Connecticut’s Fabulous Pizza Scene

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.

pepe pizza

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

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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    • 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!

  1. 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

  2. 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. 😉

    • 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. Stephanie V. says

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

  6. 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

  7. 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)


  8. 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

  9. Michelle H. says

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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 😉

  12. 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!

  13. 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!

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. ANGEL JACKLYN says

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

    Thanks for the chance!

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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!

  20. 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

  21. 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 ( ). It looks like a good family-fun event and I love steam engines.

  22. 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.

  23. 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

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. says

    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!

  28. 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.

  29. 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!

  30. 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

  31. 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!

  32. 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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