Pizza…what a fantastic culinary invention! While there are different types of pizza all around the world, our modern pizza originated in Italy. In fact, I recently read that there is a bill before the Parliament to safeguard the traditional Italian pizza, specifying permissible ingredients and methods of processing to be called “traditional Italian pizzas” in Italy. I love it!
Last night I had the pleasure of eating at New Haven’s Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana (aka Pepe’s). This institution opened in 1925 and is one of the oldest and best known pizzerias in the US and apparently where the apizza originated. The apizza is the New Haven-style thin-crust style pizza closely related to Neapolitan-style Italian pizza baked in a coal-fired brick oven. Pepe’s ovens cook pizzas at 650 °F! When compared to silly thick crust pizza, it is a hands down winner for me.
While New Haven, CT is a city of less than 150,000 people, Pepe’s, Sally’s (apparently a haunt of Ol’ Blue Eyes) and Modern are certainly on the world culinary map. The Guardian Observer’s (London) article – The 50 best things to eat in the world, and where to eat them gives a shout out “The best American pizza can be found, not in New York as is commonly assumed, but in New Haven, Connecticut, where the Pepe family has been spinning dough since 1925.” Magazines, newspapers, Lonely Planet, the Food Channel and Real American Stories all praise the famous pizza pie.
I personally grew up eating Modern Apizza, which has won the New Haven Advocate’s Reader’s Poll for Best Pizza 11 years in a row; but since they are closed on Mondays, Pepe’s won my business. As I ate my red mozz with broccoli over conversation of pirates, non-profits and family, I was very happy. I believe my pizza eating raconteur cohort felt the same.
Lucky for me, my father grew up in New Haven eating Modern Apizza as well; and now that he and my mother live out in the sticks, he built his own brick oven outside for summertime pizza soirées. The chimney is a dragon head so he looks like he is breathing smoke and sometimes fire (no, I am not joking).
My suggestion: Get pizza from 5 or more New Haven pizza places and do a blind taste test to find your true favorite and invite me! 🙂