F&W's Morgan Goldberg finally embarked on a day-long pizza extravaganza of America's pizza haven, otherwise known as New Haven, CT.
If not for reputation alone, I made it my mission of the summer, pretty much my only bucket list item, to eat at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana (Pepe’s), arguably the most famous of the New Haven pizza spots. I recruited another food-minded friend and set a date to make the 35-minute drive from our hometown of Westport.
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As the date got closer, we realized we were about to do it totally wrong. Why try one of the famous pizzerias and when we could demolish all four? So we gathered a team of serious eaters and dedicated a whole day to our pizza tour.
We didn't want to show up unprepared so we armed ourselves with research. We read articles and watched videos, all of which taught us a few important facts:
- In New Haven, it’s “apizza,” not “pizza”
- Mozzarella, referred to as “mozz,” is a topping needed to be ordered specifically
- The crust is “charred,” not “burnt”
- And locals have intense loyalty to their pizzeria
First Stop: Pepe's
We were a little too ambitious at the first stop, which opened in 1925. To be fair, tt was lunch time and we were hungry. But we each ate upwards of four slices at Pepe’s. We clearly couldn’t help ourselves because the famous white clam pizza was briny and charred and perfect. We also ordered an original tomato pie with “mozz,” which was one of the best plain pizzas I’ve ever had.
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Up Next: Modern Apizza
Opened in 1934, this spot is known for its “Italian Bomb,” topped with bacon, sausage, pepperoni, mushroom, onion, pepper and garlic. It sounds like a lot and it was. We also got a tomato pie with mozz here. Overall, we all preferred Pepe’s thinner, chewier, more charred crust to Modern’s crispier crust.
This is when the first food coma started to settle in. While we each only had about two slices at Modern, that put each of us at at least six slices and we were only halfway though. Luckily, there was a bit of a wait at Sally’s Apizza.
Third Pizza Stop: Sally’s Apizza
At Sally’s, which opened in 1938, we ordered the original tomato pie. It truly lived up to its saucy, mozzarella-less fame. We opted for the garlic (our breath had gone out the window hours ago) and they sprinkled a bit of Parmesan cheese on top. It was delicious in its simplicity and definitely a highlight of the tour.
Last But Not Least: BAR
Perhaps we shouldn’t have saved the mashed potato and bacon pizza for last, but there was no turning back. While I could barely eat another bite by the time we got to BAR, the idea of mashed potato pizza was too compelling and giving up was not an option. It was everything I had hoped it would be: creamy, starchy and surprisingly light. I almost blacked out, but it was worth it.
New Haven apizza is worthy of a it's hype. Whether it is the white clam pie, or even a mashed potato pie, your life will be better, though possibly shorter, for it. However, I am issuing an official warning that if you eat nine or more slices of pizza, you may be forced to skip dinner for the first time ever.