The United States of Apizza
Colin M. Caplan
November 28, 2022
I’m that kind of pizza nut that has meticulously researched, catalogued, mapped and targeted for edible demolition every single New Haven Style Pizza place in the US of A, and I have now been asked to share this seemingly never ending and always fluctuating life skill with the likes of you people. So bless you for being interested because I vow to make your stomachs and minds perk up with this ever-growing pizza trend and true culinary masterpiece.
New Haven style pizza, a Neo Neapolitan pizza that hails from the area around New Haven, Connecticut is known for its thin, chewy, crispy & charred crust, oblong or noncircular shape customarily cooked well done in large coal-fired brick ovens, the fuel and oven style not being indicative of the style. The pizza goes by the name Apizza, pronounced “ahbeetz,” which hails back to the original Neapolitan work for “la pizza” in that archaic language. From the 1870s-1960s New Haven attracted more Italian immigrants and their offspring than any other city per capita in the US, and the bakers and pizzaioli who largely hailed from regions around Naples, were skilled at making this traditional style of pizza. For the first 100 years New Haven’s style of pizza stayed in Connecticut, a state the size of the country Montenegro (as you know).
As fast as New Haven attracted immigrants to work at its factories in the 19th and early 20th centuries, many of these descendants left for greener pastures following the demise of the city’s industrial base, massive redevelopment projects and easier access to distant area of the country. Many missed their staple cultural comforts like apizza, and soon enough there was a growing demand for New Haven style pizza in various communities across the lower 48. The pioneer pizzeria to cross state borders was one I visited in my youth called the New Haven Pizza Co. on W13th Street in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. Opening in 1990, this now defunct spot appears to be the earliest homage to New Haven’s pizza prowess on record.
Over the years New Haven style pizzerias have been opening up in all corners of the country, mostly started by former employees, family members or inspired by some of the original gangster pizzerias like Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, Sally’s Apizza, Modern Apizza and Zuppardi’s Apizza, Tolli’s Apizza and Abate’s Apizza. New Haven’s main pizza rivals, Sally’s & Pepe’s have been taking their brands to ever more remote locations to share the New Haven pizza theme to the masses; there are 15 Frank Pepe pizzerias in seven states and three Sally’s Apizza locations in CT with more being planned, plus frozen pizza delivery. Zuppardi’s Apizza has three locations in the greater New Haven area, a pizza truck and frozen pizza delivery and for purchase at national supermarkets. The demand for New Haven style pizza has been growing and former area residents who now live far and wide have greater access to the apizza of their fancy.
While many New Haven style pizzerias have come and gone, there’s all the more reason to explore the surviving locations. The longest running one is Basil Doc’s Pizza which started in 1996 in Denver with a dough recipe influenced by Pepe’s, now with three locations in the area. Next is Tomatoes Apizza which started in 1998 in greater Detroit and was directly consulted my Abate’s Apizza. Former New Havener Billy Jacobs opened Piece Brewery and Pizzeria 2001 in the Wicker Park neighborhood in Chicago to help locals there get a taste of his upbringing as a 2nd generation Sally’s Apizza regular. In 2006, San Diego received its first New Haven style pizzeria when Basic Urban Kitchen + Bar opened by another former New Havener. Soon after, other sectors of the country were liberated from pizza purgatory including Salvation Pizza in Austin in 2006, now with three locations, Double Mountain Brewer in Hood River OR in 2007, now with two locations, Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza in Washington DC in 2008, Nick’s New Haven Style Pizzeria in Boca Raton, FL in 2011 and Apizza di Napoli in Aiken, SC in 2012. This trend has continued with many newer spots opening like West By God Coal Fired Pizza in Pigeon Forge, TN, Tolli’s Trattoria in Johns Island, SC, Fantini’s New Haven Style Apizza in Stuart, FL, Ozzy’s Apizza in Glendale, CA and numerous breweries throughout the Midwest. It’s a lot to sip on.
With more than half the states, 27 and counting to be exact, housing a New Haven style pizzeria within their borders it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this is an accepted and popular version of pizza. Often ranked in the top 10 pizza polls with authority, New Haven style pizza has been finding its way and staying in mainstream pizza conversations. The United States of New Haven Style Pizza spans from the eastern most front at Montano’s Restaurant in Truro, MA to its westernmost at Pazzo in San Carlos, CA, up north at Surly Brewing Co. in Minneapolis, MN to down south at Boblu’s Southern Café in Key West, FL. New Haven pizza is annexing hearts, minds, mouths and stomachs far and wide and soon we may all be speaking the New Haven apizza dialect.