“We know you need good pizza,” notes the website for Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza to its Washington, D.C., patrons. As anyone who has lived in or visited this East Coast swamp… er, city, over previous decades would agree, “Apizza, Amen.” As Neapolitan chewy crusts rapidly proliferate, there’s another, perhaps more interesting pizza trend that’s spreading slowly yet steadily: New Haven style, as pioneered by the venerable Frank Pepe (No. 1) in that Connecticut city.
And with Pete’s, Wooster Square-style is saving Washingtonians from pizza purgatory. The business (which has expanded to Arlington, Friendship Heights, and Silver Spring) is owned and managed, for the most part, by two couples who have connections to D.C. and Connecticut, some of whom have training from the Culinary Institute of America. The inspiration for Pete’s started with Joel and Alicia Mehr (Joel managed a pizzeria in Manhattan and Alicia grew up in New Haven County), who teamed up with Thomas Marr and Kerri Knowles-Marr, who attended the CIA (her family is from Connecticut). They’ve created a chef-driven, New Haven-style pizzeria founded on quality ingredients (they shred their own mozz ordered from a co-op of local farms in Wisconsin). The result? A charred, thin crust, a wide pie, and, well… just go. You’ll understand.
What to order? Ack. That’s tough. There are 20 different pies to choose from — in sizes small (9 inches), medium (14 inches), and very large (18 inches). The baseline in this case, of course, is the New Haven, an homage to the Frank Pepe original — a white pizza with clams, garlic, oregano, extra-virgin olive oil, and pecorino Romano. Though the Long Wharf, which adds shrimp, basil pesto, red onions, garlic, and lemon oil to local Chesapeake clams should be another next-level consideration.
Who’s Pete? There are two. Big Pete is Alicia Mehr’s father (he lived in New Haven), and Little Pete is her son with cofounder Joel Mehr. But, as their website notes, “If your name is Pete and you’re a regular, we’re named for you too.” As good as this pizza is, anyone who walks in the door should claim Pete as their middle name.
— Arthur Bovino, 101 Best Pizzas in America 2015, 8/6/2015