The Unique Pizza Style That Hails From Connecticut

Outside of its birthplace of Naples, Italy, pizza is celebrated as a regional delicacy (per History). Whether round or rectangular; cooked in a wood-fired or gas oven; grilled over coals, or prepared on the stove, Americans love pizza. In 2021, the U.S. housed over 75,000 pizzerias across the nation, baking up $45.49 billion in sales between chains and independent restaurants. Not surprisingly, delivery sales are at an all-time high, responsible for almost $20 billion. Domino's pizza is the country's largest chain, with sales exceeding $8 billion in 2021. Pizza Hut and Little Caesars fall a distant second and third, respectively (per Statista).

Authentic Neapolitan pizza must adhere to rigorous standards outlined by Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN), which includes the type of wood-fired oven and ingredients to use, and what size the pie must be. In the U.S., there are only 92 registered VPN pizzerias stateside. Instead, the country is divided into regions, each offering different styles of pizza that locals swear are the best.

On the East Coast, traveling north on I-95 will expose you to three delicious but different types of pizza. New Yorkers love their Neapolitan-inspired pizza with a soft, thinnish crust that they love to fold in half. Rhode Islanders line up for grilled pizza, especially from Al Forno (per Eater). For Connecticut's contribution, meanwhile, those around New Haven are especially proud of the unique pizza style that's so popular the state created a pizza trail for visitors.

White clam pizza

Part of discovering a new place is trying the food locals take pride in. In Chicago, that would be the thick, round, sweet, pastry-like, deep-dish pizza. In Delaware or Pennsylvania, it would be scrapple, and in Connecticut, it's white clam pizza (per Far and Wide).

Thanks to Italian immigrant Frank Pepe, whose 'apizza' became so popular he expanded from selling it on the streets of New Haven from a custom headdress he wore to a storefront on Wooster Street in 1925 called Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana. Pepe's apizza was similar to the pizza of his homeland, Naples. Cooked in coal-fired ovens, the pizzas are thin and airy. The high hydration in the dough creates a crispy, blistered crust with a chewy bite that sets New Haven-style pizza standards.

The signature white clam pizza forgoes tomato sauce for an olive oil base covered with fresh clams, garlic, oregano, and grated Pecorino Romano cheese. The clams are harvested from the nearby Long Island Sound or the shores of Massachusetts and are shucked daily. The pie is reminiscent of scampi with chewy pieces of clam without being fishy.

Called "one of America's most important pizza cities" by Food & Wine, New Haven has several worthy pizza stops, including Sally's Apizza and Zuppardi's Apizza. Still, Frank Pepe is probably the most famous. Although Pepe died in 1969, the restaurant has grown over the past one hundred years to 12 restaurants in four states and is still run by the Pepe family.