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Everything There Is To Know About New Haven Pizza

Learn all about this classic pizza style from Connecticut that you’re going to love.

If you look across all of America’s different States, you will notice that every state does one thing a little differently. That one thing, of course, is pizza. Pizza will always have its roots in Italian cuisine, but after Italian immigrants brought this dish to the USA, it has gone through a lot of changes. 

What we Americans see as pizza is very different from traditional pizza that you can get in Italy’s pizzerias, but it is still very delicious. As you travel around the USA, you will notice that different states offer different styles of pizza. From New York-style pizza to Chicago deep-dish pizza, there are lots of different types. If you travel down to Connecticut, you will encounter New Haven pizza. 

fresh baked new haven pizza

Even if you are not from Connecticut, it is likely that you will have heard of New Haven pizza. But, you might not know exactly what it is. In this ultimate guide, we’ll be taking a look at what New Haven pizza is, where it comes from and where you can get it. So, to find out more, keep on reading. 


What is New Haven Pizza?

First things first, let’s take a look at what New Haven pizza is. As its name suggests, New Haven pizza is a style of pizza that comes from in and around New Haven, Connecticut. While it is known as New Haven pizza outside this area, locally this style of pizza is referred to as ‘apizza’. But what is it exactly?

new haven pizza with lots of toppings

In practice, New Haven pizza is actually a rather plain pizza. It consists of a very thin pizza crust that is simply topped with red sauce, Parmesan cheese, and garlic. It is essentially very similar to the margarita pizza that you might order at Pizza Hut or the Neapolitan pizza that you might find yourself ordering at a food truck in NYC. So what gives the New Haven pizza its own style?

While the ingredients used in a New Haven pizza are very similar to the ingredients used in other styles of pizza, there is one major thing that makes New Haven pizza special, and that is its texture/consistency. New Haven pizza is thin, and it is designed to be imperfect. As it is coal-fired, you will find that the crust of your pizza is often burnt, while the center of the pizza still has a dough-like consistency. 

On paper, these characteristics can seem a little off-putting. But, in practice, the different consistencies of this pizza are a big part of what makes this pizza so yummy. Yes, the toppings of this pizza are fairly basic. But, when you combine these with the different flavors that are added to the pizza during the cooking process, you get a truly delicious pizza which New Haven is very proud to call their own. 


Where Does New Haven Pizza Come From?

As we have said, New Haven pizza hails from New Haven, Connecticut. The creation of this pizza is a great achievement for this area, and they are proud to call it their own. But, of course, New Haven didn’t design the pizza. The base idea of this dish comes from Italy. 

As is a common theme with US pizzas, New Haven pizza was first created in this area because New Haven, and the surrounding areas, were a popular destination for Italian immigrants moving to the USA. In the early 1900s, New Haven and the surrounding areas became a new home for lots of Southern Italian immigrants looking for a new start, and with them, they brought Italian cuisine. 

frank pepe pizza sign

The majority of pizza styles that you will find in the USA have come to exist in this country because of the Italian immigrants that moved here. When there was an influx of Italian Immigrants moving to the USA, they brought with them lots of different family recipes, and it is these recipes that formed the basis for American-style pizzas. 

But, as we have said, the New Haven pizza is actually fairly similar to many other styles of pizza that you can buy in the USA. So, let’s take a look at some of the key characteristics that make New Haven pizza different. 


Key Characteristics of New Haven Pizza

Despite the fact that New Haven pizza is very similar to the New York Style Neapolitan-American pizza that you will find in the Big Apple, there are some major differences that separate these two styles of pizza. So, let’s take a look at the key characteristics of New Haven pizza that help to make it unique to other popular pizza types.

Coal-Fired

Just like Neapolitan-American pizza in NYC, New Haven pizza is also cooked in a coal-fired oven. But the key difference between these two pizzas is that New Haven pizza is still widely available in New Haven and the surrounding areas in its traditional style.

coal fired pizza oven

Whereas, it is often very difficult to get your hands on actual Neapolitan-American pizza that has been cooked in a coal-fired oven in NYC. So, one of the key characteristics of New Haven pizza is that most pizzerias still cook it in a coal-fired oven, rather than choosing the easier oil-fired oven that a lot of other American Style pizzas are now cooked in. 

Fermentation

Another key difference between New York-style pizza, and New Haven pizza, is the fermentation process of the dough. New York-style pizza uses a quick-rising dough because a lot of the attraction of New York pizza is convenience. Whereas, New Haven pizza requires a longer fermentation process, often requiring the dough to be left overnight. This not only improves the quality of the pizza but also improves the flavor and consistency too. 

It Isn’t Burnt

Something else that forms a key characteristic of New Haven pizza is the fact that it isn’t burnt. While the crusts of this pizza might appear burnt, due to the cooking style, they actually are not. Instead, they are simply charred.

new haven pizza with charred crust

You might not have known that there was a difference between these two terms, but it is simple. Charred pizza will be a little overcooked in order to add flavor, whereas burnt pizza will be accidentally overcooked. No good New Haven pizza will be burnt, it will always be charred. 

Language

If you have visited a New Haven pizzeria, then you will probably be aware of the hybrid language that people in this area speak. This language is a combination of US English and Italian, and you will only hear it spoken in reference to New Haven pizza. Here are some keywords that you might hear spoken:

  • Apizza – a special name given to New Haven pizza in, and around, New Haven. The ‘a’ is added to ‘pizza’ in line with dialect spoken in the Naples region of Italy. You will never hear New Haven pizza referred to as ‘New Haven Pizza’ in New Haven, you will only hear ‘apizza’. 
  • Mootz – the abbreviated name by which New Haven old timers call mozzarella cheese. Mozzarella cheese is not considered a natural topping for New Haven pizza, so you will have to specify if you want to add this to your pizza. If you do not ask, your pizza will not have any mozzarella. 

History

Finally, a key characteristic of New Haven pizza is the history that has fueled it to become so popular. Traditionally, New Haven pizza was served in a very similar way to Philadelphia Tomato Pie, and by this, we mean that it did not contain any cheese.

Over the years, cheese has become an essential part of New Haven pizza, but some pizzerias will still only use a very minimal amount of this on their pizza. Likewise, all traditional New Haven pizzerias will offer White Clam pizza in their restaurants. This is another style of New Haven pizza, but it is nowhere near as popular as traditional New Haven pizza. At least not anymore. 


Where to Get New Haven Pizza

sallys apizza sign in new haven

As you can see from what we have said so far, New Haven pizza is a truly delicious option. If you are visiting New Haven, then it is something that you simply have to try. And if you are a local, it is something that will always remind you of home.

But where is the best place to try it? Well, as you will expect, the best places to eat New Haven pizza are located in New Haven itself. So here are some of the best, traditional New Haven restaurants that serve New Haven pizza. 

Places With The Best New Haven Pizza

  1. Pepe’s Pizzeria
  2. Sally’s Apizza
  3. Modern Apizza
  4. Bar

Pepe’s Pizzeria

157 Wooster St, New Haven, CT 06511
Phone: 203 865-5762
Visit Website

One of the founding restaurants for New Haven pizza is Pepe’s Pizzeria, located in New Haven itself. The store first opened up on Wooster Street in 1925, and it has been a staple on this street ever since.

Named after its original owner, Pepe’s Pizzeria had a very humble beginning. But since then, it has grown significantly, now boasting stores across Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, and Massachusetts. But, its heart will always be on Wooster Street in New Haven. Despite the fact that the store has changed buildings from its original location. 

Despite its humble beginnings, Pepe’s is still insanely popular today, even though it is almost 100 years since its first store opened. If you ever visit the New Haven restaurant then you should be prepared to wait because the two dining halls within the restaurant are always full to the brim, and there is often a queue down the block too. So why are they still so successful?

Well, excellent quality food aside, one of the main reasons why Pepe’s is still able to serve excellent pizza is because they have stuck to their roots. A lot of effort has gone into evolving the restaurant, without losing the traditional taste and feel of Pepe’s, and this has not gone unnoticed.

The restaurant still uses a coal-fired oven to cook their pizzas, and their menu is classic and timeless. It is all of this that makes Pepe’s one of the best places for New Haven pizza. 


Sally’s Apizza

237 Wooster St, New Haven, CT 06511
Phone: 203 624-5271
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Also, on Wooster Street in New Haven, you will find Sally’s Apizza. This is a much smaller restaurant than Pepe’s, and it only has one store, but it is still incredibly popular among New Haven locals. Sally’s Apizza first opened up back in 1938, and it was the pizzeria where Frank Sinatra chose to eat.

Since it first opened in the late 1930s, Sally’s Apizza hasn’t really changed that much. This is primarily because the restaurant is still run by the same family that owned the store way back in 1938. 

Sally’s Apizza is home to a coal-powered brick oven, and it is this that keeps people coming back for more. But something else that keeps patrons coming back is the traditional decor of the store that takes you back in time, back to when Sally’s Apizza first opened. With wood paneling and an open kitchen, Sally’s has all the trademarks of a classic pizzeria, and that is because it is one.  

There is something very traditional at Sally’s Apizza, and when you visit it, you feel that you are getting a true New Haven experience. This is only complemented by the classic pizza options that the restaurant sells. As well as offering New Haven pizza with mootz, Sally’s also sells traditional New Haven pizza without cheese. So, if you want to take a step back in time, Sally’s Apizza is the place to be.


Modern Apizza

874 State Street, New Haven, CT 06511
Phone: 203 776-5306
Visit Website

The name of one of New Haven’s other great pizzerias suggests that it is very different from Sally’s Apizza. But, in reality, Modern Apizza was actually founded before Sally’s Apizza, back in 1934. Despite a long history, Modern Apizza actually changed hands around 30 years ago, but it is still as popular today as it was back when it first opened up. A lot of this popularity has come from the new owners, who worked hard to give Modern Apizza a good reputation and a more welcoming feel. 

Modern Apizza is something special because they cook their pizzas in an open flame brick oven. Traditionally, this restaurant would have been coal-fueled, but we are not sure if this is still the case. However, no matter what fuel is used to cook the pizzas in this oven, there’s no denying that the brick style completely transforms the flavor of the pizzas. This allows the restaurant to achieve something truly authentic, and that is why they are one of the best New Haven pizzerias around. 

Part of the reason Modern Apizza is able to create such delicious meals is that their pizzas tick all the key features for New Haven pizza. This is why it is definitely a restaurant to try if you are in the area. 


BAR

254 Crown St, New Haven, CT 06511
Phone: 203 495-8924
Visit Website

Finally, we would suggest trying the New Haven pizza that BAR has on offer. BAR is very different from the other restaurants that we have looked at so far, and this is mainly because they are a much newer restaurant. While the other options we have looked at were set up during the 20s and 30s, BAR was not opened until the late 1990s, but it is still a great choice. 

BAR is the perfect location for any hipsters who want to try out New Haven pizza. It is new and modern in a way that you would expect Modern Apizza to be. The restaurant has a large open space with industrial decor, and it offers lots of space for people to go and enjoy some of the best pizza that New Haven has to offer. 

The great thing about BAR is that it doubles as a restaurant and a bar, making it a great place to go and enjoy a few drinks with friends or to go and eat delicious pizza. Their pizza is slightly different from some other New Haven pizzerias, and this is because they are cooked on rectangular aluminum sheet pans. Despite this change in appearance, the taste is just like the New Haven pizza that we all know and love. 

Final Thoughts

In short, this has been an ultimate guide full of everything that you need to know about New Haven pizza. We’ve taken a look at what it is, where it comes from, what makes it so special, and where are the best places to buy this pizza.

So, if you are visiting New Haven, and want to try their famous pizza, check out this guide first.

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Written by Rocco Smith

Rocco is from Sanibel Island, Florida, and a recent graduate of Florida State University with a Bachelor’s in Editing, Writing, and Media. With seven years’ experience in the restaurant industry as a cook, server, bartender, and more, he is deeply passionate about intertwining his fondness for food with his love of language.