fig. a: Italian-American
We'd been plotting a pizza pilgrimage (another one) of some sort to New Haven, CT, for some time. Would we visit Frank Pepe's, Sally's Apizza, or Modern Apizza? Would we visit all three? All of them have histories dating back 70 years or more. All of them have their devotees. And all of them have such colorful names. As you can probably tell, we find ourselves going to New York with regularity, and New Haven is only about 80 miles away. New York and New Jersey have no shortage of outstanding pizza, but a side trip to New Haven certainly seemed like a worthwhile (and tasty) way to improve our pizza literacy further.
So, like I said, the New Haven pizza tour was something we'd been thinking about for a good while. But then a couple of things fell into place, and, the next thing we knew it was actually happening. First off, we had a wedding to go to in New York. Secondly, on this particular occasion, we needed to head to New York by way of Eastern Vermont, which meant that if we just continued along Interstate 91 all the way down south, we'd end up in New Haven (yes!). And, thirdly, when I did a little exploratory "what if..." research on New Haven's pizza scene I came across Adam Kuban's "8 Pizzas That Haunt My Dreams" slideshow from 2009, and #8 on the list was the plain tomato pie at Sally's. Not only did that photograph + caption seal the deal ("That's it! There is no question about it! We are going to New Haven!!"), but it placed Sally's at the top of our list.
fig. b: interior decor, Sally's
What do you need to know about Sally's? Well, first off, Sally is a man. Or, at least, he was, god rest his soul. Salvatore "Sally" Consiglio founded his pizzeria way back in 1938, and Sally's Apizza is still a family-owned joint--in fact, Flo Consiglio, Sally's wife, can still be found doing the accounting in her booth on most nights, and Ruth, Bob, and Rick, their children, are still integral to the whole Sally's experience.
Sally's Apizza specializes in New Haven-style Neapolitan pies* baked in a blisteringly hot coal oven. We were close enough to the kitchen to actually see the production line and the pizzaiolo in action, and, let me tell you, it was quite a show. Sally's recalls a time when pizza was still an Italian working-class staple--it's a no-frills operation, that somehow, miraculously, produces these true works of art. Not surprisingly, the backstage banter was absolutely classic.
fig. c: plain tomato pie
Anyway, Kuban's write-up had warned us that if you order a large plain tomato pie for yourself, "you can eat for days," and that sounded pretty good to us. Especially when we looked at the menu and saw that it was retailing for $11.80. We weren't going to leave without trying at least one other pie, though, so we scoped out the specials and settled on the white potato pie with rosemary.
Kuban was right. That large plain tomato pie was humongous. It's a simple pizza, one that really shows off the genius of Sally's crust. It comes topped with just a bright and lively tomato sauce and a dusting of grated Parmesan, but you have the option of having thinly sliced garlic added to the mix. We took them up on that offer, partially because Sally's looks like the kind of place where they might actually slice their garlic with a razor blade, the way they did in Goodfellas. We weren't close enough to find out for sure, but I can tell you that that plain tomato pie with extra garlic was awesome, and we were glad we had plenty of leftovers.
The potato pie was yet another classic: basically, just some thinly sliced potatoes, some cheese, and some rosemary topping another perfectly executed crust. It took some will power to resist eating the whole thing on the spot, but we thought it might be nice to have some leftovers of that pie, too. And we were right. It tasted pretty damn good when we finally got to Brooklyn, later that same night. And it tasted even better the following afternoon, when we had a little backyard pizza brunch.
fig. d: potato pie
Sally's Apizza, 237 Wooster St., New Haven, CT, (203) 624-5271
* The name, with its Neapolitan dialect, gives away Sally's roots.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
fig. a: Italian-American