Connecticut’s Fabulous Pizza Scene

| July 16, 2012 | 175 Comments

When I lived in New York, I thought New York pizza was unmatchable. Then I moved to Connecticut full time (I had spent summers here as a child) and discovered a whole new world of pizzas.

Connecticut pizza comes in a few varieties. There are the coal-fired brick oven pies of New Haven with their crisp crusts and charred spots that add a whole new dimension. There are the ultra-thin crusts, similar to New York pizza but often less greasy. And there are the Greek-style pies with their doughy crusts that are so unlike the others that they need their own category.

Last year, while on a business trip in Seattle, one of the other folks on the trip mentioned a pizza place in Connecticut that they were familiar with and something about it being the best in Connecticut.

I had to correct her.

Pizza in Connecticut is somewhat of a phenomenon. There are so many great pizza places, and everyone has a favorite — but it’s more than that. It’s like taking sides in a never ending pizza battle. And it’s not just us Connecticut people noticing these great pizza joints — many are nationally ranked as the top pizza places in the country.

Pepe’s Original Tomato Pie

The biggest players are the New Haven pizza places. Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana (affectionately known as Pepe’s) and Sally’s Apizza are the most talked about, most known and most debated (as to which is best, of course). Both serve coal-fired brick oven pizzas and were started by relatives. There’s also Modern Apizza, which has its own devoted following as well.

At Pepe’s, the thin crust comes out crisp with little black bits of char. Their signature white clam pizza is loaded with fresh clams, olive oil, garlic, oregano and grated cheese — a perfect pie for eating so near the Connecticut shoreline. But most often, my family orders the Original Tomato Pie, which comes with sauce and grated parmesan. You can also order it with mozzarella. Their pepperoni pizza, something I am generally not fond of, is worth trying. It’s kind of amazing.

I haven’t tried Sally’s or Modern, but they are on my list of must-tries this summer.

One of my favorite pies comes from outside New Haven. Carminuccio’s is a pizza place located in Newtown, Connecticut. Their pizza has an ultra-thin crust that holds their signature sweet-savory sauce and just enough mozzarella to coat without overdoing it. My favorite pie there is the clams casino pie, which has clams, bacon, onions and more. It’s a must-order whenever my friends and I go.

Still, there are other pies that I keep hearing out like the hot oil pie at Colony Grill in Stamford, which was named one of the 8 Best Pizzas in Connecticut by Slice. It’s topped with a chile pepper infused hot oil that’s supposed to be amazing. Roseland Apizza in Derby, Connecticut also made that list with their famously rich tomato sauce.

As for the Greek-style pizza, Newtown Pizza Palace is a favorite. Famous Pizza in Bethel, Connecticut makes a great Greek-style pie too. Both feature addictive marinara sauces and a good layer of mozzarella cheese. But be warned, the Greek style can be a little oily.

I’m undoubtedly missing some fabulous pizza places here in Connecticut. Do you have a favorite? What is it?

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Category: Restaurants, Stuff

About the Author ()

Sarah W. Caron is a freelance writer, editor and recipe developer. Her work has appeared in countless online and print publications including iVillage, BELLA NYC Magazine, Yum for Kids magazine and more. She lives in Connecticut with her two kids, two beagles and husband.

Comments (175)

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  1. Karly says:

    I’ve never been to Connecticut before, but you’re making me want to visit just for the pizza!

  2. I have never had CT pizza bot wow it looks and sounds amazing!! That sauce…wowzer.

  3. Susan says:

    I’d love to go back to SE CT and try the pizza again – Mystic in particular!

  4. Kate says:

    I’ve never really heard og Connecticut pizza being a “thing,” but that pizza looks incredible!

    • Tina says:

      Kate, you’ve probably never heard of it because New Haven pizza gets overshadowed by NYC pizza. I would be surprised if someone where you are had heard of it, to be honest, without a personal recommendation. Similarly, my hometown, family-run pizza place (5 miles from New Haven) gets overshadowed by New Haven pizza, which suits me just fine, because it’s my town’s little secret. The great thing about the area is that ALL of the surrounding towns have their own local places that only locals go to.

      New Haven is, by the way, a FABULOUS place to eat outside of pizza, as well. We have outrageously good, authentic Turkish, Chinese, Eritrean, Indian, and Lebanese places too! I read once that there are well over 100 restaurants in the 9-block downtown area, and only 150,000 people live in New Haven. It’s a great place to have dinner!

  5. Daraya says:

    I would love to visit Wadsworth Falls! :)

  6. Amy Tong says:

    oh my, I would love to visit Newtown Pizza Palace and the Rich Farm Ice Cream Shop. I’m such a foodie…any place with good food would lure me in. :)

    amy [at] utry [dot] it

  7. Amy Tong says:

    tweeted about this giveaway: https://twitter.com/uTry_it/status/225521298082758656

    amy [at] utry [dot] it

  8. Tina says:

    Oh my goodness, I never tire of telling people about the pizza back home. Of the New Haven ones, I prefer Pepe’s. I went to Lombardi’s in New York (supposedly the oldest licensed pizzeria in the US) and the waiter there told me that Mr. Lombardi stole Frank Pepe’s clam pie recipe! If a statement like that is made by Lombardi’s staff, I have to believe it. Anyway, my absolute favorite (they have a crust that is to die for, that tastes a little like sourdough, and a very garlicy red sauce) is not in New Haven, but in my hometown, and we keep the local gems to ourselves. ;-)

  9. Melanie says:

    I’d love to visit anywhere in CT, I’ve never been!

    • Tina says:

      Melanie, I hope you do, it is a fantastic place to visit. If you go when it’s warm, make sure to check out an Ashley’s Ice Cream (they are in: New Haven, Hamden, Branford, Madison, and Guilford, and the latter two are particularly lovely shoreline towns). Obviously, in the fall, you’ll get the autumn leaves! It’s a real treat.

  10. carmen says:

    i’d love to check out Kent, CT and have a picnic by the waters near the covered bridge, Bulls’ Bridge. Sounds like a lovely way to spend a fall day!

  11. Barbara says:

    I love Mystic…though Ive never had the pizza :)

  12. Kerry says:

    Girlfriends in Heaven escape sounds awesome – I would love to hit Westport’s Born of Earth Spa!

  13. Suzy Q says:

    Eating pizza in Connecticut seems like a beautiful dream. Mystic, anyone? Yes.

  14. KatieQ says:

    I would love to visit New Haven and try as many pizza place as I could in search of the perfect slice.

  15. Jessie C. says:

    I’d like to visit Stamford

  16. Judy B. says:

    I’d love to take a ride on the Essex Steam Train and Deep River Landing Riverboat. Oh, and have some pizza that looks just like yours.

  17. Margaret Smith says:

    I’d love to visit Mystic. Also the aquarium by there sounds wonderful.
    Thanks so much.

  18. Adrienne gordon says:

    Mohegan Sun is fun

  19. CATHY TRUMAN says:

    I would like to visit Mystic.

  20. Amber says:

    I would love to visit the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford!

  21. Amber says:

    I tweeted about the giveaway, I’m @AmberGoo:
    https://twitter.com/AmberGoo/status/228680265520803840

  22. Stephanie V. says:

    Woodbury – Carole Peck’s Good News Café – creatively prepared dishes using organic, locally farmed ingredients – yum!

  23. Cynthia C says:

    I’d love to visit Mystic Seaport.

  24. ron grande says:

    that pizza looks darn good. i’d like to take a trip to CT and buy me some.

  25. Joe K says:

    I’d visit Old Saybrook for a seafood dinner.

  26. RussR`` says:

    I’d go to Avon

  27. Hartford…I hear it’s beautiful! alittlenosh AT gmail.com

  28. Suzanne K says:

    I thought I wanted to visit the Essex Steam Train, but now I’m thinking a Foodie Tour!

  29. Theresa Jenkins says:

    I could eat pizza for every meal so I’m going to have to visit New Haven for all their famous pizza places

  30. Jimmy says:

    I would like to visit the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat

  31. Carolyn G says:

    I always wanted to visit Mystic,CT

  32. Alec says:

    I love this contest because I am actually moving to CT tomorrow – no job or friends yet, but I am excited for the new adventure! I am most looking forward to visiting Mark Twain’s house/museum. I might have to do a pizza and ice cream tour on my way up to his house from Stamford ;o)

    Alec

  33. tracy davis says:

    I would love to do Hogsback

  34. MelissaO says:

    I’d like to take my husband to Mystic as he’s never been and take him to the aquarium. Then maybe a short hike in Voluntown.

    wolverina401 at gmail dot com

  35. Crystal F says:

    I would love to take my girls on the North Pole Express at the Essex Steam Train. thank you!!

  36. Michelle H. says:

    I’d love to visit New London, Connecticut and take one of the Mystic Whaler Cruises and visit Ocean Beach Park.

  37. patricia skinner says:

    I would like to visit Mystic Seaport and see the Museum and lighthouse.

  38. Denise S says:

    I want to visit Bobby’s Burger Place, because I love a great night of eating a good burger and having meaningful conversation.

  39. Ravzie says:

    I think I’m going to have to go to New Haven and check out that pizza!!!

  40. Nadine L says:

    I would love to do the Lighthouse trail, Love lighthouses.

  41. Denise L says:

    Oh wow! Pizza is my absolute favorite food. I’d like to visit the coast though. I’m thinking Mystic – I hear they have pizza there too ;)

  42. AuraR says:

    I’d go for Mystic as well

  43. Marcia Goss says:

    I would like to visit Bridgeport and see the lighthouses.

  44. Christy says:

    I’d like to visit COUNTRY RAMBLES AND AMBLES – #13

  45. Deanna G. says:

    I’d like to visit The Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk.

  46. Michelle S says:

    the Mark Twain house.

  47. gina says:

    I love visiting Mohegan Sun Casino, Foxwoods Casino and Mystic Pizza & Aquarium.

  48. joni says:

    I’d like to see New Haven for the beaches.

  49. Annette D says:

    I would enjoy going back to Hartford. I was there years ago with work but did not get to sight see much!

  50. Diane Baum says:

    I have never visited Connecticut, but have always wanted to do. The pictures of the mouth water pizza has got me even more excited to visit. I understand it’s a beautiful state with many things to see and do!

  51. Chelsea says:

    Washington Depot or Hartford. I always wanted to visit Washington Depot because it is the town Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls is based on.

  52. Lily says:

    I would visit the Yale Center for British Art!

  53. sarah t says:

    i would like to visit Carminuccio’s

  54. Jennifer says:

    I have always wanted to visit Hartford!

  55. Intisar says:

    I went to college in Northampton, MA, and I never heard of the pizza scene in CT. I see I really missed out, I would love to try any of the pizza places. I’m sort of a pizza connoisseur.

  56. Suebob says:

    Carminuccio’s sounds amazing! I’d love to visit Mystic.

  57. Daniel M says:

    the ice cream trail sure sounds like a fun trip

  58. tamar says:

    I want to check out Yale in New Haven!

  59. judy gardner says:

    i would love to visit wahington depot, and i have to admit that since i saw the movie Mystic Pizza, i have wanted to visit Mystic.

  60. ANGEL JACKLYN says:

    The Bluff Point Coastal Reserve in Groton sounds like a worthy spa well worth my time =)

    Thanks for the chance!

  61. Pauline M says:

    I would love to try the White Memorial Foundation cross county ski trails!

  62. Wendy says:

    Have you seen the movie Mystic Pizza with Julia Roberts? Love that show! Anyway, I would like to visit Waterford, on the Sound’s east end to see the lighthouses.

  63. Erica C. says:

    I’d like to try the Outdoor Sports Center Rock Climbing in Wilton!
    ericacarnes(at)gmail(dot)com

  64. Suzan Flint says:

    Honestly I’d probably go to that pizzeria! The pizza in that picture is totally drool worthy!

  65. vanessa says:

    The beach in madison!

  66. Denise Donaldson says:

    I would love to go to New Haven

    itsjustme62613 at gmail.com

  67. Denise Donaldson says:

    tweet

    https://twitter.com/MistySunrise/status/232868794064846848

    itsjustme62613 at gmail.com

  68. Sonya says:

    I’d love to see Kent Falls State Park!

  69. kathy pease says:

    id love to visit the SKIP BARBER RACING SCHOOL

  70. Amy says:

    I’ve always wanted to see more of New England, CT sounds like it should be on my list for sure. Plus, I am hungry right now and pizza sounds good.

  71. Erika P. says:

    I would visit the Mohegan Sun casino.

  72. Peter G says:

    Rich Farm Ice Cream Shop for sure. Everything looks better with an ice cream cone.

  73. Chris B says:

    Never heard of Connecticut pizza, but it sounds delicious

  74. clynsg says:

    I would like to try some of the B&Bs –those historical houses that have been transformed sound lovely. And I must admit, pizza is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Connecticut!

  75. Sarah L says:

    I like the 3. Shore Thing trip on their site. I like beaches.
    Thanks for the contest.

  76. Sarah L says:

    Delete previous tweet please. It wasn’t right. This one is.

    https://twitter.com/slehan/status/232976586532605952

  77. Bruce says:

    New Haven is my favorite place to visit in CT

  78. Beverly Metcalf says:

    The Newtown Pizza Palace, sounds good to me. Thanks for this contest!

  79. Debra F says:

    I’ve always wanted to visit Mystic, Conn.

  80. Richard Hicks says:

    always wanted to visit Hartford!

    brich22 at earthlink dot net

  81. Krys R says:

    Looks like I would like to go to Newtown, Connecticut, The pizza looks so good!!!

  82. julieh says:

    I’d like to visit hartford, ct

  83. Kayla says:

    Pepe’s has amazing pizza! I’d love to go to New Haven for some more of Pepe’s pizza!

  84. angie lilly says:

    I would love to visit Quotonset Beach! Its all about the seashore for me!

  85. Carla says:

    I’d like to see Lime Rock park.

  86. ria says:

    Must visit that pizza joint & Mohegan Sun

  87. Kristin says:

    Id love to see Mark Twain House!

  88. I would love to visit the whole state. I think I would start with the Hartford area and travel from there.

  89. Marissa M says:

    I would love to visit any part of CT!

  90. heather c says:

    I’d love to visit New Haven.

  91. Marie Howard says:

    i’d like to visit hartford!

  92. Trisha McKee says:

    I’d love to visit a few towns that are included in the CT wine trail!

  93. Liz Neal says:

    I would like to visit New London.

  94. Jill H. says:

    New Haven sounds interesting.

  95. Melissa Shirley says:

    Connecticut Dinosaur Trail

  96. tracey byram says:

    I’d like to visit Gulf Beach.

  97. susan smoaks says:

    I want to visit Country Rambles and Ambles – #13 and forget my 21st-century troubles in eastern Connecticut.

    susansmoaks at gmail dot com

  98. I’d like to visit the Coastal Lighthouse

  99. Kat Emerick says:

    My husband and I took a road trip from Pa. to Maine. We stopped at a place called Mystic Seaport and I loved it. Looking forward of going back.
    kat_emerick@yahoo.com

  100. JAMES LYNAM says:

    I WOULD GO TO “STAMFORD, CT.”

  101. Rosey says:

    I love NY Pizza, but you make the CT pizza sound super enticing, and I fully intend on giving it a try.

    I’d love to come to Connecticut to experience the Essex Steam Train ( http://www.essexsteamtrain.com/ ). It looks like a good family-fun event and I love steam engines.

  102. Dorothy Hubbard says:

    New Haven Ct sounds like my pizza town.

  103. Betty Curran says:

    I love pizza in just about any form and I’d love to visit Connecticut and see how it compares to our local shops. I’d also love to visit the seaports. They have always interested me.

  104. elizabeth p says:

    I really want to go to mystic.

  105. Tammy Greer says:

    I’ve only been through Connecticut once (while driving from Boston to New York) but would love to go back. It’s such a beautiful state. I’m a pizza fanatic so I would love to try as many pizza places as I can.

    LuckyTJG at cs dot com

  106. Nick D. says:

    I’ve never been to Connecticut, but I love pizza.

  107. Breanne says:

    I’d like to visit the Bellamy-Ferriday House & Garden

  108. Re Morgan says:

    pizza looks delish! I want to go for the beautiful seaside haunts.

  109. Michelle H. says:

    There are so many places there I would love to visit. One is the lighthouse.

  110. maria cantu says:

    I would love to visit Hartford.

  111. lisa says:

    Sherwood Island State Park

  112. Donna K says:

    I would like to visit Gulf Beach. It sounds fun.

  113. Sand says:

    I love pizza and movies so I’d have to go to Mystic when I visit!

  114. maureen says:

    My brother went to Yale and I never have been to CT I think I would like to go to Norwich or Mystic.

  115. shirley zolenski says:

    Gulf Beach

  116. anash says:

    Tweeted:
    https://twitter.com/anashct3/status/233386563109793792
    Thanks for the chance to win!
    email: anashct1 [at] yahoo [dot] com

  117. Debbie B says:

    i would love to visit Mystic

  118. Heather S says:

    I would go to Hartford

  119. Andy M says:

    I can’t believe you didn’t mention Stanziatos in Danbury!

  120. Janet says:

    Would love to try them all! Next time I’m in CT, I will do my best :-)

  121. Jonathan W says:

    I live in CT and I have had pizza from over 50 places in CT. Pepes is great and the coal oven gives it a burnt crust that makes it amazing. The sauce is also delicious. But I think my favorite place in CT is Rossini’s in Cheshire. It has the best sauce ever put on a pizza. If you have never had it I recommend trying it.

    • Sarah W. Caron says:

      Thanks so much for the suggestion! I am in the area a lot in the summer — I will definitely make a point to check it out. A great sauce really does make a pizza amazing.

  122. Jim says:

    Growing up in New Haven in the 1940s, I remember several great neighborhood apizza shops. My elderly Irish-born grandma loved to have us bring some to her. Pepe’s, Sally’s, and Modern still offer the traditional Paisan style. Often on weekends there are waiting lines for tables, since their pies are top-notch.

  123. James McCarthy says:

    Moved from New Haven to Brooklyn a few years ago. Brooklyn is awesome, but after plenty of searching I must conclude that it really can’t compete with Elm City pizza. Haven’t found anything in Manhattan that compares either, NY-style pizza is too often an overly doughy cheesy slab.

    In addition to Modern, Pepe’s and Sally’s, Bar on Crown Street downtown has superb thin crust pizza and excellent homebrews as well. Other places I miss: Willoughby’s coffee, cheap thai buffets on Chapel Street, the architecture (my grandfather helped build Harkness Tower, seriously gothic!) ,the Book Trader, Yale Art Gallery (The Night Cafe by Van Gogh was my favorite painting and I used to visit it weekly), Anna Liffey’s Irish pub on Whitney.

    Because of geographical proximity, New Haven often gets dissed by unfair comparison to NY. After all, it is only a city of 100,000 or so and it is ridiculous to compare it to a great world city. But if you compare it to cities of its size nationally it is actually extremely rich culturally and certainly substantially more cost-effective than living in NYC.

  124. I am a life time Connecticut resident that works in New Haven and I have to say – CONNECTICUT SURE DOES KNOW PIZZA!!!

    We have had many nights where we do a “new haven pizza taste test” where everyone brings a classic tomato and cheese pie from their favorite and we all try them out. Personally, I find Pepes to be my least favorite!! YOU HAVE TO TRY MODERN!! It’s amazing.

    However, on top of all of those well known ones, there is a little place in Fair Haven called Romano’s that is freaking delicious. It’s entirely different than the traditional NH Pizza. It’s a thicker crust, but not greek, and the cheese is a little heavier handed (although I ask for light on the cheese) but man the crust/dough is AMAZING!

    I think i’m going to have to have some New Haven Pizza for lunch today!

  125. Dan R says:

    There was a time when Waterbury had three of the best pizza restaurants ever – Bacco’s, Gino’s, and Dominic’s. Sadly, all three are under new ownership and I could no longer vouch for any of them. A Bacco’s pizza was near perfect and I would put it up against Pepe’s any day. I heard it’s Indian owned now so I imagine it’s not going to be as good as it was when the Bacco family owned the place.

  126. atd262 says:

    Frank Pepe’s and Modern are great! I’ve just got to mention two lesser-known restaurants in the same area that I actually prefer even to Pepe’s and Modern: Aniello’s and Minervini’s, both of which are in East Haven and actually across the street from each other. Fantastic, colossal, and surprisingly inexpensive pies made by wonderfully friendly staff at family-owned pizzerias. And both stock Foxon Park sodas, locally-made all natural sodas that are so amazingly good that they have effectively ruined Pepsi and Coke products for me. When I lived in the New Haven area I used to order from Minerini’s or Aniello’s at least once a week!

  127. Greenwich says:

    The Story left out a few very important pizza place’s in Connecticut
    Here in Greenwich are two institution’s that have been in business for over 30 years

    the Bruce Park Grill and Glenville Pizza

    both very worthy of a trek

  128. Richard Thompson says:

    I think Connecticut pizza is something people overlook so often! They always talk about New York style and Chicago deep dish, but clearly they’ve never had pizza from Connecticut. Thanks for sharing, my personal favorite is going to have to be the original tomato pie for sure. Thanks for sharing!

  129. Sarah says:

    I guess living my entire life in CT, you really take for granted how amazing it is. And the pizza is to die for. I certainly miss the crust and the blacked parts of the pizza. I now live in south NJ. Let me tell you, nothing compares to CT pizza. I’ve been here 2 years, haven’t found a fantastic place yet. They’re big on commercial pizza, like Papa Johns and such. Not sure NJ knows what crust or sauce is!!

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