Local Flavor: New Haven-Style Pizza

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In downtown New Haven, located only a block apart, Frank Pepe Pizzeria and Sally’s aPizza both serve up the regional Neapolitan style descending from the old country.

So where to find top pizza? Head to Connecticut and try a slice of both.

> Frank Pepe Pizzeria

Origin: In 1925, after scrapping a plan to bake and deliver bread, immigrants Frank and Filomena Pepe, from the Amalfi coast town of Maiori, started cranking out oblong tomato pies in a coke- (now coal-) fired brick oven at their bakery in New Haven’s Wooster Square neighborhood.

Famous for: Consider your choice of toppings as you stand in line. Purists tout the original, with crushed Sam Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, and grated Romano. But the white clam pizza—created in the 1960s when Pepe crowned a crust with a handful of the briny littleneck clams he served as an appetizer—has arguably eclipsed Pepe’s prototype in popularity (those in the know add bacon).

Strategy: For a shorter line during weekends, walk around the corner to The Spot, Pepe’s original bakery—less atmosphere, same pizza.

> Sally’s aPizza

Origin: Trained as a pizzaiolo by his uncle Frank Pepe, Salvatore Consiglio struck out on his own, opening Sally’s in 1938 and sparking a rivalry that continues to polarize New Haveners, Yalies, and presidents (Bill and Hillary Clinton frequented Sally’s as law students; Ronald Reagan reportedly preferred Pepe’s).

Famous for: Devotees extol the tangy sauce and claim the blistered crust holds up to more toppings than other “apizza” joints. Try the Garden Special, with tomato, mozzarella, onion, zucchini, and basil, washed down with a Foxon Park white birch beer (also served at Pepe’s), made in nearby East Haven.

Strategy: In New Haven, mozzarella isn’t a given. Make sure to order it as a topping if you can’t imagine your pie without it. Don’t forget cash. Sally’s doesn’t accept credit cards.

Lines too long? Try Modern aPizza, Kitchen ZincZuppardi’s, or Bar.

This piece, reported by Margaret Loftus, first appeared in the May 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine. 

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