Sunday, May 19, 2013

Review: Zuppardi's Apizza, West Haven CT

In Connecticut for the weekend, I had the opportunity to meet some friends for lunch on Mother's Day. In previous trips for New Haven apizza, I had been to Modern Apizza (reviewed HERE), Frank Pepe's (reviewed HERE), and (just the day before), Sally's Apizza (reviewed HERE). Next on my list, and chosen largely for the reputation of their clam pizza, was Zuppardi's in West Haven.
My wonderful Quinnipiac classmates, Genna and Lisa

Zuppardi's is less of a tourist attraction than Pepe's and Sally's; it had the feel of a long-standing neighborhood pizza joint largely untouched by time. It didn't feel like a lovely relic of the 50s or 60s such as you might experience at Sally's, the now-shuttered DeLorenzo's of Hudson Street (reviewed HERE), or Philly's Tacconelli's (reviewed HERE). It was more of a 70s vibe, in all the best possible ways. Homey, not fancy, comfortable, unpretentious.
Not a fancy kitchen!

We had four adults, two small (and adorable) kids, and some pent-up appetite, so we ordered a lot of apizza. Because I was the only one keen on the clam pie, I chose a small. There were two clam pies on the menu -- whole baby clams for $11.50, and freshly-opened littlenecks for $22.75. A lot of money for a small pie, but when would I get this chance again? 
Click on any pic to enlarge for better details


This clam pie deserved three pics!

The waitress steered us to the fresh-shucked clam pie, and asked if we wanted it "with mootz." I pondered the cheese question and asked how she recommended it, and unhesitatingly she said "no mootz." We gladly followed her suggestion.
How to eat pizza and not burn the roof of your mouth

We were a meat-pie bunch, so our other two pies (both large apizzas) included one sausage apizza and one that was half pepperoni and half bacon.

The clam pie was beautiful with a rich golden glow. Like other transcendent pizzas, its beauty was its simplicity and short list of ingredients, applied sparingly. I could detect nothing other than a brilliantly crisp thin crust, fresh-shucked clams, lots of fresh garlic, a touch of aged Italian cheese (Romano?), some topside moisture that was perhaps a mix of clam juice and olive oil, and a dusting of light herbs.
iPad doubles as pizza plate

The clams were tender, juicy, fresh, delicious. But they were mostly a flavoring agent, because the magic occurred when the garlic, oil, fresh clam juice, and aged cheese blended on the surface of that crust. In one sense, I felt like I was eating the best garlic bread I ever had. 


That clam pie was world class, remarkable apizza, perfect in flavor and texture. Please read more about it in Ed Levine's review on Slice - SeriousEats, HERE

Zuppardi's sausage is (according to Levine) house-made, and it was terrific. Not quite as good as the juicy chunks on a DeLorenzo tomato pie but superb and generously applied.
The sausage apizza

Both of the larger pies occupied that same classic old-school crust. Thin and crisp, but with excellent hole structure. It was not flat or cracker-like. The red sauce was tasty, but definitely a role player.

The cheese seemed to be traditional mozzarella ("mootz") and, for my tastes, there was a bit too much of it. It threw off the balance, weighed the pie down, and made it difficult for the crust to support each slice. Really a minor quibble, because this was delicious pizza, true in every way to the New Haven -- Trenton old-school style.
Heavy cheese, tip sag


Bacon on left, pepperoni on right

Gorgeous cornicione

The pepperoni half of the other pie was covered with good if unspectacular slices of cured meat. The bacon half was generously covered with bacon slices intelligently cut into bite-size chunks, but we all agreed that it was under-crisped. I enjoyed the bacon slices more when at home I re-heated the leftovers under the broiler to get that bacon sizzling.
Inventive at drinking, too!


Zuppardi's Apizza is unquestionably destination pizza. The conventional pies may have been just a hair short of Sally's and Pepe's (but just as good as Modern Apizza). But a timeless neighborhood pizza joint with pie this good and no waiting? Priceless. And the clam pie HAS to be on your bucket list. It was that good. 
Even the box is charmingly old-school




Zuppardi's Apizza on Urbanspoon

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review/the heads up on Zuppardi's...I'd never heard of it, though I've been many times to Modern, Pepe and Sally's....and like Modern best, though their crust is the droopiest due to the heavy cheese (a good tradeoff IMO).
    I'll have to stop next time heading to Maine.

    There's another place in New Haven that the locals rave about...and is quite good...very thin crust...like it quite a bit: "Bar"...http://www.yelp.com/biz/bar-new-haven Huge wait at night, so lunch is preferable in that regard. Been to Bar twice....good stuff. Still like Modern best..Pepe's last. Its crust has a texture of cardboard and I have trouble getting through and lose interest. Also....the sausage is much less good than at Modern, and it seems, Zuppardi's.

    BeauneHead

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  2. On Sunday, a friend and fellow pizza discoverer called from Long Island. He and his family were headed to CT for a casino visit. They called to ask what pizza place en route in New Haven to visit. As Modern (my favorite was closed until mid-afternoon), I immediately thought of your review here. They tried it and loved it!! So, people listen to you.

    I am really looking forward to a stop there this July en route to Maine.

    BH

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  3. BH,

    Awesome. Just got back from Indy and I used other's online research and reporting to keep me from eating pizza there. The "best" pizza is either cooked on a screen or pre-fab crust. Sharing pizza info matters!

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  4. Get the town right! Zuppardi's is in West Haven! I grew up there so I would know.

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  5. Thanks for sharing that, I've made the fix! Appreciate the input.

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