As any pizza aficionado knows, New Haven is home to the Holy Trinity of a certain type of pizza known as apizza (pronounced “a-beetz”) — thin and cooked very quickly in an ultra-hot oven, usually with charring on the bottom. Frank Pepe’s and Sally’s are in the Italian neighborhood of Wooster Square. The Modern is closer to downtown.
Despite traveling to New Haven for reporting trips on a number of occasions over the years, for some reason I had never made it to Sally’s. Well, I rectified that last Tuesday evening. I showed up around 7:30 and was told I’d have to wait about 20 minutes, which attests to the restaurant’s popularity. But then someone left, and I was seated almost immediately.
I began with a Caesar salad that arrived in a to-go package, which struck me as odd. I mean, I was right there. The dressing had not been mixed in, and it was so thick that I couldn’t really pour it — rather, it fell in glops on the romaine. The cheese was powdered rather than shaved. It wasn’t a bad salad, but I’ve had much better.
Next: The main event. I had asked for a small sausage and mushroom, but the order somehow got bollixed up and I ended up with a “medium,” which was surely enough for three people. It was an appealing-looking pie in the New Haven tradition, more oval than round, with lots of ground sausage to make up for the relative dearth of mushrooms. And it was delicious, thin and bursting with flavor.
My only criticism is personal — I like my pizza with a lot of cheese and not too much tomato sauce. What I got was a lot less cheesy than I would have liked. According to the Wiktionary, though, New Haven-style apizza is supposed to have “only a small amount of grated Parmesan cheese,” which means that Sally’s delivered the goods. By contrast, my memory of the Modern is that they’re generous with the cheese, which I recall as a zesty blend. I hope to go back in a few weeks.
My “medium” Sally’s pizza was so huge that I would have risked serious gastric distress if I’d eaten more than half. The server seemed stricken when I told him that I couldn’t take it with me since I was traveling by train. Sadly, I watched him take it away. In the interest of writing a complete review (gluttony was not the issue; oh no, not all), I ordered a cannoli pie for dessert. Like the Caesar salad, it was served in a to-go container. Unlike the salad, it was perfect.
I also ordered a glass of Sally’s red wine, served in a water glass. It was fine if unmemorable.
Overall, I’d say my trip to Sally’s was a success — although with the Modern and Pepe’s nearby, I doubt I’ll be back. The Modern remains my favorite, even though they use an oil-fired oven, unlike the coal ovens at Pepe’s and Sally’s. It almost seems like cheating, though it makes no difference to the pizza.
We’re lucky to have some great pizza places in Medford and Arlington, so I don’t feel especially deprived by not being able to go to the Modern every week. But New Haven apizza is truly something special.
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