New Haven-Style Pizza – A Complete Guide

You might have wondered, probably more than once, where can you find the best pizza in the United States. You might have eaten a pizza in New York or Chicago, but still wonder, is this all that is? This is because you believe there is more, and yes, there is more in New Haven.

The new haven-style pizza is probably one of the best pizzas that you will ever come across.

Frank Sinatra, the American singer, would agree that there is no pizza like his clam pie from Connecticut New Haven.

What stands out about New Haven-style pizza?

The New Haven-style pizza is unique. The norm does not confine this pizza.

If you are a rebel or adventurous and like experiencing something different, this is the pizza for you. Please have a look at its characteristics.


The shape

The New Haven-style pizza is roundish but not round. Unlike other pizza types, this pizza can take any pizza shape. There is no standard.

The shape of the pizza will mostly depend on the shop and the chef making it. Interestingly despite the shape, crooked or not, it is still sliced into perfect triangles.

The Sauce

Typically, the pizza sauce is usually heavily seasoned to balance tomatoes’ acidity and sweetness but not in a New Haven-style pizza.

They add minimal spices because the aim is to maintain the natural sweetness of tomatoes.

The Fermented Dough

A Haven-style pizza requires a more extended fermentation period compared to its counterpart, the new york style. It is preferred to make the dough to proof slowly overnight in a refrigerator.

They then let the dough come to room temperature before shaping. This allows for a more flavourful and chewy crust.

The Crust

The crust of the new haven pizza is crispy but chewy. This is because to make the crust; you have to ferment the dough for a long time, unlike other pizza types. The crust has an exciting flavor that you cannot quite explain. It is delightful.

the stuffed crust

The New Haven-style instructs you to bake in a 650 degrees Fahrenheit oven or more to get the crispy bottom. The crust also looks a bit burned, but this is not the case.

It is charred. This happens because the pizza takes a bit longer in the oven to get the blistered char.

The Cheese

An authentic New Haven pizza has very little cheese, so when you get your meal, do not go complaining that you have no cheese in your pie. According to New Haven locals, less is more. A little cheese is just enough.


Initially, they never even used cheese. The chefs only added the tangy tomato sauce to ensure that you felt the crust’s taste.

In the spirit of sticking to traditions, the chef only adds a very light touch of the cheese. But if you want more, you can order a pie with Mootz.

The Toppings

There are no rules when it comes to pizza toppings. You can ask for anything. But it would be wise to remember the cheese here is a topping. You can ask for a pizza with a lot of cheese and toppings or if you are a minimalist, ask for the minimum.

You can order a flavor like the Italian Bomb, which has mozzarella, bacon, pepperoni, sausage, garlic, mushrooms, bell peppers, and onion.

But we recommend the clam pie since it is the most popular Pizza in New Haven. It contains fresh garlic, romano cheese, parsley, bivalves, and olive oil. Locals prefer adding bacon to this pizza to make it smokier.

The vocabulary

New Haven has its vocabulary when it comes to the pizza industry. For instance, you do not say that the crust is burned but charred. When you go to New Haven for your pizza, remember locals do not call it pizza, but Apizza pronounced “Ah-beetz.”

New Havenites call it Apizza because they insist on staying close to its roots. Apizza is a dialect used by Neapolitan immigrants who settled in New Haven.

These immigrants are the ones who brought pizza to the region and wanted to eat the same pizza they were eating while back home. This explains the chewy crust, little to no cheese, and minimal tomato sauce.

Therefore the next time you are in New Haven, remember to order Apizza, not pizza. However, they will still know what pizza is if you said so, but they will know you are not from New Haven.

Coal-fired oven

In the early twentieth century, people used coal to cook and heat because it was relatively cheap. It was also a lot. This is what all pizzerias used to cook.

Today, pizza places like Pepe’s and Sally’s still use coal for baking pizza, hence the blistered and sooty flavored crust.

Modern pizza initially used coal but now uses an oil-fueled open-flame brick oven.

Mootz, not Mozarella

In New Haven, they can add whole milk mozzarella to the cheese. In case you want to mingle with the locals and not be seen as a foreigner, ask for Mootz, not Mozarella.

Cheese is a topping

Unlike in other pizza types in the United States, where mozzarella is a must, Mootz in New Haven is a topping you have to ask for.

You can specify either Mootz or no Mootz. If you do not include this in your order, you will get a pizza with no cheese.

Pepe’s Pizza

All New Haven pizza parlors sell the white clam pizza. This is a pizza that was invented by Pepe, the father of New Haven pizza.

This consists of clams, garlic on top of the thin crust, grated cheese, and smoky bacon on the pizza. It is simply delicious.

Who invented the New Haven-style pizza?

In the early twentieth century, most Italian immigrants in the United States preferred to stay in New Haven. They were in neighborhoods like Wooster square. They still felt the need to eat the thin-crust pizza to remind them of home.

In 1925, Frank Pepe started the Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana. He was an Italian immigrant who immigrated to New Haven while still a teenager.

When he returned from fighting for his country in world war II, he started selling his tomato pies in a wagon. He was still working for a bakery at Wooster.

In no time, he was able to buy his employer’s business and started Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana. This was the start of New Haven-style pizza.

Where can you find New Haven Pizza?

New Haven Pizza

The three places that contributed majorly to New Haven-style pizza popularity are Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, Modern Apizza, and Sally’s Apizza.

These three locations still stand up to date and are run by families. They are the giants in New Haven.

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana

The locals simply call it Pepe’s. It came into existence in 1925. Its first location was on Wooster street.

Pepe’s was the founder of the New Haven pizza style.

Pepe has been there for over 76 years and has grown, expanded, and become more modern with time, unlike Sally’s, which has not dusted off. It has expanded to five more locations in New York and Connecticut.

As much as they have tried to ensure uniformity, the new haven pizza served in the original Pepe’s at Wooster street new haven is still the best.

The locals call the original Pepe’s The Spot. The spot stands to the left of where Pepes stand today in Wooster Street, New Haven.

Pepe’s, however, still uses a massive Coal-fire brick oven just like Sally’s.

In the beginning, Pepe’s only served tomato pies, hence the reason for the neon lights that read Original tomato pie at the kitchen counter.

Its favorite pizza flavor is the white clam. Copy cats have tried imitating this pizza, but it is never the same. The fresh garlic, romano cheese, parsley, olive oil, and clams on the charred pies are quite unmatchable.

To get the full Pepp’s experience while eating the original white clam, ask for smoked bacon on top. Pepe’s fans know it for their nicely smoked bacon that you want to try.

Modern Apizza

Modern Apizza

The founder opened Modern Apizza in 1934  on State street, East Rock neighborhood. It stands in an old path. It is owned by Bill Pustari, who bought it from the original owner 30 years ago.

Bill has done an excellent job building the pizzeria’s reputation because of where it sits. If you asked anyone, amongst the three giants, it is the most welcoming with warm service and family-friendly.

Initially, they used a coke-fueled oven, but this has changed with time. Today Modern uses an open flame brick oven.

Their signature pizza is the Italian Bomb.

Seven toppings characterize this pizza. They include pepperoni, onion, mushroom, sausage, garlic, and bacon. They add Mootz to keep the toppings from falling in the firm, steady crust.

When you visit, ask for more toppings. These toppings sit on a chewy, charred, and incredible crust.

Most pizzerias let the dough sit on cornmeal. This helps the pizza to slide off the peel. For Modern Apizza, they use unique breadcrumbs.

After baking the pizza, it passes through a rough mat to clear off any breadcrumbs remnants before they serve it.

The dough consists of water, flour, yeast, olive oil, and salt. The result is a simple crust that tastes incredible. Remember, less-is-more is the principle that guides the New Haven-style pizza.

Compared to other locations, Modern Apizza uses quite a whole lot of Mootz. In the end, a pizza receives a touch of Pecorino Romano. This sauce is bought from the same place to ensure consistency in their pizza.

Sally’s Apizza

Sallys Apizza

Sally’s was created in 1938 on Wooster street by Salvatore Consiglio. Just like its fellow giants, it has stood through the test of time for more than half a century. It is run by the Consiglio sons, Bobby and Richard, today.

They still use a coal-powered brick oven to date. Their signature pizza includes Garden pie and tomato pie.

Sally’s tomato pie is the best in Wooster street. Anywhere else you go, you will always find yourself comparing the tomato pie you eat with Sally’s. This is because they make their homemade tomato sauce with a fantastic blend of tomatoes. Maybe they do have their secret ingredient for their tomato sauce.

The Garden special that is loved by many is also unique to Sally’s. It consists of a combination of mozzarella, tomato, basil, and zucchini.

Sally’s pizza boasts of consistency that sets them apart. Very little has changed since the beginning of Sally’s. The pizza still tastes the same decades later.

Sally’s patina is well-worn because they have changed almost nothing. This offends some customers, but for others, they find this charming and a sign of tradition.

This was Frank Sinatra’s favorite pizza spot in New Haven.

When you visit, remember this place is cash only. They do not accept debit or credit cards just like they did in the past.

However, new pizzerias have come up. These new kids on the block are also doing a fantastic job. They also have exceptional pizzas that you should try out. They include:


This spot is the new baby in the block. It is on 254 Crown Street, New Haven.

The hipsters frequent it from the neighboring universities, including Yale. It serves its pizza, including the much loved Mashed potatoes with bacon together with house-made beer. It also serves salad as accompaniment for the pizza.

This pizzeria is big with tall glass windows with a nice view of the Louis Lunch neighborhood. It is usually full at night as it is a night club too.

If you thought that the pizza crusts could not get any thinner, you are wrong. The Bar boasts of even thinner pies compared to the rest.

The pizza comes in shapes similar to the rectangular aluminum sheet pans they serve them on. They serve their pizza cut in rectangular slices, not triangles.

They use gas brick ovens for baking because, why not! They are youngsters.

Their mashed potato pizza (with bacon and garlic) is to die for. Mashed potatoes are a strange topping, and you must be wondering how that is possible on pizza. Maybe you should make your way to the Bar to understand why people are crazy about this strange yet delightful pizza.

Da Legna

Da Legna

Chef Dan Parillo and Derek Bacon opened Da Legna in late 2012 despite the pizza industry’s stiff competition. It is on State Street, East Rock, just near Modern pizza.

It is a fully-fledged Restaurant that serves other things besides pizza. Despite its location, it is doing very well businesswise.

The chef bakes the pizzas in a wood-fired oven. They serve both Neapolitan-style pizza and New Haven-style pizza.

The pizza crust is chewy and fresh. They attribute this to the sourdough Da Legna has been using over the years. The crust is also charred. They also import high quality and fresh ingredients from Italy. This includes the San Marzano tomatoes they use to make their sauce for their New Haven-style pizza.

One of their best pizzas is their Margherita pie. The chef makes it with fresh basil, San Marzano tomatoes, and just a little buffalo mozzarella. This the New Haven-style way of making a pizza. They roast the tomatoes to bursting.

They also serve Napoli pizza. This pizza has just enough pepper. It is also a bit bitter, but a good bitter. Its toppings include sweetened sausages and broccoli. The chefs also spice it with arugula, pungent Rustica, burrata and black olives.

Da Legna serves the pizzas as sixteen inches or twelve inches. You might prefer the former, to have some leftovers. When you visit this amazing restaurant on State Street, remember to down your pizza with a beer or glass of Italian wines. They have a small bar at the restaurant.

Zuppardi’s Apizza

Zuppardis Apizza

Zuppardi’s is not technically a newbie. It has existed longer than both Sally’s and Modern. However, initially, it was known as Salerno’s bakery.

Dominic Zuppardi founded Salerno’s in 1932 after working at different bakeries in the 20s. His bakery was on Donnelly Place in New Haven. He used to bake bread and pizzas. In 1934 he moved the bakery to Union Avenue in West Haven. This is where Zuppardi’s stands.

In the 1940s, his son, Anthony Zuppardi, took over. He gave the bakery his all and kept improving the pizzas and the menu. He made pizza that had tomatoes and different meat and vegetable toppings. His customers loved the pizzas. In 1947 they changed the name of the bakery from Salerno’s to Zuppardi’s. Zuppardi’s was a success.

Today this place is run by Zuppardi’s children and grandchildren. It serves some of the best New Haven Style pizza you can find in New Haven. They also serve the pizza with delicious toppings like mushrooms and sausages. You can also try the white bean and escarole pizza.

They serve pizzas that have medium-thick crusts. The pizza is well cooked. They also have several available wines that you can choose from. They serve their pizza the old-fashioned way, nothing fancy but delicious either way.

If you are planning to eat at Zuppardi’s, it would be wise to arrive early. It gets really busy, and this is a reputable spot. The peak hours are the busiest. Just be patient as you wait for the best pizza you have ever eaten.

Zuppardi’s does delivery to many places in the United States. They deliver via GoldBelly. If you are outside New Haven and are having a craving, you can still order, but it will arrive halfway cooked and frozen. You then bake it at 650 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes.

Grand Apizza

Grand Apizza

Grand Apizza is located in the Fair Haven, CT neighborhood. Fredrick Nuzzo founded it in 1955 after a decade of working for his brother at Modern Apizza. The b business grew by word of mouth. It became a success in no time. He worked until he was past 75 years.

Today, Grand Apuizza is run by Mike Nuzzo, Fred’s son. He has opened locations in Madison, Clinton, and Guilford, Connecticut.

Grand Apizza is known for its crust, sauce, and toppings. The pizza they served over 60 years is the same they serve today.

The crust is made using the original recipe. They use natural yeast on the dough. They then let the dough age perfectly. Finally, they bake the dough to create a thin crust at a temperature of at least 550 degrees.

The sauce is homemade. They import Italian San Marzano tomatoes to make the sauce. They also grate a little aged Pecorino Romano over the sauce and heat. This homemade sauce would make you want more and more after every bite.

The toppings available are fresh and fine. They add no preservatives or additives to their toppings. They are never frozen. You can choose the toppings from a wide range of meats and vegetables.

They have a lot of pizza options on their menus. The menu for one location might not be similar to one in another location.  When you go for dinner at Grand Apizza, you will get a salad and bread for free.

Grand Apizza has indoor dining but allows for outdoor dining during the summer. They also allow ordering and delivery every day of the week. The delivery information is on their website.


New Haven-style Pizza is a unique type of pizza. It is a pizza with a lot of culture and tradition. The process of preparation is also different from other types of pizza. This is the pizza for the free spirits.

If you are tired of the perfectly round, regular sauce, lots of cheese pizza, then you should head to new haven and give it a  try.

New Haven also boasts of the Foxon park soda. East Haven birthed the Foxon park soda in 1922. They make it using real sugar.

You can find it at the big three spots. Next time you are eating a pizza in New Haven, including a Foxon park soda to complete the real New Haven experience.

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