A few days ago the Connecticut Office of Tourism asked me to contribute to the launch of a new campaign called “My Connecticut Story” where readers can share what they love most about this state (and maybe win some money in the process). It didn’t take long to decide I would have to write about pizza….
In apizza we trust
There are but a few places on earth where water meets flour and mozzarella meets tomato and wild expectation meets reality. Places where decades of tradition, a passion for technique and an absolute, fanatical devotion to charred pizza crust prevail over all else.
New Haven, Connecticut is one of those places.
At once blue-collar and blue-blooded, the diverse streets of this city hold a poorly kept secret: the paragon of American pizza. From humble immigrant roots here, a cultural treasure has been given forth — topped with white clams and garlic.
Here, we call it apizza.
It was among the unkempt bocce courts and faded Italian flags of Wooster Street that I had an epiphany. Here I discovered that New Yorkers and Chicagoans and the citizens of whatever great metropolises lay claim to the ultimate pizza are simply mistaken, for they have not been anointed by the New Haven-style pie.
With my first sampling of a white clam pie from Frank Pepe’s ancient coal-fired oven, I felt like Columbus discovering America only to learn that rich cultures had already thrived on those shores. It was crushing to realize that thousands before me have known this distinctive thin crust, carefully adorned with a delicate balance of cheese and freshly shucked shellfish. The sheer terror inherent in the revelation that I had wasted my life cavorting with thick crusts and oozing mozzarella — even flirted with something called a Hawaiian pizza — was overwhelmed by a remarkable transfiguration.
I was ready to be born anew into this world of apizza.
Be it Pepe’s seafood masterpiece, Modern’s “Italian Bomb,” or a red pie from Sally’s, there are common pillars among these altars of dough and pepperoni. Delicately charred crusts, simple sauces (or often, lack thereof) and — above all else — patience are the sacred hallmarks of a quality New Haven pie.
As a transplant to the Nutmeg State, I have been given a gift. My time wandering a desert of pizza mediocrity has left me with nothing less than a profound appreciation for Connecticut’s vast pizza offerings. Yes, I was once among the masses that might consider this blasphemy, but I assure you, bring ye forth and ye shall know the truth of apizza deliciousness.
Read more Connecticut stories here.