Read Your Indulgence

Destinations: New Haven // Pizza Face

November 22, 2016

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So when you pony up to the tables at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven’s Little Italy, do not ask for “pizza.” Rather, say “apizza,” which is pronounced “Ah-BEETS.” It shows you take the cuisine as seriously as the natives. Because in New Haven, apizza is big business.

You wouldn’t know it to look at it, but this bustling little New England city on Long Island Sound is THE place to go for the best pizza in America. Yes, New Yorkers will huff and Philadelphians will puff, but ‘tis true – so sayeth the minds (and stomachs) of the folks at The Daily Meal. And a whole lot of other critics. In fact, apizza has a long history in this neck of the woods; New Haven was as much a magnet for Italian emigrees as those two much larger cities were, and of course, the incoming brought their recipes with them.
Yale University is the usual mover-and-shaker in New Haven; so pervasive is it that the town’s Pride celebration takes place in September, when the school year kicks off, rather than in June, which is after the student population has already cleared out for summer break. Without on-a-budget students swarming in for cheap eats, summer, in fact, is something of a breather for the chefs at “Pepe’s,” but only just slightly. When I went in the middle of August, the place was buzzing with customers, and the ovens were working at full tilt.
Now, for all you Wire readers expecting a piece on luxury and/or decadence, wait for the next issue. Apizza was in the day right up to this one a common man’s dish; while pizza has shown remarkable plasticity in that just about any culture can give it their own cultural spin to make it their own and still be a pizza, never was it supposed to be…“fancy.” Going upscale goes against the grain. You have it with soda or beer. By the pitcher (plastic pitcher) if you want to do it right.
Of course, New Haven is more than Yale and apizza. You have fabulous museums (the Peabody, Yale Art Gallery, and Center for British Art), excellent hotels (The Study, the Omni), and a great gay scene (Partners Cafe, 168 York Street Cafe). But if you go and your trip does not include a stop at Pepe’s, or some other ma-and-pa pizza joint, you have totally missed the point of this town.
And will have missed the best. Pizza. Ever. 
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