We all love a good pizza, but in New Haven, locals are crazy about apizza. In this part of Connecticut, pizzerias pay tribute to Naples with its pronounciation of the word pizza (“ah-beetz”) while putting their own spin on the classic Neapolitan pie.
Methods vary slightly from place to place in New Haven pizzerias, but the hallmarks are generally the same. The dough is proofed overnight in the fridge, giving it a richer flavor than your average crust. When pulled from the intensely hot brick oven, the crust is dotted with charred black spots. The final product is a pie that strikes the perfect balance between crunchy and chewy with a bright and tangy tomato sauce. In fact, the crust and sauce are so cherished that hardcore devotees view the cheese as an afterthought.
If you’ve ever wondered why pizza lovers fuss over New Haven-style pies, this is the guide for you.
A good white clam pizza is life-changing.
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana – known simply as “Pepe’s” – is the originator of the New Haven-style apizza and, specifically, the white clam pie. Slightly briny but inarguably delicious, the white clam pie is dressed with olive oil, fresh garlic, parsley, and grated romano cheese. Pepe’s veterans also like to add super-smoky bacon to the mix for a truly heavenly combination.
Cheese is not the focus.
Ordering a plain pie in the United States usually conjures up a pie with a healthy dose of mozzarella cheese on top. That’s not the case in New Haven, where patrons must specify whether their pie should come with “mootz” or “no mootz.”
Mozzarella is certainly not frowned upon, but many of the classic offerings are intended to be served with just a sprinkling of grated cheese on top. Don’t let anything stop you from getting mootz on your pizza, but you may want to abstain when it comes to the white clam pie or the special summertime fresh tomato pie.
Why is a round New Haven-style pizza not quite round?
The shape of New Haven-style pizzas is often characterized as oblong, but it’s something closer to the form of a circle with oval-like qualities. The slices of this asymmetrical “round” pie are hardly uniform, but the pizza is positively perfect on the whole.
Is New Haven-style pizza still made with coal-fired ovens?
Pepe’s continues to bake its pies in a coal-fire oven, just as Frank did when he started serving pizzas in 1925. Sally’s – the parlor launched by Frank’s nephew Salvatore Consiglio when he struck out on his own in the 30s – has also stayed the course for the last 80-plus years. Others, such as Modern Apizza, have since updated the kitchen to a cleaner-burning oil-fueled setup.
No matter the fuel source, New Haven pizzas are always cooked at extremely hot temperatures. The scorching heat gives the crust its signature color and slightly earthy flavor and allows the pizza to be cooked in a matter of minutes. It’s a lightning-quick bake, but the wait time at New Haven’s most popular pizzerias is always lengthy thanks to the high demand.
New Haven pizza has discovered new horizons.
Today, Pepe’s boasts ten outposts with locations in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. Meanwhile, “rival” Sally’s Apizza is set to branch out from its Wooster Street digs thanks to a new ownership group that intends to open new locations in other parts of the U.S.
We wholeheartedly recommend a pizza pilgrimage to New Haven, but the continued spread of apizza is excellent news for those who can’t fit it on the schedule.
— Zach Links is an L.A.-based sports journalist who is equally concerned with the outcome of the game and what he’ll be eating at halftime. In addition to serving as a staff writer for The Sauce, he’s also the lead writer and editor of ProFootballRumors.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ZachLinks and on Instagram @FatZachLinks.