Connecticut Eats: The Best Pizza in New Haven

Pepperonia Pizza
Feature image by Vita Marija Murenaite via Unsplash.

Often referred to as the “Drive-Through” State, Connecticut is home to a city that boasts its own internationally recognized “apizza” style and infamous pizza wars. In New Haven, the finest pizza establishments compete against each other, all striving to take home the title of “best pizza in town”. The term “apizza,” (pronounced “ah-beetz”) describes the city’s brick-oven-baked pizza style — renowned for its thin and moist dough, charred crust and minimal toppings.

New Haven pizza is based in legacy, tight family networks and simple, well-sourced ingredients. And you won’t even have to endure New York’s bumper-to-bumper traffic and blaring sirens to get a slice.

1Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana

Often referred to as the “best pizza in the country,” Pepe’s New Haven is ranked number one in the world by many internationally-acclaimed publications. Pepe’s — the oldest pizza spot in town — was developed by Frank Pepe in 1937 and is located on Wooster Street in Little Italy. As you walk into the restaurant, the wooden bar and simple beers and wines will transport you back in time. White tabletops, green booths, family photos and an infamous coal-fired brick oven also create an old-fashioned sense of simplicity.

Be sure to try their world-renowned white clam pizza, which has a slightly charred crust with a chewy-moist inside and is topped with hand-shucked white clams, olive oil, oregano and cheese. Not only do they pride themselves on consistency, Pepe’s also prides itself on sourcing their ingredients from Italy.

Get there: Pepe’s is less than a mile walking-distance from Union Station on Wooster St. in Little Italy.

2Sally’s Apizza

At Sally’s Apizza, wood panel-lined walls coupled with the soot-covered brick oven creates a feeling of authenticity. Even though Sally’s and Pepe’s are at the forefront of the New Haven pizza wars, these family-owned businesses are all about camaraderie, preserving legacy and a shared penchant for simple ingredients — ethos that keep these two in good standing with each other.

Founded by Frank Pepe’s nephew, Salvatore Consiglio, Sally’s Apizza is a block from Pepe’s on Wooster Street. Consiglio, who learned to make pies from his Uncle Frank, continues to preserve Neapolitan legacy through simplicity. Their infamous Tomato Pie consists of a house-made tomato sauce consisting of a proprietary blend of tomatoes and fresh herbs. The Garden special, which features a combination of tomatoes, mozzarella, zucchini and basil, is another great choice.

Get there: Sally’s is less than a mile walking-distance from Union Station on Wooster St. in Little Italy.

3Modern Apizza

Maintaining the theme of no frills, Modern Apizza is ranked highly among local New Havenites. The brick building’s interior is fairly simple, with old-school red leather booths, wooden tables and walls covered in black and white family photos. Founded in 1934, Modern Apizza is characterized by a gas brick oven that was once fired by coal. Try the Italian Bomb, which is plastered with bacon, sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, onion, peppers and garlic. The thin and slightly charred crust is equally as delicious as its  competition. Unlike other traditional pizzerias, Modern’s pies don’t come topped with mozzarella cheese, or “mootz,” as the locals say, so be sure to ask for it!

Get there: From Union Station, take the CTTransit – New Haven 271 Bus to Whitney Ave. and Opp Sachem St. After the Church St. and Chapel St. stop, the route changes to 228, but you will continue on the same bus. From the Opp Sachem St. stop, Modern Apizza is just a ten-minute walk.

4Da Legna Pizzeria

Da Legna Pizzeria is New Haven’s answer to the increasingly popular movement towards gourmet artisan pizza. While the brick-oven pies are entrenched in New Haven culinary traditions, Da Legna is presented by Chef Daniel Parillo as a one-of-a-kind experience. Founded in 2012, Da Legna has made a name for itself by using local ingredients and maintaining an ever-changing menu with exciting new twists. They are described as “Neapolitan in nature, New Haven in spirit.” With minimal seating, high tops and a bar around the corner, Da Legna’s is known to fill up quickly on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, so get there early. The menu boasts a mix of classic and less traditional pies like the Margherita and the Honey Pot, the latter which includes San Marzano tomatoes, hot peppers, onion, mozzarella, soppressata and truffle honey. Da Legna also offers an array of vegan pies. In addition to the pizza, there are appetizers, great salads and beers from local microbreweries.

Get there: From Union Station, take the CTTransit – New Haven 271 Bus to Whitney Ave. and Opp Sachem St. After the Church St. and Chapel St. stop, the route changes to 228, but you will continue on the same bus. From the Opp Sachem St. stop, Modern Apizza is just a ten-minute walk.

5BAR New Haven

Capturing the essence of New Haven pizza with its classic brick oven, BAR New Haven is a pizzeria, brew-bar and dance hall merged into one. Each pizza joint on this list has been connected, and BAR is no exception. The original pizza cook at BAR worked at Sally’s Apizza, gained an appreciation for the craft and experience from the originals and brought this influence to BAR. BAR pizza’s gas-fired brick oven produces the thinnest crust in the city. The Mashed Potato Pie is a BAR classic, with a chunky mashed potato layer, bacon bits, thyme, oregano, crushed garlic and parmesan. In true New Haven fashion, the pizza is hand-rolled in an elongated shape and served on a parchment paper-covered aluminum tray. In addition to featuring microbrews from local breweries, BAR also offers its own house-brewed beers.

Get there: BAR is less than a mile walking-distance from Union Station, on Crown St. After you’ve filled up on pizza, enjoy this self-guided walking tour of New Haven’s architecture.

Get to New Haven from New York City:

To get to New Haven, follow our Manhattan to New Haven Public Transit Guide for a plethora of options. We recommend taking the Metro-North from Grand Central about two hours to New Haven. Once at Union Station in New Haven, most destinations are accessible by bus, foot, taxi or bicycle.

Feature image by Vita Marija Murenaite via Unsplash.