Petes New Haven, Tenley
Petes New Haven, Tenley

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The opening of the second outlet of Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza provided me with the perfect opportunity to look into the classic pie and try to understand its defining qualities.  Here’s one thing I learned during the process of reporting this week’s Young & Hungry column: New Haven pizza-makers consider their product Neapolitan-style, which surprised me.

Rick Nuzzo, the owner of Grand Apizza in Cheshire, Conn., was one of those to make such a claim. But when I pressed him about the official rules for Neapolitan pizza, he backed down a little on his position. Here’s what he told me in full, a quote that didn’t make it into the final version of the story:

“I don’t think they tried to copy pizza from Italy, because pizza from Italy is not even the same as what we make here. Like you say, most of them use wood-fired ovens. They’re dough is a little different. It’s a little flatter. It’s a little crunchier than what we use. I just think the New Haven area, and what we call apizza around here, is a more perfected version of what maybe was meant to be to begin with. Now like you say, all these guys are copying what supposedly they’re learning in Italy and everything, and you said, and you just made a comment, I don’t remember exactly, you said something about that they’re doing it by the book and what they’re supposed to be doing. And you know what? I say all the time. I say it over and over again, ‘This ain’t brain surgery.’ I don’t understand why there is so much bad pizza out there. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been doing this since I was 10 years old, and I have my own style. But what I do, again, isn’t brain surgery. I’ve put at least, at least, 10 guys in business if not more. They started with me and just went on to go and open their own places, and most of them end up doing it exactly the same. What happens is, everybody’s got a better idea.”

Photo by Darrow Montgomery