Thursday, January 10, 2019

Review: Pete's New Haven Style Apizza - Arlington VA

What is New Haven style apizza? To a casual observer, apizza ("ah-beetz") is not too different from conventional pizza. It has a thin, and ideally rigid, crust like a Trenton tomato pie. It may or may not come from a coal-fired oven, and the pie may be more of an oval than a round shape. It's rarely sold by the slice. 

Of course, you can get terrific versions in and around New Haven, at stalwarts like Sally's, Zuppardi's, Modern, and Frank Pepe's. Suprisingly, there are some pretty fine apizza makers in locations far to the west. San Diego's Basic Urban Kitchen is simply superb, and could stand alongside any Connecticut-sourced apizza. Apizza Scholls in Portland Oregon has likewise earned a lot of deserved praise for its massive New Haven style pies.

On a recent trip to the Washington DC area, I scouted for destination pies. The region is blessed with plenty of good pies, such as the Jersey style pizza at All-Purpose Pizza or the Neapolitans at 2Amys. Given the success of apizza places in Portland and San Diego, I was drawn to the regional mini-chain (currently two locations) of Pete's New Haven Style Apizza, so we visited the Arlington VA location for dinner on a Saturday night.
The "New Haven" clam apizza
There are three different sized apizzas on the menu: 10 inch small, 14 inch medium, and 18 inch "very large." To maximize the variety for our party of four, we ordered (at the counter) three medium pies, one soup, and one pitcher of beer, which came to $99.
The "Merritt Parkway"
Our selected apizzas included:
  • The New Haven, a white pie with clams, garlic, oregano, EVOO, and Pecorino Romano cheese
  • The Merritt Parkway, a red pie with prosciutto, Kalamata olives, caramelized onions, fresh basil, and EVOO
  • Original Cheese, a red pie to which we added pepperoni and roasted mushrooms as toppings
"Original Cheese" apizza with pepperoni & mushroooms
The signature New Haven pie arrived first. These 14 inch "medium" pies were pretty big, and this one was also beautiful. It sported a thin and wonderfully rigid crust that provided an ideal al dente chew followed by a crisp snap at the cornicione.
 A slice of the New Haven clam apizza
The flavor was dominated not by the clams, but by the garlic. Unlike the apizza I had at Zuppardi's, which was covered in fresh-shucked clams, the clams here were more of an accent. The pie was round and not oval, but it did have an excellent char that is characteristic of a New Haven apizza. 
Thin and rigid crust
The crust had its own excellent flavor on all three pies. Overall, the flavors and the textures were in balance, and two of us felt the New Haven was the best pie of the night. 
The "Merritt Parkway" apizza
Next up was the Merritt Parkway. This was the most intensely flavored pie of the night. All of the elements were distinct - the salty olives, the savory proscuitto, and the post-bake fresh basil. But the leading flavor here was the caramelized onions, applied liberally. 
Nice char underneath
The red sauce was a role player to bring the other elements together. The downside here is that the weight and moisture from the olives and especially the onions caused the crust to get a bit soggy in the center. Overall, though, a very successful apizza and the same satisfying crunch at the cornicione.
A slice of the Merritt Parkway apizza
The original cheese pie, topped with pepperoni and roasted mushrooms, was a winner on its own merits but it lacked the snap of the other two pies. The mushrooms brought a good earthy flavor, but also a bit too much moisture. 
A slice of the Origiinal Cheese with pepperoni & mushrooms
The pepperoni was thin and conventional; it could have been so much better with the thick "spicy cup" style of pepperoni. Texture wise, this pie was like the Merritt Parkway; a bit soggy on the first bite, but well balanced otherwise. 

Overall, I felt this was excellent apizza across the board, but not as good as I'd found in New Haven, Portland, or San Diego. To my surprise and dismay, all three of my dining companions found it to be "just OK" pizza. I think this reveals my bias for traditional thin and crisp pizza; others would have preferred a Neapolitan.

Pete's was a great stop for me; I'd go often if it was in my neighborhood. If thin and crunchy crust is your thing, this is a nice slice of New Haven.

Pete's New Haven Style Apizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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