There’s a Little Italy in New Haven, Connecticut. On one side of Wooster street sits Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria. On the other, Sally’s Apizza. For decades the lucky residents of New Haven have debated which pizza is better. Well, we didn’t get the chance to try Pepe’s but I SEE HAWKS IN L.A. is very seriously considering awarding its highest honor to Sally’s Apizza. Final votes are yet to be tallied but it looks likely that Sally’s could be declared the Best Pizza in America by these very Hawks.
What is it that makes this pizza so perfect? you must be thinking. First off, there is only one thing on the menu at Sally’s: pizza. No salad, no garlic bread, no pasta dishes. No parmesan or even red pepper flakes to adulterate their flawless formula. The menu is one page where you choose your size and toppings. That’s it. We ordered three Labatt’s Blue beers to round things off. They arrived and we waited for the pies. We chose a PL vegetarian pizza of mushrooms and black olives and a classic pepperoni, Old paintings of Frank Sinatra and John F. Kennedy looked down at us from their places on the wood paneled walls among framed newspaper articles praising Sally and his fine pizzas. We settle in, arriving just in time to watch the line form outside the door as each booth is now filled. The pizza arrives. Each pizza comes on it’s own rectangular cookie sheet. The pizzas are not exactly round, they are thrown roughly into the natural near-circles, appearing like flattened stones. There’s nothing fancy going on with these ingredients. There’s no goat cheese or stupid whole wheat crust. It’s just thin traditional crust, sauce, mozzarella cheese, chosen topping, but it’s perfectly executed. The crust is crispy around the edges and on the bottom, but just barely crispy. These pizzas have been cooked in a very hot oven for a short period of time. The pizzas look beautiful. How will they taste?
With the first bite, the pizza is still too hot. How often this happens, a pizza or two arrives, everyone dives in unable to hold back the anticipation, only to find it’s just too hot. Luckily none of us burn our mouths, it’s not that hot. And it still tastes good, don’t get me wrong. But it’s clear in a couple of minutes the pizza will be the perfect temperature for eating, the temperature where all the distinct flavors and textures can be fully appreciated. And so that time does comes. The Hawks grow quiet and focus on eating this deliciously simple and complex pizza. We feel a artistic kinship with Sally and his apostles. This is what good art is: a complex idea expressed in clear and simple terms with a respect for tradition and genuine culture. No short cuts. High quality ingredients. A deep connection to the land beneath one’s feet. We celebrate regionalism! Thank God for pizza like this.