Photo Modified: Flickr/ Carl Lender/ CC4.0
As the founder of The Daily Meal's annual ranking of the 101 Best Pizzas in Ameica and author of some of the most extensive pizzas lists ever published, I can’t tell you how many comments I’ve received from pizza lovers. Unlike many arbitrary lists, we approach rankings methodically, starting with our definition of the perfect pizza; considering 800 spots in every corner of America; eating at as many as we can; consulting in-house experts; and calling upon a blue-chip, geographically diverse list of pizza panelists — chefs, critics, writers, and pizza authorities — to vote only for places where they’ve eaten. Responses are as proportionately passionate as our work is diligent. But we’ve always been curious about what a list would look like as voted by the public. Think you can do better? We’d like to see you try. No, really! So this year, we opened up voting to discover America’s 35 favorite pizza places, according to you. Here are the five pizzerias in Connecticut that made the list.
#5 Mulberry Street Pizza, Manchester
This golden-edged, thin-crust haven was opened in 2004 by Bob and Danita Sulick. The couple, who met at a restaurant where Bob worked, never thought they’d open their own place, but their cozy original joint became so hoppin’ they had to expand to Main Street four years later.
There are some 20 “Blockbuster” pies on the menu at “The Mulb” named for flicks like The Italian Job (a white pizza with lemon cream sauce, prosciutto, caramelized onions, fresh basil, and Romano), Jaws (clams and garlic), and Blazing Saddles (crushed nachos and, yes… taco meat), but if you’re looking for a second pie after you finish The Italian Job, the couple notes the plain cheese as the biggest seller.
#4 Sally’s Apizza, New Haven
Sally's Apizza is New Haven royalty, operating from the same location where they opened in the late 1930s in New Haven's Wooster Square. In truth, if it weren’t for nearby Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, Sally’s would probably be talked about with similar reverence. Their pizza is traditionally thin crust, topped with tomato sauce, garlic, and "mozz." Of course, the pies at Sally’s look pretty similar to what you'll find down the street at Frank Pepe, because the man who opened Sally's (Salvatore Consiglio) was Pepe's nephew.
Sal passed in 1989, and his wife Flo followed in 2012, but their children Bob and Rick carry on the tradition of terrific pies (cash only and no reservations) Wednesday through Sunday (starting at 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and at 3 p.m. on weekends). Since then, there have been reports that Sally's is for sale, but New Havenites need not panic, New Haven Register's Mark Zaretsky informs us that Bob and Rick have "made it clear that any deal, if it comes, would likely involve them staying on."
Sally's staff have been known to admit that Pepe’s clam pie is better, but the tomato pie here (tomato sauce, no cheese), has the original beat.
#3 Modern Apizza, New Haven
Established in 1934 as State Street Pizza,Modern is known for its coal-fired brick oven that still puts out pizza in the same thin-crust style. You'll likely hear it described as the place "locals go instead of Pepe andSally's." Perhaps. The atmosphere is great — wood paneling, friendly servers, a clean feeling — but it doesn't play third-string because it's not on Wooster. Modern's pies are slightly topping-heavy with weak structural integrity. Given the topping focus, the Italian Bomb is the pie to try: it’s topped with bacon, sausage, pepperoni, garlic, mushroom, onion, and pepper.
#2 Colony Pizza, Stamford
This thin-crust bar pie institution in Stamford, Connecticut, is notorious for its no-frills demeanor, no-special-options policy, and for not making exceptions (which Colony’s website admirably calls “classic American charm”). There are signs, though, that this reputation may be thawing.Consider the special corned beef and cabbage pizza for St. Patrick's Day, which makes sense when you consider "Colony" was the nickname of the Irish neighborhood in Stamford where Colony Grill was established by Irish owners in 1935. But now there are three locations (two more in Fairfield and Milford and one to come in Norwalk), and they’ve recently added a salad pizza to the menus. Go figure.
What you’re going to want to do is order the sausage pie with hot oil (chile-pepper-infused oil) and a “stinger” pie (they’re thin so you’re going to need two). That signature hot oil is a must — if you don’t do it, don’t bother going. There’s almost the same amount of tasty sauce and cheese as there is crisp cracker crust.
There’s something special about the equal amounts of ingredients you likely won’t have had before, the way the pockmarked surface resembles some crazy dream where cheese covers the surface of the moon (all melty like you remember from the orange-oil-covered slice at your childhood favorite pizza place), and how the sting of the oil brings you right back to the sip of beer you’ll want while savoring each bite.
#1 Frank Pepe’s, New Haven
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana celebrated its 90th birthday in June and is enjoying its third consecutive year at the top of this list. And why shouldn’t it be named America’s best pizza? This is a checklist destination, one you’ll have to make a pilgrimage to if you want to discuss the topic of America's best pizza with any authority. The New Haven icon opened in Wooster Square in 1925, offering classic Napoletana-style pizza made by an Italian-American immigrant. After arriving in the United States in 1909 at the age of 16, Frank Pepe (watch him at work in this video) took odd jobs before opening his original restaurant (the location, now called "The Spot," is now an adjunct to the main Pepe's location).
There are now seven locations around Connecticut and one in New York State operated by Pepe’s 10 great-grandchildren (all of which use original recipes to make their coal-fired pizza), with a new Boston pizzeria scheduled to open soon (the sign is up!).
What’s the move? As if you didn’t know! Two words: Clam pie ("No muzz!"). This is a Northeastern pizza genre unto its own, and Pepe's is the best of all — freshly shucked, briny littleneck clams, an intense dose of garlic, olive oil, oregano, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano atop a charcoal-colored crust. The advanced move? Clam pie with bacon. Of course, Pepe’s summer special, their seasonal “fresh tomato pie” made with locally grown tomatoes, is worth its own trip (and the addition of shrimp to a tomato pie is an under-hyped gem of a combination). No matter what you’re thinking of ordering, expect to wait in line if you get to Wooster Street after 11:30 a.m. on a weekend.
Additional reporting by Arthur Bovino.