September 11th, 2010


New England Roadtrip, July 10, part 3: New Haven

Chris Ayers had recommended New Haven apizza as a must-eat on our trip, so we sought that out. We had some more GPS vexations on this leg, but when we made it to New Haven's Little Italy, we knew it:

Frank Pepe's Pizzeria Napoletana is one of the oldest pizza restaurants in America, and originated the New Haven-style thin crust apizza. My belief is that reasonable people may disagree about which of the famous New Haven apizza places is the best - it was at least not clear to me from my research. But Frank Pepe's is the progenitor of all the other pizza places, so we chose it for the extra dose of history.

I'm not sure what I had been expecting, but I don't think that I had expected a restaurant so well-lit and sparsely-decorated. It was much brighter than, say, Santarpio's.

Even the cooking area around the coal-fired oven has a lot of space:

They served drinks from the nearby bottler Foxon Park, so we shared a bottle of gassosa because I didn't know what "gassosa" meant. Now I know: it's lemon-lime. I don't think that I could distinguish this from Sprite or Seven-Up in a blind tasting.

For the pizza, we got the fresh tomato pie, because a) we're strongly in favor of seasonal foods and b) I couldn't talk Lori into a clam pizza. It was very good, thin and fairly crisp with bright summer tomato-and-basil flavors. Honestly, I'm not a pizza connoisseur; I'd be hard-pressed to compare this pizza to Santarpio's or other good pizzas. But it was certainly an excellent pizza, and it deserves to have the fans it does.

We brought the iPad into the restaurant, and it sparked a lot of conversation. (I'm an Apple employee, so I'm significantly more gracious about talking about the iPad with strangers than I am on other topics.) In particular, this got us into a conversation with our waitress that started with the iPad and led into a discussion of our Roadfooding plans. She recommended that for dessert, we should go next door to Libby's Italian Cookies. Lori is particularly glad that we got that recommendation.

I got the baba au rhum. I've only had baba au rhum once before at a Pittsburgh Italian bakery, and this preparation was far more decorative than what I'd had there. But to me, it did not taste very much of rum, but just of cake and custard. Lori disagreed with me; she felt it tasted very clearly of rum. It was good, but if I were to return, I would choose one of the many other good-looking products they had.

Lori had a similar judgement of her chocolate gelato; it was good, but not a standout among all the outstanding ice cream we'd had this week.

We also got a couple of apricot dolce, which the website describes as "A butter based cookie topped with apricot filling, dipped in colored chocolate." Again, Lori and I were judging things very differently. I took one bite and judged my cookie not worth finishing. Lori, however, describes them as "deliriously perfect", and considers them one of the great delights of our trip. (Lori was glad to discover that Libby's will ship; you can order at .)

Next up: Super Duper Weenie