If you are familiar which Chicago or New York, then their style of pizza is an iconic part of the city’s reputation. The same can be said of New Haven, Connecticut. Restaurants, operators, and the home chefs who make it are doing more than making a quick bite to eat. They are working together to preserve their legacy.
What Is New Haven-Style Pizza?
When you visit New Haven to try a slice, what you’re eating is “apizza,” which you pronounce like “ah-beets.” It features a crust that is thin and crispy on the outside, but the dough is also chewy still on the inside.
The traditional recipe calls for baking New Haven-style pizza in a coal oven, which is how the distinctive outer char occurs along the edges of the crust. Some operators can duplicate this result by using a hot broiler.
The toppings are sparse when you choose apizza, so there are never any worries about having too much sauce or cheese. You will see them in a variety of shapes as well since each dough is hand-formed to create the desired result.
What Makes New Haven Style Different That Other Pizza Types?
There are two specific types of Connecticut pizza which are indigenous to the New Haven area: plain tomato and white. Some of the restaurants specialize in only one variety, but more of them are providing the option to choose either and customize your toppings as well.
The first option offers garlic and Parmesan mixed with a fresh tomato sauce. If you want mozzarella cheese, then you will need to order it because that item is considered a topping in this region. Make sure that you ask for the “Mootz” pie!
If you choose the white pie, then you will receive garlic, mozzarella, Parmesan, and oregano with an olive oil base. For an authentic taste of New England, consider ordering an apizza like this with fresh littleneck clams.
Well-Known Restaurants Who Serve New Haven-Style Pizza
Once people start to realize that they are eating “apizza” instead of a regular pizza slice, restaurants all over the United States see this unique Connecticut-style pizza begin to catch on with their local market. Because it is typically a well-done pizza, the fresh-baked components create a truly unique dining experience.
Several restaurants have done an excellent job of perfecting New Haven-style pizza over the years. These are the establishments you will want to try if you have never had an apizza experience before.
This restaurant is a family-owned business where the recipes have remained the same for almost a century. The current owner is Gary Bimonte, who is the grandson of the original Pepe. They were the first to bring the concept of apizza to Connecticut, and their traditional approach shows on their menu offerings.
They are also innovators of new apizza flavors, credited as being the first brand to offer clams on a pizza. As the story goes, there was a man in New Haven who was selling raw littlenecks in an alley by their restaurant. The Pepe family decided that they would add them as an appetizer at first, but then the item became so popular that it had to become a topping.
Now Pepe’s goes through up to 80 bushels of clams per week while serving some of the best pizza in the New Haven area.
2. Sally’s Apizza.
This operator is right down the street from the location of the original Pepe’s. It provides a vintage vibe to the consumer, even to the point where they only accept cash for the meal. Locals love to argue about which one is better, but the line that stretches down the block on any given day seems to settle that debate.
Come to Sally’s to get their tomato pie. It features the iconic New Haven-style pizza crust, mozzarella, basil, zucchini, and tomato slices that provide a glimpse of the traditional methods while catering to robust modern flavors.
3. Modern Apizza.
This establishment is in the same area as Sally’s and Pepe’s, but they veer away from the traditional by using a wood-fired pizza oven instead of coal. There are more topping choices to consider here as well, with a classic Italian menu complementing the apizza options that you can order.
Since it takes the modern approach to New Haven-style pizza, the lines are a little shorter here. You’ll want to try the Italian Bomb on your first visit, which features seven classic toppings that include peppers, sausage, and bacon.
This restaurant is one of the newest in the area that offers New Haven pizza, but its youth should never be treated as a negative. It features a gas-powered brick oven, brews beer on-site, and turns into a nightclub after regular dining hours.
You can order either the tomato or the white apizza options here, with or without mozzarella as you prefer. They also have 30 different toppings you can add to your order, with mashed potato being one of their most popular choices.
5. Zuppardi’s Apizza.
If you like the idea of the littleneck clam New Haven-style pizza, then you will want to give this operator a chance to surprise you. Instead of chopping the clams as a topping, they place whole ones on there and serve the pie with lemon wedges. You can also choose a fresh, homemade sausage as a topping too.
If you are in the area, then make a note that parking can be a bit problematic during the meal rush. You can also order for pickup if you prefer. You’ll also be out in West Haven with this third-generation business, so make sure to take some time to explore Union Avenue during your stay.
Why People Love New Haven-Style Pizza
New Haven-style pizza took the classical Neopolitan approach to this dish thanks to the original Pepe’s training in Italy back in 1909. This apizza is often rated as being the best style of pizza in the United States. There are a few reasons why people drift toward this version instead of other popular options like Chicago or New York when they have the chance.
1. You can order a wider variety of ingredients.
New Haven-style pizza takes a simplistic approach which puts your preferences as the top priority. You will not find many other places in the world who offer potatoes, littleneck clams, and other toppings that come fresh from the sea.
2. It brings people together.
Connecticut pizza brings people together. Whether you eat it with a fork and knife or try to pick it up to take a bite, apizza is a sit-down experience. It draws families or groups of friends to the table to talk about their day and have a fantastic time.
3. The dough is quite elastic.
Even with the crisp outer shell, the dough on New Haven pizza is uniquely elastic. That may be due to the mineral content in the local water supply, but it also goes through a more extensive fermentation process than the styles from Chicago or New York.
New Haven pizza is a culinary experience that everyone should try at least once in their lives. Taking the apizza approach might feel a little different at first, but you will also discover that the Connecticut version of the world’s most-popular pie is one of the best.
Whether you try one with clams, opt for extra mozzarella, or enjoy something “plain” with Romano, olive oil, and tomatoes, you will find that the flavors are out of this world.