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.
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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Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of several cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to two kids in middle school, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.