Last Updated on January 18, 2024 by Kelly
When you think of cities that have a reputation for pizza, cities like New York or Chicago probably come to mind. BUT, you’ll definitely want to add the city of New Haven in Connecticut to your list as one of the best pizza cities in the United States!
New Haven has several pizzerias that consistently rank as making some of the best pizzas in the country. New Haven has its own style of pizza, called apizza (pronounced ah-beetz). Apizza is known for having a chewy crust, a simple tomato sauce, and less cheese. As someone who loves cheese, I was skeptical that New Haven pizza could hold its own. I spent 3 years living in New Haven and I tried every famous pizzeria in the city. I can confidently say that New Haven wholeheartedly deserves its ranking as one of the best pizza cities.
If you love pizza, you have to make a visit to New Haven. In this post, I’ll share with you my complete guide to New Haven pizza from a local’s perspective.
About New Haven Pizza
New Haven-style pizza is characterized by an oblong shape, chewy crust, simple tomato sauce, and just a little bit of cheese. (Some of the pizzas omit cheese altogether!) The thin-crust pizza is cooked in a coal-fired oven. Pizza from New Haven is called apizza to signify this style of preparation.
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New Haven’s Pizza History
In the early 1900s, New Haven had a sizable immigrant population from southern Italy. Although pizza wasn’t invented in the United States, immigrants from Italy brought their pizza knowledge to the states and opened some of the first pizzerias in the country. In the early 1920s in New Haven, pizzas were sold from Italian-owned bakeries alongside numerous breads and other baked goods. As pizzas gained popularity, restaurants eventually opened that catered solely to making pizza. One of the first pizza restaurants was Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana, which opened in 1925. (More on that below!)
Since then, New Haven pizza has received all sorts of honors and awards. New Haven pizza has been featured by the Food Network, the Travel Channel, and Conde Nast Traveler (among others). In 2020, 6 Connecticut pizza restaurants made The Daily Meals’s “101 Best Pizzas in America” list. (A New Haven pizzeria, Frank Pepe’s, took the #1 spot!) Currently, a legislative bill was even created to make pizza the official state food of Connecticut.
All that goes to say that if you love pizza, you have to add New Haven to your list of places to visit.
The Best Pizza in New Haven
One of the best things you can do while in New Haven is ask a local which pizza restaurant is their favorite. People from New Haven hold strong opinions about their pizza, and the rivalry between pizzerias is legendary. We’re highlighting the most popular pizzerias in this section.
Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana
157 Wooster St, New Haven, CT 06511
Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana, or what locals simply call Pepe’s, holds numerous awards for its pizza. It has been voted as the #1 Best Pizza in the United States by the Daily Meal, which put together a list of 101 of the best pizzerias in the United States.
The restaurant was opened in 1925 by Francesco “Frank” Pepe. He arrived from Italy in 1920 and first worked as a baker in New Haven’s Wooster Street. (Wooster Street is where New Haven’s Little Italy is located.) In 1925 Frank Pepe rented a bakery and began his own business. In 1930, due to high demand, he opened a restaurant dedicated to table service for his pizzas: Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana.
In the 1960s, Pepe’s began selling white clam pizza. It might sound like an odd choice, but I promise you it’s a delicious pie! The pizza is topped with cooked clams fresh from the sea, grated cheese, garlic, olive oil, and oregano. If you visit Pepe’s, we recommend that you order the White Clam Pizza and the Frank Pepe’s Original Tomato Pie. Before your visit, be sure to check out the full menu.
The pizzeria is still a family-owned business. There’s often a line out the door, so we recommend arriving early.
237 Wooster St, New Haven, CT 06511
Sally’s Apizza was established by Salvatore “Sally” Consiglio , Frank Pepe’s nephew, in 1938. The famous musician Frank Sinatra was a big fan of Sally’s, and often would have it delivered to New York. When my mom and aunt came to visit me in Connecticut, I took them to Sally’s first. We had one of their classic pies with just a sprinkle of cheese, and it was absolutely delicious. I never thought I would say this, but I think I liked it even more than pizzas with lots of cheese. You just have to try it. Now you can even order their pizzas online and have them shipped across the country!
874 State St, New Haven, CT 06511
While there’s a strong “rivalry” between Pepe’s and Sally’s, Modern Apizza is also a popular pick for best New Haven pizza. Modern Apizza has an interesting history that began in the early 1930s. While Pepe’s and Sally’s are located in Wooster Street, Modern Apizza is located in the East Rock neighborhood of New Haven. Instead of using a coal-fired brick oven, Modern uses an oil-fueled brick oven. It was even featured on Man v. Food Nation. Some people have referred to Pepe’s, Sally’s, and Modern as the “holy trinity” of New Haven pizza.
254 Crown St, New Haven, CT 06511
BAR is where local students from Yale take their friends and family to eat. It’s pretty much a right of passage. When I started at Yale, we had our welcome dinner at BAR and I had my first taste of their pizza. I was immediately hooked. They are well-known for their mashed potato pizza. Make sure to order a white pie with mashed potatoes, garlic, mozzarella, and bacon. This was probably my favorite pizza in New Haven. I went to BAR more times than I can count, and I still have cravings for their mashed potato pizza!
My Favorite Pizza in New Haven
You might be wondering which New Haven pizzeria is my favorite? I lived in New Haven for 3 years and pizza was a regular staple in my diet. If I had to choose a favorite to recommend to others, I would choose Frank Pepe’s. That is the restaurant where pizza in New Haven really took off, so you have to try it at least once! However, if you asked me where I dined the most, it would definitely be at BAR.
If you have the time, I encourage you to visit all 4 of New Haven’s most famous pizzerias and decide for yourself.
Here are my favorite pizzas from each pizzeria in New Haven:
- Frank Pepe’s: White Clam Pizza
- Sally’s: Tomato Sauce Pie
- Modern: Italian Bomb
- BAR: Mashed Potato Pizza
I hope you enjoy each pizzeria!
Other Pizzerias in New Haven You Have to Try
If you’ve made it to Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, Sally’s Apizza, Modern Apizza, and BAR, then you’re ready to branch out and try even more of what New Haven has to offer.
Here’s a few more pizzerias to check out in New Haven:
- Zeneli Pizzeria e Cucina Napoletana: Located on Wooster Street, the Margherita Pizza is especially popular.
- Ernie’s Pizzeria: Located off of Whaley Ave, Ernie’s Pizzeria has a 1970s vibe and excellent pizza.
- Grand Apizza New Haven: The Grand Special Pizza has pepperoni, bacon, sausage, pepper, mushrooms, and onions.
- Marco Polo Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant: With a list of dozens of ingredients, you can customize your own perfect pizza.
- One 6 Three: For a modern vibe, this pizzeria in the East Rock neighborhood has a lot of creative choices. For example, their The King pizza pie has a peanut butter sauce base!
- Costa Pizza Restaurant: Located on Whitney Avenue, Costa Pizza Restaurant has a lot of diverse pizzas, including vegan and gluten-free options.
- Est Est Est Pizza & Restaurant: Located near Yale’s campus, this pizzeria has some awesome specialty pizzas, including the Bacon Cheeseburger pizza.
- Da Legna at Nolo: For an awesome happy hour ($1 slices) and fun events like Trivia Nights, head to Da Legna at Nolo.
Looking for a hotel in New Haven? We recommend the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale!
Frequently Asked Questions About New Haven Pizza
What is so special about New Haven pizza?
New Haven pizza has a unique dough that is both chewy and crispy. The outside of the pizza is lightly charred (typically in a coal-fired oven). New Haven pizza tends to have less cheese with more emphasis on the sauce and toppings.
Is New Haven CT known for pizza?
Pizzerias in New Haven, Connecticut, consistently rank as some of the best pizzas in the country. The most famous pizzeria, Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana, is almost 100 years old. It was established in 1925 and helped to launch the pizza scene in New Haven.
What’s the difference between pizza and apizza?
The main difference between pizza and apizza is the crust. Apizza dough ferments longer and has a more chewy and firm consistency. Regular pizza tends to be topped with tomato sauce and a layer of melted mozzarella, while apizza tends to have a simple tomato sauce and just a hint of cheese (typically pecorino romano).
Summary: New Haven Pizza
I spent 3 amazing years in New Haven, and visiting the pizzerias was definitely one of the highlights of my time living in Connecticut. One of the hardest parts about moving from New Haven to the West Coast was losing access to all these amazing pizzerias. (I still have cravings!) I hope this post was helpful as you plan a visit to New Haven. Enjoy the apizza!
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