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Pizza Crawl

Now, this journal entry is mostly intended for readers from Connecticut. If you're not from Connecticut, there's probably not going to be a lot here to interest you, so go and talk amongst yourselves.

A few posts back, I wondered whether or not I had any fans in New Haven. Turns out I do. Some of them spoke up in replies to that LJ entry, and others sent me email. Here's why I asked --

Next month Parris and I will be making our annual visit to Boston for Boskone (a great convention, I urge you all to attend). After the con, we'll be making our annual post-Boskone visit to New York City. We usually take the train down from Boston to NYC's Penn Station (soon to be renamed Moynihan Station, I hope, in honor of Parris's Uncle Pat), and that's what we plan to do this year... but this year, we're planning on getting off at New Haven on the way, to try out the pizza.

Some of you may have read my "What I'm Reading" page, and may remember my 2005 review of Ed Levine's book about pizza, A SLICE OF HEAVEN. If so, you'll know that I am a huge fan of classic NYC style thin crust pizza pie ("real pizza," I call it, and don't talk to me about that Chicago deep-dish tomato and bread casserole thing). Well, Levine's book claims that the best pizza in the world comes from New Haven. Since that time, I've also seen a special on the Food Channel that makes the same claim. Two specific places are mentioned -- Frank Pepe's and Sally's.

OK. Out here in New Mexico, I live thousands of miles from great pizza (some of the local pies are adequate, but that's all, and they don't even call 'em "pies," which is a dead clue that the pizza is going to be second rate). I can't stand the thought of riding right past what may be the best pizza places in the world without trying. Ergo...

You've all heard of pub crawls. Well, I'm up for a pizza crawl. I want to try BOTH of these famous pizza places, and see how their pie stacks up. And maybe some place called Modern too. I see from my webcrawling that there are some New Havenites who rate that one even higher than Sally's and Frank Pepe's.

So here's the plan. Parris and I leave leave Boston by train on Tuesday, February 20. It will only take us a few hours to New Haven. We'll check into a hotel, stay overnight, and check out a few slices before departing again for NYC on Wednesday, February 21.

If any of my Connecticut readers want to join us for a slice or three... hey, the more the merrier, I always say. Some local guides would be most welcome... and who knows? If the pizza is as good as advertised, I might even be convinced to make a few knights...

So speak up, New Haven! Who's game for a pizza crawl?


( 183 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jan. 20th, 2007 08:50 pm (UTC)
I'm afraid I'm a product of having been around thick crusts all my life...in my youth I believed that exactly in the middle between the thin and the "deep dish" (which seemed ridiculous) was perfect. Now I'm increasingly fond of the casserole-esque creations. I never could get into crusts that were more like crackers though...

But then, I've never had "real" pizza. Well, actually at a New Year's party I think I finally did just once...but I consider we're being really fancy if we go to one of those awful chain places. I haven't time, money, or patience enough for the little places that make the good stuff...though I'd find all of those somehow if only I had the money...
Jan. 20th, 2007 09:45 pm (UTC)
Pizza crawl logistics
Hello Mr. Martin, et al.,

I've lived in the New Haven area for five years or so after having lived in New York for the previous five years, and here's the best objective take I have on New Haven pizza.

First off, New Haven is blessed by being a town of real eaters; there are many, many people around here who like to go out to eat, and are willing to spend money on and wait in line for good food. This has resulted in an unusually large and good selection of restaurants for a city its size, and frankly, it's one of the reasons that I live here. I like to eat; I like to talk about eating; I like to eat while I talk, and talk while I eat; and I like to talk about eating while eating.

Whether you decide New Haven pizza is the best pizza you've ever had or just too thin with slightly burnt crust, it is a species of pizza distinct from other pizza I've had--distinct enough that New Haven pizza joints call their pizza "apizza," not "pizza." (Don't everyone get all excited. I'm just saying that's the way we spell it around here. I won't defend it, or apologize for it.) Apizza has different priorities from New York pizza. New Haveners like to point out that New Haven apizza places were using brick ovens in the 1920s, well before it became fashionable in New York to do so, but that's neither here nor there. The key differences I've noticed between New Haven apizza and New York pizza, as characterized by Di Fara, Grimaldi's, Totonno's, and John's, as well as the generally good pizza joints you might find in Brooklyn or Queens:

1. Apizza is considerably thinner and wider than is NYC pizza.
2. Greater emphasis on sauce in New Haven, versus a greater emphasis on cheese in New York. Some hardcore New Haveners consider mozzarella to be an abomination unto pizza, and stick to straight-up grated parmesan. (Sally's, for example, can look askance at those who don't order "red pies," meaning pies with just sauce and no cheese.)
3. Different crust: aside from being thinner than New York pizza, apizza is also crunchier and perhaps a tad sweeter. Because of the infernal heat of the aforementioned brick ovens, the crust can get pretty toasty, which some people like and some don't.

Sally's and Pepe's duke it out for most famous in New Haven due to the generally accepted excellence of their pies, but the wait at these places can be really long--two hours is not unusual. Modern, as far as I can tell, wins the New Haven Advocate's poll for best pizza because the pizza there is deemed as good as it is at Sally's and Pepe's, but the wait isn't remotely as long and the service is considered slightly better. There may also be a generational factor in play: Baby boomers seem to prefer Sally's or Pepe's, whereas younger folks gravitate toward Modern. Make of that what you will; really, my evidence for this last point is so anecdotal that it's kind of irresponsible of me to bring it up.

All three places--Sally's, Pepe's, and Modern, have been around for longer than most people have been alive, so that tells you something right there. They're all good. Lately, a newcomer named Bar has been serving New Haven-style apizza, and most people around here feel that they make a good pie, too.

The one thing I would say about the pizza crawl idea--other than that it's awesome--is that it'll be hard to do unless you have a couple people with you. First of all, none of the three big places in New Haven serves pizza by the slice. Second, the waits at Sally's and Pepe's really can be long (or not; it's kind of like traffic in Los Angeles). You could, of course, not eat all of the pizza that you order; and perhaps the waits at Sally's and Pepe's will be long enough that by the time you get your pizza at the second place, you'll be hungry again anyway. Or, if you're here overnight, you could eat one in one night and then save the other two for the next day. But the waits are a factor, and should be considered. I'd allot two hours of wait each for Sally's and Pepe's, and forty-five minutes for Modern, though if you go during the day, the waits will likely be a lot shorter.

Finally, I might be able to join you for at least one of these pies. How would I get a hold of you to coordinate?

Thanks--and I hope this was helpful.

Brian Slattery

Jan. 20th, 2007 10:30 pm (UTC)
Re: Pizza crawl logistics
Great write up Brian! I would give you 5/5stars if I could rate posts.

-Zen Blade
Jan. 20th, 2007 10:50 pm (UTC)
Another article about New Haven Pizza for your reading enjoyment.
Jan. 22nd, 2007 05:04 am (UTC)
I'm very jealous of your pizza crawl, but unfortunately I can't make it.

Being one of the few New Yorkers willing to believe that other places could have better slices than NYC, I have ventured up to New Haven to try their pizza. While I haven't been to either Frank Pepe's and Sally's, I have been to other pizza places in New Haven, and they do have the best pizza I have ever tried.

If you haven't been, there are a couple places here in NYC that you should definitely check out. Grimaldi's in Brooklyn is always rated one of the best pizza's in the city. If you don't feel like venturing off Manhattan, then John's in the West Village is another great place to go. Just so you know, both places usually have a line out the door, and neither place sells slices- you have to order the whole pie.
Jan. 22nd, 2007 07:02 pm (UTC)
lectura recomendada
Hi George! You really don't need to kill so many caracters, here I send you a link to blog of a woman who is 95 years old. I thougth you may enjoy her words. The blog is mostly in spannish (nothing in English)and bits in Gallego (regional language) if you mistrust links (as I do ) look up "a mis 95 años" at google.

Amigos de Internet, hoy cumplo 95 años. Me llamo María Amelia y nací en Muxía (A Coruña) el 23 de Diciembre de 1911. Hoy es mi cumpleaños y mi nieto como es muy cutre me regalo un blog. Espero poder escribir mucho y contaros las vivencias de una señora de mi edad. -- (Friends from the Internet, today is my 95th birthday. My name is María Amelia and I was born in Muxía (A Coruña - Spain) on December 23rd in 1911. Today is my birthday and since my grandson is very miser, he gave me a blog.)
Jan. 23rd, 2007 09:58 pm (UTC)
When i first read your plan to visit New Haven and Pepe's pizza, my friend and i decided to give it a visit.

It was delicious.

And I'm game for some more.

I'll see you there.
Jan. 28th, 2007 04:46 pm (UTC)
Captain's Pizza
I'm from Connecticut. You should try Captains Pizza it's my favorite and I tried a few different places =)
Jan. 29th, 2007 02:17 am (UTC)
Re: Captain's Pizza
On Bank Street in New London?
Jan. 29th, 2007 12:59 pm (UTC)
Re: Captain's Pizza
Yeah I tried all of them and the only one that I don't like is the Derby Captains Pizza. I think they use cheap sauce/cheese in that one. Had pizza there 3 different times and it wasn't good and gave me stomach aches but the rest of the Captains are great IMO.
Jan. 31st, 2007 07:46 pm (UTC)
Wooster Street Pizza
A few quick comments...

- A few of us where I work (north of Hartford) are fans and are going to try and join you
- Sally's is my personal favorite
- You can always tell a good pizza place when ordering a plain pie, gets you sauce, with maybe some garlic and a little grated cheese -- no 'moots'
- If I remember correctly, and it's been a while since I've been down there, they are not open for lunch (some other goods ones in the Hamden area are)

Enjoy! It is the best (and make sure one of the ones you order is a 'plain')
Feb. 1st, 2007 01:05 am (UTC)
Thats a mighty claim.... I may have to join this pizza crawl (If i can get otta[sic] work).

After all, I have yet to taste pizza as good as Twins Pizza. (Its in North Providence, RI). To me, its not the crust, its the sauce thats important. So I usually get Pizza from Italian Resturaunts if possible.
Anyhow, if I can go I'll post in the other thread. If not, see you in Boston.
Feb. 4th, 2007 01:51 am (UTC)
New Haven pizza is awesome, another place to try if you up for it is Bar pizza(esp if you like thin crust.) Im currently at school in VT otherwise I would definitely join you!
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( 183 comments — Leave a comment )


George R.R. Martin
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