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The Best Pizza in New Haven

The topic what's the "best" pizza in New Haven is hotly debated. Dissing someone's favorite pizza place in New Haven is kind of like "The Red Sox suck!" in Boston or suggesting that you like Montreal-style bagels better than Brooklyn-style while standing on Bedford Avenue. However, after having lived in New Haven for four years, here's my humble analysis of the best places to grab a slice in the Elm City.

As a brief caveat, I had a lot of trouble adjusting to New Haven pizza when I first moved here. I was born and raised in New Jersey, just outside of New York City, and man, Northern New Jersey pizza is just done right. The large Italian-American population meant being spoiled by a plethora of incredible Italian places growing up, and my early 20's meant living in the heart of the motherland of good pizza, NYC itself.

New Haven pizza is not the same as New Jersey/Long Island/New York City pizza. It is very thin, light on the cheese, and cooked at a very high temperature in a brick oven. It often comes out burnt and very crispy. It can be jarring at first; sometimes, you wonder if they really meant to burn it this much or if someone was snoozing while watching the apizz! But it really is just a different style that takes some getting used to. The pizzas also come out looking enormous, though they're light and thin, so it's not uncommon to realize (not without some shame) that you've consumed half of a large pie in one sitting.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't prefer my childhood pizza to that of New Haven's style. However, tons of people love New Haven pizza, and longing for a different version of pizza while surrounded by amazing pizza isn't a terrible problem to have.

Pro-tip: If you're used to NYC-style pizza, you'll get a rude surprised if you don't order mozzarella as one of your toppings. Most of the pizzas with a red sauce base only come with parmigiano, and while it's delicious, it doesn't always hit the spot the way a cheesy pizza does. Depending on the place, I sometimes like to even order "extra mozzarella."

Second pro-tip: The New Haven pizza places cook the ever-loving bejezus out of their pies. It's cooked at a high temperature, so I find certain toppings aren't even worth it to order. For example, I often like ricotta or fresh basil on my pizza, but for certain places (especially Pepe's and Sally's) more delicate toppings like this come practically disintegrated after the cooking process. Go ahead and save yourself the $7. The hard meats tend to hold up better.

Without further ado, my pizza analysis. I won't be ranking the pizzas by number, because that would be impossible to do. However, I'll give you my suggestions based on my experience, and let you decide!

Pepe's - The Best if You Want a New Haven Classic

157 Wooster Street, New Haven

Pepe's is probably the most well-known of the New Haven pizzeria's. The lines outside get insanely long, and I remember rolling my eyes when I first moved here, remarking to my husband, "Who would wait in a line like that for pizza?"

It was three years or so before I finally had Pepe's. It was the height of the pandemic, and they'd started an online ordering system. I decided out of sheer boredom to give it a try, and... wow. As someone who loves to critique things that are hyped, I had no complaints. The pizza was perfectly cooked, flavorful, and some of the best pizza I'd ever tasted, in New Haven or out.

I've never sat down for pizza here, but I've heard it's worth it to have it piping hot and fresh out of the oven. If not, their new ordering system seems pretty convenient, especially since it even gives you the option to customize how well-cooked you want the pizza.

Da Legna x Nolo - The Best for Gourmet Personal Pies

687 State St, New Haven, CT

Da Legna isn't exactly like the other New Haven-style pizzas, but they're well worth a visit. They've created some incredible inventions on their menu, including their Funghi pizza, with wild mushroom, burrata, truffle oil, and ricotta cream, as well as my other favorite, the Figura pizza which has prosciutto, gorgonzola, fig preserves, mozzarella, and truffle honey. I prefer to order my own personal pie here and then steal a slice from whomever I'm dining with. This probably wouldn't be my go-to for a plain pizza, though I've also had a more basic pepperoni here and it was really delicious.

I haven't been to their new location, but this was a very nice place to dine in and have a beer pre-pandemic.

Bar - The Best Overall, with a Crisp Craft Beer to Finish it Off

254 Crown St, New Haven, CT

Discussing the pizza places in New Haven is one of my favorite conversation topics. My husband and I always come back to the same conclusion: Bar would definitely win for "best overall." If someone came to us and said they only had one night in New Haven, and what's the absolute best place for pizza, we'd recommend Bar. Their pizza is typical New Haven, but they don't over-char it as much as some of the other New Haven pizza joints. This might seem like an odd thing to say about pizza, but it feels very "light" and it's easy to share even two large pies among a group.

Bar also makes its own craft beer. While I'd love the pizza no matter what, the addition of the craft beer certainly doesn't hurt! Their Lager, and if they have it, their Blonde, are delicious and worth trying. People also swear by their mashed potato pie. It's something worth trying at least once. It probably wouldn't be my go-to order, but it was definitely delicious!

My friend recently remarked that "Bar is one of the weirdest places I've ever been," and I'd have to agree at least somewhat. Why? Because while it's a regular restaurant/pizza place/pub much of the time, it turns into a hopping nightclub after certain hours. My elderly-at-30 self has been there for a 9 PM pizza and been asked for ID and a cover charge while 21-year-old college kids gyrate wildly in the back. I mean, sounds good to me. Pizza after a night of beer? What could be more perfect?

One 6 Three - The Sleeper Hit

163 Foster St, New Haven, CT

I don't usually see this charming East Rock spot make the "best of" lists, but it totally should. It's a snug little place, with an herb garden out front where you're welcome to pluck some basil with which to adorn your pizza. They have overwhelming amount of creative choices on their menu, but I've only ordered more straightforward pies. I sometimes think the straightforward mozzarella or pepperoni pie is the best test of a restaurant's pizza, and in this regard, One 6 Three doesn't disappoint.

Aniello's - If You Dare to Cross the Quinnipiac River

346 Hemingway Ave, East Haven, CT

My husband and I technically live just over the border into East Haven, Connecticut. While we enjoy heading downtown for all of the great restaurants in New Haven, we of course check out the local spots near us as well. Our favorite pizza place in East Haven dares to challenge the greats of the New Haven pizza scene, with perfectly-seasoned red sauce, fresh mozzarella, and thin and chewy crust. Their entire menu is delicious: we literally haven't had one bad thing on their menu, from their fried squash blossoms to the penne vodka.

They also are one of the few places that do a Sicilian pizza; it's thick, fluffy, and crispy around the edges. The sauce-to-cheese ratio is perfectly on point. It comes in a large size cut into squares, so it's perfect for entertaining your friends on a cold evening of board games and beer. If you're feeling adventurous and enjoying the shoreline vibe of East Haven, try their white clam pizza.

Yes, it's across the Quinnipiac River and you'll need a car to get there-- they don't don't deliver-- but the short trip out of town is worth it for this top-of-the-line pie.

Sally's Apizza - Honorable Mention

237 Wooster St, New Haven, CT

I gave Sally's an honorable mention because it is one of those places that will always make the list of recommended pizza places, and any local will add it to their list of go-tos when you ask. I personally didn't have a great experience with Sally's. It's the typical New Haven style, but embodied a lot of things I don't like about the New Haven pizza experience: it was overcooked and burnt to the extreme, to the point where the cheese was hard and the red sauce withered. It was edible, but not something I'd choose to order again.

That being said, it could have been a bad batch-- after all, many people love Sally's. That's why I thought it was still worth including them on this list.

You really can't go wrong no matter where you get pizza in New Haven-- I've had amazing pies at the more obscure places that I randomly walked into off the street. Even though I miss my NYC-style pizza now and then, I suspect that if I ever move away from the Elm City, I'll be missing New Haven-style just as quickly!



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