Where I come from, the concept of a “good pizza” radiates outward from its epicenter in Chicago – home of the stuffed pizza, the deep-dish pizza, and just in general pizza that can be measured vertically as well as horizontally. We also have our hyper-local favorites, as do most cities you could point to on a map (shout out to Mother Bear’s in Bloomington and Bazbeaux in Indianapolis).
As you might imagine, on the East Coast they have a different idea of what makes good eatin’ when it comes to pizza.
In the same way that most people are familiar with Chicago-style deep dish, I’m sure no one out there is wondering what New York-style pizza is: thin, crispy crust/chewy core, and slathered with cheese. Probably you’ll get pepperoni and maybe some other toppings if you’re feeling adventurous, but that’s the basic thing. Usually served by the slice, you’ll want to just fold it over and shove it into your mouth – don’t eat it with a knife and fork.
Connecticut is most famous for New Haven’s appiza-style: crispy, coal oven-cooked crust topped with a thin spread of tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella, or “Mootz.” My introduction to the concept of appizza included a frustrating “who’s on first”-esque verbal exchange with one of my friends from the area. “Ooo. I should get a pizza there some time” I said as we passed Frank Pepe’s. “It’s apizza,” she said. “Yeah, a pizza.” “No, apizza.” I eventually got it right. The most famous sub-species of this particular style is the white clam pie; most purveyors of New Haven-style pizza have their own special version. When I did eventually get apizza from Pepe’s I was brought a knife and fork, so that must be OK by the New Haven crowd.
There’s also something known as a New England Greek-style pizza, which I’m not 100 percent sure I’ve truly had, but in my neighborhood there’s a place called South Whitney Pizza that comes close based on the descriptions I’ve read. It could also be Sicilian-style, however: The crust is thick and square, and the sauce carries a strong taste of oregano. Neither me nor the pizza are sophisticated enough to know – I just know that it’s good.
Of course, there are many places in Hartford where you can sample these regional styles under one roof. Pietro’s, a no-frills joint in the center of downtown Hartford, serves it by the slice New York style, but you can also order a white clam pie or a “Greek special.” The offerings at Lena’s First and Last Pizzeria, in the Parkville section of Hartford, are inspired by the owner’s Sicilian roots. In addition to stuffed crust pizzas and made-to-order calzones, their menu features the ubiquitous white clam pie. And at the City Steam Brewery Cafe, also in downtown Hartford, you can enjoy a local brew with your stone-baked “white pizza” (just cheese and toppings, no red sauce) or their version of the Sicilian.
Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana
157 Wooster St, New Haven, CT 06511
South Whitney Pizza
264 S Whitney St, Hartford, CT 06105
942 Main St, Hartford, CT 06103
Lena’s First and Last Pizzeria
2053 Park St, Hartford, CT 06106
City Steam Brewery Cafe
942 Main St, Hartford, CT 06103