#84 Roseland Apizza

May 18th, 2016

Derby, CT

Do you remember back in this post when I mentioned that Eric and I tried to hit the top 20 best pizza places in New Haven county a few years ago? And that we made it to 18/20 before we moved out of CT and into NJ? Well, Roseland Apizza was one of the two that we didn’t make it to. Not that we didn’t try. One Saturday we drove all the way out to Derby for lunch, only to realize that we hadn’t checked the opening hours. Of course, it didn’t open until 3 pm.

 We were really excited to see that Roseland made the Daily Meal’s list, because it gave us an excuse to go back there. We had the chance last May, when I was driving back from a work event in Boston. Eric took the train out to Milford, where I picked him up and we made it to Roseland for dinner.

The drive had been long, and we got to Derby on the later side, which was actually good because we only had a short wait for a table. We were amazed that it was so packed, even at 8 pm!

We ordered a regular New Haven-style tomato pie. It is hard to say that any tomato pie is as good as Pepe’s or Sally’s, but this one certainly comes close. The pizzas here are round, not oblong, like those at the two Wooster Street greats. The crust is crispy and holds up to the amazing amount of tomato sauce, and the pizza is sprinkled with the perfect amount of grated cheese. It really doesn’t get any better than this.

What made this pizza stop even more memorable was that this was the first place that we were recognized! Roseland pizza followed our Instagram from the very beginning, and they actually knew who we were when they sat us! They also knew we were from New Haven, and it was great to talk to them about how amazing New Haven pizza is. We were glad to be able to give them a raving review.

(By the way, we still rarely get recognized. You’d really think we’d be famous by now.)

We’d agree that this is the most underrated pizza in New Haven. It definitely ranks in our top 5 in CT, and above some of the “classics”, like Modern. We haven’t tried the clam pie to compare, but that just means we’ll have to go back.

To visit:

Roseland Apizza
350 Hawthorne Ave
Derby, CT 06418

#89 Tarry Lodge

March 12th, 2016

Port Chester, NY

The first time that I heard of Tarry Lodge was when they were thinking of opening a new location in New Haven, just a month or so after I left. I didn’t even know that there were other locations, although I did know that it was one of Mario Batali’s restaurants.

I *think* that everyone knows who Mario Batali is, but in case you either 1) don’t have a TV or 2) never eat out at restaurants, he is one of the most famous television chefs and restaurant owners in the world. He runs many of his restaurants, including Tarry Lodge, with Joe Bastianich, who we know primarily from the older seasons of MasterChef Junior.

Side note: If you aren’t watching the current season of MasterChef Junior, you really should.

So, we drove out to Port Chester to have our first meal at a Mario Batali restaurant. The restaurant itself is really cute, and would make a great date location (especially because they also have a nice looking wine list). We ordered two pizzas here: a Margherita, and one with goat cheese, pistachios, red onion, and truffle honey.

While the flavor combo on the goat cheese pizza was really amazing and unexpected, the Margherita pie was just average. We’ve had much better.

The crust on both pies was light and fluffy, but we didn’t love it. The sauce was decent, but it was sort of bland and lacking that flavor punch that you get from a good tomato sauce (like, from here). So while we aren’t going to say that this pizza was bad, it was mostly forgettable.  And when we are visiting and eating over 100 pizzas, that isn’t really a good thing.

I don’t want to sound completely negative here – the goat cheese was awesome. The combination of creamy goat cheese with the salty pistachio and the sweet honey reminded us of a perfectly arranged cheese platter, and that pizza alone probably saved Tarry Lodge from being all the way near the bottom of our lists.

Honestly, we think that this restaurant only made it on the list because it is from Mario Batali. We noticed that it didn’t make the 2016 list. I really wonder how the location in New Haven is doing, considering that New Haven is such a pizza town. I think it’s probably good that they serve regular Italian fare also – I’m sure those dishes are excellent. I would guess that people aren’t going there for the pizza.

To visit:

Tarry Lodge
18 Mill Street
Port Chester, NY 10573

#57 Zuppardi’s

February 28th, 2016

West Haven, CT

Back when I lived in New Haven, I found a list of the top 50 pizza places in New Haven county in the local New Haven magazine. I tore it out, and Eric and I made it our goal to hit at least the top 20 places on the list (you could say this was the “original pizza quest”). I only had a year or so left of my Ph.D. at that point, and Eric was only coming up about twice a month to visit, so we only ended up making it to 18 out of the 20 by the time we moved down to NJ.

This is what likely sparked our love (and *mild* obsession) with pizza, and in particular, with New Haven-style pizza. We were so excited about the Daily Meal’s top 101 because they had 7 New Haven places on the list, including one from the top 20 that we hadn’t been able to make it to (Roseland) and one that we had never heard of (Ernie’s).  All of the big New Haven pizzerias were on both lists (Pepe’s, Sally’s, BAR, Modern), and this one, Zuppardi’s.

We had been to Zuppardi’s out in West Haven early on in the “original pizza quest”, but we weren’t really impressed. We were looking forward to seeing how it compared now, after a few more years of eating pizza.

Zuppardi’s opened back in the 1930’s, and it started out as a bakery (Salerno’s Bakery). In the 1940’s, it became the pizzeria that everyone knows now. It is also still run by the same family. Even better, they now have a pizza truck!

We got a classic tomato pie, and one of the meatball marinara pies (smalls). Both pizzas were excellent, and we loved how much sauce they loaded on the tomato pie. The crust on these is thicker than a traditional New Haven-style pizza, as you can probably see from the photo.

Zuppardi’s has a few things going for it, besides the pizzas. First, it isn’t downtown New Haven, which means no lines. Second, it is open EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK! This is almost unheard of in New Haven, at least on Wooster Street.

**Side note: I still remember the one year when my birthday was on a Monday, and I couldn’t get my usually birthday dinner of Pepe’s takeout (or Sally’s…or Modern…). It was so depressing.**

  

So, we give this pizza good marks. It won’t satisfy our craving for a New Haven-style pizza, since it is cut in normal slices and has a thick crust that is lacking that coal-oven char, but we certainly left Zuppardi’s feeling happily full.

To visit:

Zuppardi’s Apizza
179 Union Ave
West Haven, CT 06516

#5 Sally’s Apizza

February 27th, 2016

New Haven, CT

If you know anything about New Haven pizza, you likely know that the major debate is over which pizza is better: Pepe’s or Sally’s? I have been asked this question SO MANY TIMES, and my answer: always Pepe’s.

Now that we’ve put that disclaimer out there, it is worth saying that Sally’s does make pretty good New Haven style pizza. So even though we’ve been loyal Pepe’s pizza eaters for years, we tried to be as objective as possible on this recent trip to Sally’s so that we could give it a fair ranking.

Sally’s Apizza is also found on the famous Wooster Street in New Haven’s “Little Italy”. It was started by none other than Frank Pepe’s nephew back in 1938. It is significantly smaller than Pepe’s, but like Pepe’s, it still uses the original coal oven, and it is in the original location and run by the descendants of the original owners.

We went here with my grandparents, who were excited to try an alternative to Pepe’s. Since we got there early, we only had to wait half an hour before getting our pizzas. We ended up getting one plain tomato pie and one garden special veggie, both larges. The grandparents were super impressed by how much pizza the two of us could eat.

 

Sally’s makes a really good pizza – there is definitely a reason why it is ranked so high on the list here, and gets a good ranking on our personal lists as well. It gets overshadowed because Pepe’s is just better. Both the sauce and the charred crust on the pies at Pepe’s just taste better. It is difficult to explain, unless you taste them both side-by-side (which we highly recommend that anyone do if they are in New Haven!).

A few other notes on Sally’s:

  1. They are closed Mondays AND Tuesdays, and they only open at 3 pm on the weekends. So if you get a pizza craving for lunch, you are out of luck.
  2. The lines at Sally’s can be just as long as Pepe’s, but since the restaurant is smaller, you’ll end up waiting longer. Not sure about the take-out times, but they are probably similar.
  3. The waitstaff is not usually friendly. They are known for this. If you go here, you should DEFINITELY bring your grandparents, because then they will be nice to you. (Side note: the staff at Pepe’s isn’t much better).
  4. They call cheese “mootz”. We completely understand that this is the traditional Italian slang for “mozzarella”, but for some reason, it annoys the heck out of us. Other New Haven pizza places do this too, but none so much as Sally’s. YES we know that you want to be authentic, but can’t you just call it “mozzarella” like a normal person?

 

I hope I haven’t completely dissuaded you from trying Sally’s if you are in New Haven. It is darn good pizza, and if Pepe’s ever is closed for repairs, we’d be over at Sally’s in a heartbeat.

And really, the side-to-side taste test is a genius idea, or even a blind taste test, so who wants to do that with us? We’ll even add in BAR and Modern to the lineup, to make it really complete.

To visit:

Sally’s Apizza
237 Wooster Street
New Haven, CT 06511

 

#13 Modern Apizza

January 26th, 2016

New Haven, CT

I was heading up to Boston last year for a work trip, and decided to stop in New Haven on the way for a lunch at Modern with a friend from grad school. Unlike the other two famous New Haven pizzerias (Pepe’s and Sally’s), Modern isn’t located on Wooster Street. It has been in its original location on State Street since its opening in 1934.

 

We got this plain pie, and another one with eggplant. This is your traditional New Haven-style pizza, with the thin, charred crust. Unlike the two greats (Pepe’s and Sally’s), Modern doesn’t use a coal-fired oven, but uses an oil-fueled one. So the pizzas aren’t really the same.

There are a lot of Modern fans in New Haven, but I was never one of them. In fact, I only took Eric there at the very end of my five years in New Haven. He wasn’t super thrilled either. To us, it was a little too oily, a little too chewy, and the sauce just wasn’t as good as Pepe’s or Sally’s. You’ll find plenty of people who disagree with us though.

All this is not to say that a stop a Modern isn’t worth it if you are going to New Haven. The lines are much shorter than Pepe’s and Sally’s, parking is better on State Street than Wooster Street, and it is never too crowded for lunch, even with a bigger group. After all of the pizzas we ate this year, New Haven pizza is still our favorite style, so we’ve still ranked it pretty high, and no New Haven pizza tour would be complete without a stop here. We just think there are better options.

As a side note: Modern, like Pepe’s, is also known for their clam pies. The difference here being that Modern gets pre-shucked clams, and Pepe’s does the shucking themselves. It’s the little things, really.

If you are interested in the New Haven Pizza Debate, here is a good article that lists a bunch of them.

To visit:

Modern Apizza
874 State Street
New Haven, CT 06511

#86 Margot’s and #1 Frank Pepe’s

November 12th and 13th, 2016

Brooklyn and New Haven

So, if you follow our Instagram, you may have seen that our pizza quest for the year has been accomplished! We spent this weekend eating lots of pizza and celebrating with family and friends. This is going to be a long post, so bear with us.

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Back when we started this journey at the beginning of 2016, we were only really worried about making it to one of the pizza places on the list, which was Margot’s. Margot’s is a popup that operates out of Emily in Brooklyn, on one Saturday per month. And tickets are very difficult to get. So difficult, in fact, that we tried for three months to get tickets without any luck (they sell out in less than a second). Then, they stopped doing the popup. As the months went on with no news of a popup again, we resigned ourselves to the fact that we probably would have to cross it off the list without ever making it there.

 

UNTIL last weekend, when we got an email from Margot’s announcing another popup in November. We BOTH were on computers to get tickets when they went on sale at 4 pm. I didn’t make it through, but Eric did! We managed to book two tickets, ensuring that we would ACTUALLY make it to all 101 this year.

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On Saturday, we drove into Brooklyn and went in to Emily (and actually met THE Emily!) We were not used to seeing the restaurant so empty! We haven’t posted on Emily yet, but it is usually packed for dinner with lines out the door. We had placed our pizza orders online when we bought the tickets, and we had opted for the Margot-rita and the Collaboroni (jalapeño and pepperoni). All of the pizzas at Margot’s are “bar-style”, which means super thin and crispy. The toppings of the Collaboroni reminded us most of the pizza at Emily and EmmySquared (not surprisingly), but the only other pizza we’ve had that was similar was at Colony Grill in Stamford.

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All in all, it was worth trying to get tickets and tasting Adam Kuban’s pies. We will probably never be able to get tickets again, but we were glad the fourth time was the charm!

After our lunch, we headed to New Haven for our finale pizza party at Frank Pepe’s, which was on Sunday afternoon. Having spent 5 years in New Haven, Pepe’s was always our go-to pizza place. We knew the best times to go to beat the lines, and we constantly ordered too much food just so we would have leftovers to take home and eat for the rest of the week. We were thrilled that so many of our family members were able to make the trip from all over the East coast to party with us on Sunday.

We rented out The Spot, which is the second building of Pepe’s on Wooster Street.  This is actually the original Pepe’s location, started in 1925. The main location moved to the larger building in 1937, and the Spot became a second establishment in the 1970’s. There are always lines out the door for the regular restaurant, but hardly any for The Spot, which is located a bit farther off the road, although it serves the same exact pizza.img-20161113-wa0001

The staff brought out pizza after pizza, including our favorites, the plain tomato pie and the veggie special, the famous white clam, some four cheese, and a new one (to us, anyways) that had spinach, mushroom, and gorgonzola. We also had a few meat pies, like the chicken and roasted red pepper, and the sausage, which was also a hit with the crowd. I probably don’t have to say that the salad went mostly untouched (although the leftover salad is going to be a welcome lunch today!)

img-20161113-wa0002     img-20161113-wa0011After eating so many pizzas this year, it was great to come back to Pepe’s and find that it is still our favorite. Sure, it could be partly because we have such strong connections with it as previous regulars, but it is also just really good pizza, and we can never get sick of true New Haven style.

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On a side note, Pepe’s has expanded to several locations now, the most recent being in Chestnut Hill, MA. While we haven’t been to all of these locations, if you are going to go to Pepe’s, you should definitely make it to the one in New Haven. The others just aren’t the same.

img-20161113-wa0025Even though our 101 is complete, we haven’t finished posting about all the pizzas we ate this year on the blog! So we will still be posting, and we have some good stories still to tell. Also, we will be posting our own official ranking of the 2015 101 Best Pizzas in America tomorrow!

To visit:

Margot’s (operating out of Pizza Loves Emily)
919 Fulton Street
Brooklyn, NY 11238

Frank Pepe’s Pizza
157 Wooster Street
New Haven, CT 06511

 

 

#61 BAR

December 6th, 2015

New Haven, CT

BAR was the first pizza that I ever had in New Haven, and it continued to be a staple for my five years there. I celebrated my birthday at BAR for three years straight, and I credit their house-brewed Damn Good Stout for my love of stouts today. BAR is a bit larger than the other famous pizza places in New Haven, which makes it perfect for a larger group. It also has a nice bar for when it gets crowded, and pool tables and a party room for later in the evening.

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The Daily Meal also refers to the restaurant as “Bru Room” at BAR, but in our many years there, we never heard it called this, so I’m just sticking with calling it BAR.

While we rarely ever got the famous potato pie, we decided to get it this trip, just because the Daily Meal suggested it on their list as the pizza to try. We also got our usual combination of veggies on a second pie.

We also got to see our friends Claire and Jeff, who drove down to Boston to reunite in New Haven for lunch. Of course, Eric and Jeff decided to dress as twins. This was completely unintentional and also very funny.

We love BAR pizza for so many reasons, and we had no problem finishing off two large pies between the four of us. Although this was ranked in the bottom half of the Daily Meal’s list at #61 (and #60 on the 2016 list), it ranks higher up on ours for sure. If you aren’t familiar with New Haven style pizza, they are oblong, thin-crusted, and cut in rectangular or oddly-shaped slices. They are usually served on baking sheets.

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So if you find yourself around New Haven, you should definitely check out BAR, in addition to the classics of Pepe’s and Sally’s (and OK, Modern).  It is similar to these other places in that it serves mainly pizza and salad (and beer), but their pizza selection is much larger than you would find at these other traditional New Haven pizzerias.

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Check back next week because we are finishing our 2015 list *officially* this weekend, and will be posting our own rankings!

To visit:

BAR
254 Crown Street
New Haven, CT 06511