Within eight hours of landing at JFK Airport after spending a month in Southern California, I was in a car heading up to New Haven, Connecticut for a day trip. The last time I was in New Haven was a bit over five years ago on a bike ride from Greenpoint to New Haven. My experience of New Haven was a bit rushed. I had ridden with a group from the New York Cycle Club, and we had split up into two groups. By the time my group had arrived in New Haven, there was only one other person with me, and the two of us headed to BAR on Crown Street. Many locals insist that BAR is one of best pizza places in New Haven.
Oh, and about New Haven pizza: they refer to it as apizza, which they pronounce as “ah-beets.”
I have a bad joke about this: “I hear the pizza is so good, they don’t even need correct spelling.”
On yesterday’s trip to New Haven, we went the tourist route. Wooster Street in New Haven’s Little Italy has two of the oldest apizza places in town. Unlike BAR, which has a very contemporary decor, Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana and Sally’s Apizza, both on Wooster Street, predate World War II. Frank Pepe’s, for example, opened in 1925, and Sally’s, started by Frank’s nephew Sal, opened in 1938. Even Modern Apizza, on State Street, opened way back in 1934. BAR is by comparison an infant, having opened in 1991.
As is common with these touristy places, there’s going to be a wait. Fortunately, we arrived just before noon on Sunday, less than a half-hour after Sally’s opened and that queue appeared pretty short. As we drove by, I jumped out of the car to wait in line while my friends found a place to park the car.
We waited about thirty minutes in line, which may seem like a long time, but we lucked out in a couple of ways. First, it was a mild and sunny January day. The sun was shining on us while we waited so we weren’t shivering from the cold, as one would this time of year. Second, the party of eleven that was immediately in front us in line abandoned their place in line. I suspect they went to Frank Pepe’s instead, but no matter the reason, our party of four was seated promptly after they left.
Once inside, we debated what to order. The ringleader of the group wanted to recreate the clam pie from Frank Pepe’s, but as none of us had been to Sally’s we figured it would be best to get a classic pie and a specialty pie.
The classic pie was a fresh tomato pie.
This is the prototypical New Haven apizza. It is a charred crust topped only with tomato sauce, some herbs, and a bit of cheese—likely Parmesan. We requested that half the pie be topped with sausage and onions.
The specialty pie was something very novel for us accustomed to New York-style pizza: a white potato pie.
This was absolutely delicious. The potatoes were thinly sliced and baked in a cream sauce. It was like having potato-au-gratin on a pizza.
Last year, I made a sweet potato–au-gratin dish using Stephanie Izzard’s recipe that has been a hit every time I’ve brought it to a dinner party. I am tempted to experiment making a pizza pie using this recipe.