What is New Haven style pizza?
New Haven style pizza is one of the least famous styles of pizza, but is just as distinct from regular “delivery pizza” as Chicago style, New York style, Greek pizza, or California style, among many others. It is known as APIZZA, which is pronounced “ah-BEETZ.”
There are three main things that set APIZZA apart from regular pizza.
The first thing is the crust. Because of the way it is made, it turns out crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.
- It is a thin crust. Because of its crispiness, it holds up when you pick the slice up, rather than bending over and spilling toppings back onto the plate.
- Also, because of the temperature of the stone below and the air above the pizza when it is in the oven, and because of the specific amount of time that it spends in the oven, the crust ends up with a wonderful mix of tan areas and black spots, both around the edge on the top and on the bottom.
- One final note about the crust: APIZZA has crunchy bits on the bottom that add to the overall crunchiness of the crust. Some of the crunchiness is light in color, and some of it is black. It all adds to the unique character of the crust.
The second thing is the ingredients. Overall, APIZZA has fresh, simple ingredients.
- The ingredients are all natural, and many are organic and locally grown. The sauce is all tomatoes, with no artificial ingredients, and no high-fructose corn syrup or other sweeteners. The cheese is fresh and not too salty. Toppings are fresh from the farm and organic, or made in-house; sweet Italian sausage, for example, is made from scratch right in the kitchen at Pete’s.
- Also, ingredients are applied sparingly on APIZZA. It is not oversauced, not overcheesed, and not piled on with mounds of toppings. The overall effect is a lighter tasting, healthier pizza. You enjoy the whole portion, whether it’s a slice by yourself or a whole pie with friends or family, but you’ve eaten a lighter, healthier meal. The other thing, in conjunction with the crispy crust, is that a lightly dressed slice of pizza does not collapse in your hands and start losing its toppings onto the plate.
The third thing is the presentation. Pizza has become a gourmet food. These days, premium-priced “individual-sized” pizzas are de rigeur. Exotic toppings and combinations never heard of before Y2K fill the menu. And it can seem that the decor in many new pizza restaurants has become more important than the food. Not in New Haven, though.
- APIZZA is large. It can be sold by the slice if you don’t want a whole pizza; you don’t have to pay $12+ for the “personal” size. For the first four years, we sold only 18″ pies, but introduced a 14″ pie to meet the needs of a wider range of customers. At 14″ in diameter, our “small” is the size of the large or even X-large at many other pizza restaurants.
- APIZZA is round, but not really. Not every pie comes out perfectly uniform (although pies made to be sold by the slice have to be fairly uniform in shape so every slice is about the same size). The most famous New Haven pizzerias send out pizzas in the weirdest shapes sometimes. And when sold by the whole pie, the slices are usually cut in quite haphazard shapes.
- New Haven pizzerias may be famous for their pizza, but they’re not famous for their decor. The dining rooms are usually completely unpretentious. The service is friendly if not a little gruff when the line snakes out the door and down the street. In many of the pizzerias, the rich history of the business is highlighted with vintage photographs of the founders, yellowed newspaper articles about the business, and signed head shots from a VERY long list of celebrities, political legends and other entertainers.
What New Haven pizza is NOT
While it is not a very well-known style of pizza, there are may people who know the style, and with that, there are a few misconceptions about New Haven style pizza. Among them:
COAL. It is not “New Haven style” just because it is coal fired. And New Haven style does not by any means HAVE to be coal fired. The most famous New Haven pizzerias, including Frank Pepe’s and Sally’s, use coal fired ovens for their heat source. This makes for a really amazing pizza. But those two legendary stores were grandfathered in: coal is no longer a legal heat source under most city building codes, including New Haven and Washington DC.
But as noted above in the section about crust, the most important thing about getting New Haven pizza right is preparing the dough a particular way, and applying the heat source to the top and the bottom of the pie in the right way. Whether it’s coal, wood, or gas that provides the heat, the source is not the most important factor. You can get plenty of soggy pizzas that were cooked in a wood-fired brick oven.
New York. Ah, New York. Frank Sinatra used to send a driver up to New Haven to get a pizza from Sally’s whenever he was performing in New York City. New Haven style pizza is not New York style pizza, and it is not a derivative of New York style pizza.