Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ill-Timed Roadtrips: New Haven, Connecticut

Occasionally, despite overwhelming outward confidence, I can be a little too bold for the sake of a good meal. For a week we had planned a short day trip to New Haven, but the forecast incomprehensibly predicted snow. "Snow?" I scoffed. If Hurricane Irene was overrated, then certainly this snowfall would, at most, consist of a few flurries falling on overeager weathermen.

Not so. Amidst the pouring rain, we picked up our rental car, which was armed with suspiciously weak headlights, for what was supposed to be a fairly short drive. I'll avoid describing our first stop, Cannelle Patisserie, for the sake of narrative consistency. Suffice to say, everything I tried out of the $30 worth of pastries Melissa and Emily purchased was pretty damn good.

By this time, the freezing rain had turned into heavy snow as we headed north on I 95. As the self-designated driver, I was determined to show off my hardcore driving skills, but before we reached New Haven, I had to pee. Also, we needed gas.

Luckily, Colony Grill in Stamford was only an exit away. Stepping out of the car, I sunk to my ankles in slush. We scattered and ran inside, sliding into a long booth, hoping in vain to dry off. The bar style pizzas here are only $8.50, plus $1.50 a topping. Resolved to pace ourselves, we ordered one pie with hot oil, which is the draw.

True to its reputation, the hot oil had a slow burn, but the ripper did not. It had a quick, intense burn. The thin crust was nice, but not better than Star Tavern, the gold standard in bar pizza. Good pizza, but I'd probably hyped it up a bit too much in my mind. Slightly disappointed, we trudged out of the bar and sprinted to the car, continuing our journey.

Colony Grill
172 Myrtle Avenue
Stamford, CT 06902
(203) 359-2184

The rest of the drive proceeded as slowly as you'd expect, and I'd become convinced that I would be driving to New Haven in the snow through intense traffic for the rest of my life.

During planning, a stop at Louis' Lunch seemed necessary, if only to mix up the tedium of pizza. I'd eaten the burger the only other time I was in New Haven, over four years earlier. I'd just taken down a massive dinner with friends and suddenly stumbled across Louis' Lunch. There was just no way I could resist that burger. I remembered liking it, but not much else.

Despite promises that "all burgers are cooked to medium rare," both our burgers, a cheeseburger and a hamburger, were at least medium. (Can you ask for rare?) Still, the meat was beefy and well seasoned. At the very least their ketchup hatred is something I can get behind. Though I liked the toast and cheese whiz, next time I'll get it without any vegetables, since the onion is overpowering (and I might as well throw away the tomato after that). Also, a little odd (and slightly creepy, for some reason) was the deliberate misspellings on the menu, i.e. "creem" for "cream." I don't get it. Maybe this is some kind of New Haven humor?

Louis' Lunch
263 Crown Street
New Haven, CT 06511
(203) 562-5507
Louis' Lunch on Urbanspoon

Leaving Louis', we made the short drive to Sally's, where, at 4:45 in the pouring freezing rain, 15 minutes before opening, there was already a growing line. Soaking wet, with waterlogged feet, and insufficient protection, we looked as pathetic as we felt, standing outside waiting for pizza.

Just after the doors opened, we pushed our way inside behind another group on a pizza tour. What a bunch of posers, we're on the original pizza tour! Our plain pie would have benefitted from some mozzarella, but that's the price you pay for trying to be authentic (not like that loser pizza tour across from us).

In the comments of Steve's post on Sally's vs. Frank Pepe's over a year ago, an anonymous commenter recommended the white potato pie. Somehow, the thought stuck and we ordered a small potato pie to mix it up. The slightly crisped, browned edges of potatoes made for an interesting textural contrast with the cheese and crust, while rosemary and onions was the dominant flavor.

Sally's Apizza
237 Wooster Street
New Haven, CT 06511
(203) 624-5271

Sally's was good, but the clear winner was our last stop, Zuppardi's Apizza. Lured by a freshly shucked (frucked?) white clam pie, I drove the last stop on the impossibly dark streets of West Haven for this under-the-radar pie.

Unlike Sally's, Zuppardi's was almost completely empty, but a steady flow of people came in with carry out orders. We stuck with our plan-- the white clam pie-- which we'd completely held off on till this point, but it was time for our victory pie.

"Mootz or no mootz?" Asked the waitress. "Half mootz," I replied, feigning a Connecticut accent.

This pie was studded with garlic (though not overpowering) and plump, fresh clams oozing juice. Being the gluttons that we are, we preferred the half mootz to the cheese-less side. Truly a fabulous pie.

We had paced ourselves almost too well, so we felt we deserved a treat in the form of a sausage pie. Made in the restaurant, the springy sausage was dominated by the soothing, anise-y flavor of fennel. Wow, was this a good pizza. Cornmeal dusted, perfectly darkened chewy crust ably held the clam and sausage toppings.

Zuppardi's Apizza
179 Union Avenue
West Haven, CT 06516
(203) 934-1949
Zuppardi's Apizza on Urbanspoon

Finishing the pies, we leaned back, satisfied in the knowledge of a job well done. Though my companions' were finished with all their responsibilities, I realized that I was still on the hook for the drive home. No coffee or artificial stimulants for me (for some reason), but I'm proud to say, I made the drive without a stop, hunched forward over the steering wheel, in an hour and a half. Sometimes my overconfidence pays off.

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