First a little background, so you know what my pizza roots are:
I grew up in central New Jersey, where there's a decent to great family run pizzeria in every strip mall, all "New York style" (though I never would have known to call it that when I lived there).
After 4.5 years at school in central Missouri (total dearth of any kind of decent pizza.... google Imo's Pizza for examples of the weird proto-casseroles on a saltine cracker that they call pizza), I've now been in LA for 10 years. It's rare, but out here you can find a decent NY pie (not great in the way DiFara in Brooklyn is great-- but decent pies where you might be fooled if you closed your eyes). Of course there is the "California Pizza" with toppings like lox and cream and chicken tikka masala (but that's a whole other thing entirely.)
OK-- that brings us to New Haven. I've never been, and I don't understand it. What exactly IS New Haven pizza? What do they serve up that makes it (supposedly) the best pizza in the country? I've heard Sally's and Pepe's bantered about for a long time now, not quite understanding what it's all about.
For ease of response, I'll list out my questions here:
1. What exactly IS New Haven pizza? What makes it unique?
2. Where did New Haven pizza come from? What's the history? Does it have roots from New York Italian immigrants who migrated out of of the lower east side in to the Connecticut suburbs? (i.e. is it "modified" New York style pizza, or is it in fact it's own creation?) I'm wondering if there's any link between the 100+ year old New York based Lombardi's/Patsy's/Grimaldi's type places.
3. Is this New Haven style of pizza copied in other places in Connecticut?
4. What is the quintessential New Haven pie? (I've read something about clams and bacon... By comparison I'd say that in NY/NJ, the classic cheese slice is the standard by which to measure a great pie)
5. Are Sally's and Pepe's pretty much the only game for great New Haven pizza?
6. Are there any quintessential rituals associated with going out for New Haven pizza?
7. Many of the 100 year old NYC places like Lombardi's and Totonno's still use super hot coal-fired ovens (though they are illegal now, these old places were grandfathered in). Do the New Haven pizzeria's use coal ovens? Wood ovens? Regular pizza ovens? (any visit to Di Fara will illustrate that a coal oven is not necessary to make a great pie)
8. Is New Haven pizza available by the slice or pies only?
9. Are pies divided into 8 triangular slices (as god intended it) or are they hacked up into crazy irregular squares (as I've seen done many, many times during my midwest pizza encounters... even one place in LA does this, inexplicably)
Thanks for your input, 'hounds! Hopefully I'll make it out to your neck of the woods sometime soon....
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