August 29, 2004

Pizza at Frank Pepe's and Sally's Apizza on Wooster Street in New Haven

POST #    1244

Clearly, I've gotten myself caught-up with some people that love pizza, for yesterday, I went on Slice's Pizza Club No. 5, which brought 10 pizza enthusiasts to New Haven. The plan was to eat at Frank Pepe's and saunter down the street to Sally's Apizza. Battling all sorts of traffic up and in Connecticut, we eventually made it and gorged on some great pizza. The two establishments are considered as some of the the best pizza in Connecticut and some say that it is as good as some of the more famous New York pizzerias. As New England pizza is known for its clams, some clam pizza was indeed ordered.

The first stop was Frank Pepe's, established in 1925. We arrived at about 2:45 and there was still a line to be seated. Thankfully, it didn't take long because I was damn hungry. We decided to order three pies which was eventually upped to four - one large white clam, one large mozzarella, one large mushroom mozzarella, and one small plain (this was for eight people). The difference between plain and mozzarella? Plain was pretty plain, with only sauce, garlic, oregano, and some parmesan. Plain is how they first made pizza at Frank Pepe's and was a late addition after we learned that nugget of information, while mozzarella is more like your "typical" pizza.

I'm not sure if it was my hunger or not, but the pizza was damn good and the clam pizza was really excellent. The mushroom pizza was rather eh, so I wouldn't recommend that, but all the other pies we ordered were top notch. When we first arrived, there was a sign on the door that said "no clam pies," which would have been quite a travesty. Lucky for us, they took the sign down soon after we were seated. The crust was thicker than a Pasty's or Grimaldi's crust, but it was very good. This might have led to my downfall though, as I was very, very, very full after finishing up at Frank Pepe's. A lovely employee of Frank Pepe's informed me that they make 500 pies a day and when we were there, they already went through six bushels of clams - by 4:15.

After finishing up, our group walked a few blocks to Sally's Apizza, established in 1938 and the other venerable pizza establishment on Wooster Street. Sally's only opens for dinner at five and when we arrived, there were already two people in line. As we waited, the line grew steadily. If you're going for ambiance, Sally's isn't something that's going to impress you at all. It's hot inside, with poor air circulation, and some suspect seating and order-taking hierarchy. After being seated, it took more than an hour for our three medium pizzas to arrive. For the record, we ordered a mozzarella, white clam, and some potato onion pie that was the special. I can't really comment on how the pizza tasted, because I was so full from the first stop that I actually excused myself from the table. It seemed like the consensus was that the crust was better, and that the clam wasn't nearly as good as Frank Pepe's. Someone also noted that the mozzarella was way too oily, which. from the looks of the pictures I took, was very true.

After returning home last night, I was of course hungry and tried the clam and the potato slices. It's obviously unfair and impossible to compare fresh pizza to cold pizza, but there was a noticeable difference between the two establishments. The clam was indeed not as good as Frank Pepe's and was also quite oily. The potato slice was actually decent, when you got past the onion and a herb that was added as seasoning.

It was an insane trip that was excellent and enjoyable despite some major discomfort. It was also cheap. For all the food we ordered, I only worked out to around $20 a person. Ignoring the pizza, New Haven definitely beats out New York. Account for the pizza, and you're in for a good debate.

- All entries on the Slice Pizza Club
- Joe on "Somewhere between Heaven and Hell in New Haven"
- Slice on "New Haven Pizza, Part One: Frank Pepe's"
- Slice on "New Haven Pizza, Part Two: Sally's Apizza"

Posted by tien mao in Food/Drink at 12:21 PM

 

 

Who knew that New Haven was a great place for pizza? No wonder kids go to Yale.

Posted by: Jen at August 29, 2004 12:24 PM

Ignoring the pizza, New Haven pizza definitely beats out New York.

wtf? does this make sense?

Posted by: rachelleb at August 29, 2004 12:55 PM

i think/thought it made sense. like it beats new york in pricing, and i didn't want to get into a pizza debate about ny vs. nh.

Posted by: tien at August 29, 2004 12:58 PM

When I arrived at Yale in 1973, one of the first things an upperclassman guitar playing acquaintance I had made told me to try out was the clam, bacon, and garlic pizza from Sally's. I had never heard of such a thing. In California we ate sausage and mushroom pizzas. Period.

So, my new friend Joe, MADE me go with him to Sally's, largely against my will. He made me wait in line, endure a certain surly attitude there and eventually get served this pizza. Oh my God! This was the best thing I ever had in my lfe! Bar none. I have continued to enjoy these Sally's and Pepe's and Modern pizzas to this day. I think Sally's went downhill a little after Sal died a few (or more) years ago.

Tien, btw, if you're going to make the hike up here, we will have to do that flying trip we talked about one of these days. I will have a lot more free time in October, after I have left my day job. Let me know if you're still up for it. A trip to the pizza place should wait until after the flying, since there are matters of gross weight and center of gravity to take into consideration. We want to try to keep the thing under 2500 lbs!

Posted by: Oscar at August 29, 2004 1:04 PM

Secret note to Rachelle: it makes no sense.

Posted by: joe s at August 29, 2004 3:27 PM

with thanks to adam, it's now slightly changed.

oscar, that sounds like fun. especially if there is pizza afterwards.

Posted by: tien at August 29, 2004 3:43 PM

**So jealous!!**

There's no pizza in Jiujiang, China. I can't believe I missed the Slice trip where clam pizza was actually ordered. Clam pizza is my dream!

Posted by: astrid at August 30, 2004 3:33 AM

Next time you are up there, you should try Modern too. They come in as a close third place, but are still worth the time.

And if you want a sense of the kind of slice that really fuels a Yalie for four years, make your way to Naples. Sallys/Pepes/Modern are once in a while trips for most students. A Naples slice, however, can be an every day thing for some.

Posted by: saltydog at August 30, 2004 9:46 AM

Mmmm. There's something about seeing pizza first thing in the morning that makes me crave it more than anything...

Posted by: corie at August 30, 2004 10:29 AM

There was talk of going to Modern this time but we were wiped out after the heat of Sally's. The waitress at Frank Pepe also recommended The Bar, across the street from Louis' Lunch for mashed potato pizza.

Posted by: joe at August 30, 2004 11:19 AM

Bar is also decent, but it never felt like the place to have pizza. It's a weird place. Part brew-pub, part lounge, part dance club. You'd go there to be there, and the pizza was just something to munch on. Hard to explain. Still worth a visit as long as you have already been to Louis'. And the Doodle.

Posted by: saltydog at August 30, 2004 11:24 AM

damn, i could go for some pizza right now!!

Posted by: tien at August 30, 2004 11:50 AM

i am going to be in nyc next weekend. can you recommend some good pizza spots? thx

Posted by: clint at August 30, 2004 2:28 PM

Clint: Di Fara, Totonno's (either 26th Street and 2nd Ave or the Coney Island location, but Coney is better), Patsy's in East Harlem (the other Patsy's suck), Grimaldi's (under the Brooklyn Bridge). Just go to Slice or Tien & Audrey's Pizza Page for info.

Posted by: Adam at August 31, 2004 2:16 PM

Sinatra used to send his driver from New York the 3 hours to New Haven and back to get the Sally's Clam pizza.

Some people have known that New Haven pizza beats New York for some time...

Posted by: Mike at December 9, 2004 4:45 PM

My grandfathers name was Frank Pepe so of course this article caught my eye.. He was born in Italy in 1880s and came to NY at the age of 9.. moved to Brooklyn then to Emerson NJ I live in Georgia and no good pizza here so I usually make my own..

Posted by: barbara hunt at December 22, 2004 10:59 AM

Ron,

Thank you for the wonderful comments regarding our apizza. Next time that you are visiting Ct, stop in to say hi and we will try and sit you right away!

Posted by: FLo at September 29, 2005 1:20 PM

Dear Flo and Ruth, i now live in Florida, but am originally from Grand Avenue, newhaven. i come back to Ct. often to visit, and of course to eat your apizza!! my Mothers' name is Marie Carmella Abato. anyone who is a native of Newhaven, Ct., surely knows that the last generation of family is managing to keep the few great legends or icons alive in the city. people better learn to appreciate, and be greatful that they are priveledged to eat at one of the best pizzerias in the country, if not the very best! the SWEETEST sauce, and ripest of tomatos, and freshest of ingredients, the brick coal oven, Frank Sinatra on the juke box, locally made Foxon Park soda, and a lot of HEART, SOUL and PRIDE bring people from all over the country to sink their teeth into your apizza! Your Family has left countless stomachs happy!! so people ought to learn some patience in line, because someday the long line will not be there to wait in? just like the great local bakeries, such as Desorbos on Grand Avenue, and the late Marzullos bakery! establishments like your selves and these other "GREATS" are more than just places that just put out great food, they are what makes the fabric of our great neighborhoods what they once were and still are! My life would feel robbed, if i had not grown up around these great places. i only hope that are future generations take the same PRIDE in whatever they pursue? and give back to the CITY OF NEWHAVEN, what they are now reaping the enjoyment from. Sincerely, a true NEWHAVEN NATIVE. RON

Posted by: Ronald Goldman at September 29, 2005 9:37 PM

Ron,

You will never know the secret of the delicioso recipes of our sauce, but you can taste them when you visit again. Take Care and thank you again for the wonderful comments.

Posted by: FLo at September 30, 2005 6:59 PM

Flo and Ruth, I totally understand about never giving up a recipe! when my Grandfather was alive, he made the worlds' best hot dog and peppers, and sausage and peppers! he lived for many years on summitt street, in the heights, up the hill from Grand Avenue, after living on Green street, when the neighborhoods were predominatly Italian and he also owned a home on Towsend Ave. along with my uncle Pat Casanova who also owned a home there for many years. but my Grandfathers' nextdoor neighbors' name was Bob Marante, and he was a culinary instructor and owned his own catering business, that he ran out of his own home, and he use to set a step ladder up in front of my grandfathers' kitchen window early in the morning to try to get his recipe for his hotdog and peppers! my grandfather would never give it to him, and Bob Marante and my grandfather were not only nextdoor neighbors, but they were the best of friends, and a big age difference. and Bob Marante had a massive heart attack! and died at a young age! in his early 50's! his wife still lives in the same house on summitt st.in fairhaven. My Grandfather didn't go a day without feeling bad about not giving him his recipe. my grandfather outlived him by 30 something years, and died at age 89! i need to show you something sometime, if i could get my Mother to find the article about my GREAT GRANDFATHER. he was a pizza king! no lie. his last name was campansano. and there was a big write up in the paper about him many years ago. i think before 1938. he died at age 99! i am pretty sure. he use to make our family homemade calzones in the black cast iron pan with olive oil! with just mozzarella, no ricotta cheese. UNBELEIVABLE! what i remember as a little kid when he was alive, he use to live on Frost street in Easthaven, because i use to watch him in his garden picking tomatos and peppers and his grape vines for his homemade wine too. I just remember the sunny sky, and how quiet it was! very peaceful! hard to find today? i am sure that Flo knows of him. thanks for taking the time to respond to me. i know you are very busy! sincerely, Ron

Posted by: Ronald at September 30, 2005 9:55 PM

Ron,

Thank you again for the wonderful comments. Do you know a guy named Freddy on Grand Avenue. He has delicious recipes also that we love. What is your grandfathers name? Do we know him?

Posted by: Ruth at October 4, 2005 8:43 PM

Hi, Flo and Ruth, my Grandfathers name is Ralph Abato, and my Grandmothers name is Carmella Abato. they both died about eight to ten years ago. my grandfather owned a successful plumbing business on Grand Avenue for 40 years! Freddy Nuzzzo is the man you are thinking of, who owns Grand apizza, on Grand Avenue. he is now in his 80's. and still works there, making pizzas, only in the morning hours, because he now has heart trouble. my Grandfather was very close friends with him! when i get a hold of the article about my Great Grandfather, being a apizza king i will try to make a copy and send it to you. but i know it is a very old article and my Mother probably only has the original newspaper article, and i don't know what shape it is in?? it will take me some time to get it. my great aunt Antienette Casella owned a package store right next door to grand apizza, and Disorbos bakery. she passed away recently, last February. by for now, Ron

Posted by: ron at October 4, 2005 10:05 PM

Next time you get to New Haven for a Pizza taste:

1. Take the train Metro North - New Haven Division)....beats driving.

2. Indulge at Modern Appizza on State Street

Modern Apizza has taken the number one spot for pizza, according to the reader's polls in the New Haven Advocate ever since that paper had started doing reader's polls. Now, you are talking about people in the know as well as the locals. You can check this out at http://66.51.169.160/best_nh.cfm?pitid=1435&plid=11&sid=1435#1435

See whay New Haven has ranked them #1 ovewr the years.

Bon Apetit!!

Mike

Posted by: Mike at May 28, 2006 7:26 PM

Hello,
I'm originally from WestHaven,Conn. I live in Ft Lauderdale,Fla Now and for the past 18yrs..I'm always in search of a good Pizza.Nothing will ever come close to Sally's or Pepe's. When I go back home,thats the first thing I get to eat.
After all these years I still crave a good pie.I'm hoping someone can help me,If any one knows who will ship Pizza's over night??I was told Modern use to ,but no longer? Any body who knows a Pizza Palor that will ship over night.Any info would be greatly appreciated...Thanks,Laurie

Posted by: Laurie at June 9, 2006 4:36 AM

new haven has the best pizza in the world. i've eaten at every "known" establishment in boston, nyc, NJ, philly and new haven, and 10 famous places in naples, italy, plus a few dozen in rome and other parts of italy.

new haven wins, hands-down.

Posted by: NYer at December 2, 2008 2:08 AM

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