, while the other hand was free to hold a glass of beer. This new bar pie was a major success. A few years later they started drizzling a unique house made pepper infused oil on top that might leave your wrists a little wet but doesn't compromise the sturdiness of the crispy under carriage. This signature picante pizza topping simply named “Hot Oil” has been a local rock star ever since. Eventually the bar dropped everything except pizza and alcohol from their menu but kept the name "Grill" for posterity and they never skipped a beat. If you are looking for a full menu, this place "ain't it". If you are looking for one of the most unique and satisfying pizza eating experiences, get your ass to Colony. Over the years they've added additional locations throughout Southern Connecticut and have recently expanded into New York, Virginia and Florida.
Often Imitated Never Duplicated
In the 2010's Riko's Pizza, a startup pizzeria introduced their own "hot oil" topping. According to the Stamford Advocate, former Colony employees aided Riko's with developing a similar spicy thin crust pizza oil, igniting a decade's old, not so friendly cross-town rivalry. Even Dave Portnoy commented that it was hard to differentiate between the two, giving them both high scores (Colony scoring .2 points higher). Like Colony, Riko's has expanded their locations into New York and Florida. Over the years, other standalone mom and pop Stamford pizzerias like Nick's, Sorrento's and Remo's have also started selling their own version of Hot Oil pizza.
Thanks to Colony and Riko's expansion, "Hot Oil" awareness is beginning to spread. If you enjoy the heat, but don't care for the sweetness of the popular Mike's Hot Honey craze, this is the topping for you. These pies are really made for one person and if you are really hungry consider splitting another with your date. I suggest you order the Hot Oil with Colony's locally sourced lump sausage and a stinger pepper. It's delicious and leaves a hint of a bee sting and a slight precipitation on your upper lip; but nothing a sip of an ice-cold pint of Blue Moon won't cure. Trust me, this is one regional pizza topping you need to try at least once.