Top Pizzerias in New Haven
When most people probably think of Connecticut they usually think of the UCONN women's basketball team (the men are not worth it since Kemba carried the team on his back), Yale, Gilmore Girls or just being that "rich" state. But one thing I think that gets overshadowed till we keep ending up at the top of best pizza lists is just how good the pizza is in this state, or more specifically New Haven (where they refer to it as apizza).
Usually when you think of pizza the two major styles come to mind, New York and Chicago. Chicago's being deep dish resembling if you turned pizza into a pie (not really my style but to each their own) and New York resembling more of a large pie with a thin crust where the best way to eat is by folding it up and eating it like a taco. So what makes a New Haven style pizza so good?
The Shape - Kinda round but more oval-ish or a more oblong circle in nature. Served on a baking tray because in reality its the only thing that could fit these pizzas.
The Crust/Dough - Super thin, even thinner then the New York style a lot of people are familiar with. It is crunchy and charred but at the same time soft and chewy which makes this unique "New Haven" style. There is also usually no thick outside crust edge, it follows about the same thickness as the center of the pie, sometimes creating charred dough "bubbles" on the edge.
The Sauce - Usually very simply in nature just some San Marzano tomatoes with seasoning. Or in some specialty styles like BAR's mashed potato pie or Pepe's Pizza's White Clam, no sauce.
The Cheese - Again simple, 'mootz'. Be sure to request it because your base pie will always start as either a tomato pie, tomato pie with mozzarella, or just mozzarella. Never assume the pizza will come with cheese like your local pizza palace.
Pretty simple, but usually perfection does not need to be over complicated, just made right. And New Haven makes a damn good apizza(and if you did not just say that with an Italian accent we can not be friends, kidding).
The four main players in the game are the famous Pepe's Pizza, Sallys Apizza, Modern Apizza and BAR. The other two pizza shops that get rave reviews but follow a more traditional Neapolitan style are Zeneli Pizzeria and De Legna(this one I would say blends the Neapolitan style and New Haven style together). And somewhat new to the game but has been highly rated is one6three going with their take on the New Haven style.
So forgot that guy-who-will-not-be-named's stupid pizza list, because the following ranking will let you know what the best pizzas in New Haven truly are. I should also note that even if I ranked a place lower on this list does not mean it is not delicious pizza, you pretty much can do no wrong going to any of the places on this list.
Modern Apizza has always been my favorite since I had it years ago and having it again recently is still true. The menu here (as is at the main four players) is pretty simple, just pizza and then salad and calzones. Nothing crazy. The pizza though is so good, the cheese nice and golden with it holding structure but still a slight string to it, the sauce has just the right amount of seasoning and coverage on the pie, the crust a nice golden brown with those occasional char bubbles as I call them, and the bottom just a little char to give a little crunch but the dough still soft and chewy so it does not feel like you are eating a cracker. My mouth is salivating just writing that and makes me want to drive down and buy another pie right now. Like I mentioned earlier there is nothing complicated here nor piled with over the top toppings here, just a simple pizza done right. The pizza was so good and smelled amazing that when it arrived on our table we devoured it right away that I was not able to get a picture that was worthy of showing. So you will have to take my word for it and just make a trip down here and see why this is my number 1 New Haven pizza.
I was recently introduced to this spot by a couple of my friends when looking for somewhere to dine out and enjoy pizza. And since we had just gone recently to our usual spot of BAR, thought it was good chance to try this spot out. And thank god we did. If you know me, I am big on checking ratings and being the rating snob that I am I usually stick to a 4.0 and up. So to see this spot rated pretty much a 5.0, probably the highest rating I have ever seen for a place, I was excited. And boy did it live up to this rating. Now this place is not the traditional New Haven style pizza as I described in my intro, their style is more Neapolitan, very thin pizza with a little thicker crust. Very simple tomato sauce and delicious mozzarella and I recommend doing one of their specialty pizzas.
The menu here a bit different then the others as they also serve several antipasto and pasta dishes along with the pizza. The toppings here are a little different too and not focusing on the traditional toppings you see at the other pizzerias and focusing more on the traditional Italian toppings such as prosciutto and spicy salami. Man do I love a good prosciutto. The place is tiny and you can see the pizza oven right in the corner of the restaurant so you will get a front row view to the deliciousness. This place is pretty much tied with being number one.
I hate that I took so long to try this place out because this pizza was phenomenal. Located right at the start of Wooster St. and New Haven's Little Italy section this place is hard to miss. And do not miss it. The pizza was pretty much perfection and fighting for that top spot with Modern. The tomato sauce had such a fresh tomato taste and not overly powered with lots of spice, it really highlighted that fresh, juicy tomato flavor. And the cheese had a perfect golden color with the crust being nice and soft but still a nice crunch. We got their regular cook which was a little less charred compared to the other pizzas so I might suggest if you like those little char parts, especially on the bottom of the pizza, ask for the option to go a little darker (not too much, do not want the entire pizza charred). But besides this, I devoured half the pizza in one sitting because I could not stop eating it, it was so good.
BAR is one of our go to spots when hitting up New Haven for pizza and for good reason. Of all the places on this list, BAR has one of the better atmospheres. Its set up in a cool industrial style warehouse space, they are also a brewery and brew their own beer. And if you are looking for a night out you can hit up their club in the back and pick up some slices (only late night) when you work up an appetite on the dance floor. Be prepared for a wait though as this place is popular especially being in the heart of downtown New Haven. Although sometimes places like this drop the ball on their food in exchange for the cool atmosphere, but not here, the pizza is still amazing.
Similar to Modern, the menu is simple but there are also some more unique toppings here, one of the ones they are known for is the mashed potato pizza. Make it loaded by making the base mozzarella only and topping it with bacon. Or, do not knock this till you try it, add buffalo chicken (with or without bacon, you do you, go wild), yes weird combo to think of especially when we first ordered it by just throwing random toppings at the bar tender. This is what we ended up with and we have not regretted it since. The mashed potatoes add this nice creamy touch to the pizza that just works. Or just get my go to pizza of the buffalo chicken with blue cheese on a mozzarella only pie and thank me later (add some hot peppers if you like a lot of heat). Also order the BAR salad, it is literally the only other thing on the menu besides pizza but literally one of my favorite salads and have to get it every time.
This was a surprise hit for me. I had only come across this place when planning out my day of running around the city trying all the pizzas, especially places I do not frequent. Again with the ratings, I was intrigued by its high rating and overall positive reviews I was seeing, so had to try it out myself. Now I must say I did not have a criteria to base my rankings on one bite or the pizza must be cheese, although we pretty much got half the pie as cheese anyway. And this place was definitely not a place to get a cheese pizza. The menu has a bunch of unique pies so if you are coming here you are coming here for those specialty pies and not just a cheese. I tried the A&A and just listen to what is on this pizza: chicken, their own honey goat cheese, smoked bacon, hot cherry peppers, sliced tomatoes, mozzarella and drizzled in their own horseradish aioli. And that kitchen sink of toppings was a flavor bomb in my mouth. And the dough was nice and thin and the cheese still got those signature golden brown marks even with all those toppings. Now the only thing that held me back was that it was bit too charred for my liking, the opposite of how Sallys was. So I would maybe suggest asking for a lighter char/cook if ordering from here.
As I mentioned, if you are coming here you definitely have to get one of their specialty pies especially with names like Breaking My Meatballs and Fungus Among Us. You will not be coming here to just have your run of the mill cheese or pepperoni pizza. And this pizza was absolutely delicious. The menu of course is also a bit more expansive then the main four with sandwiches, salads and appetizers.
Pepe's Pizzeria is probably the most well known of the pizza shops in New Haven. It is usually the shop that lands the top spot in the pizza lists and now expanded to several places around New England. The pizza that lands them at the top of the lists and what they are known for is their white clam pizza. And although I am not a seafood person I do love me some clams, but I just can not get behind why this pizza is number one. I find this pizza a bit too dry for my liking and almost like eating a cracker. I find their other pizzas so much better. So my recommendation is to go with something else such as topping it with peppers and sausage or meatballs as that combo was damn good on their tomato and mozzarella pie. I just find the tomato bases from the others a bit more flavorful and dough slightly better. Now although I have this as my number 6 ranking, as I said earlier, just because its lower on my list does not mean it is not good. This pizza is still damn good and worthy of trying! So give it a try and let me know what you think and if you think the clam pizza is worthy of the number one spot or if you agree that the others on this list make a better pie?
7. De Legna
De Legna use to be pretty much neighbors with Modern, but recently moved farther down the street to a swanky larger new space. And I love it with the open kitchen to see the pizzas cooking and this industrious swanky vibe they got going on. Definitely the only one on this list besides BAR that has a cool atmosphere going on. The menu here is strictly pizza only, nothing else but they have more unique pizzas similar to one6three with pizzas named the Brussel Hustle and The G.O.A.T. We went with the mashed potato in honor of one of our usual orders at BAR and enjoyed the pizza. The flavors were good but we felt all the other pizzas we had were a bit better and why it landed last on the list (and again disclaimer although last it was still a delicious pizza, better then anything I get near my work office). The dough though had a nice char to it both on the edge and bottom adding some nice crunchy flavor. So I would definitely come back for that unique atmosphere and the drinks were really good, shout to that key lime martini.
There you have it, my ranking of the top pizzas in New Haven the pizza capitol of America*. Have you been to any of these delicious pizzerias before? What is your favorite pizza shop in New Haven? Let me know if you visit any and what you would rank them as.
See you in the next adventure.
-The Wandering Professional
*uncited, just saying