The pizza scene keeps growing in Connecticut, already an established destination for great pies. For National Pizza Month, we're taking a look at 10 new and noteworthy spots (in no particular order) in greater Hartford and New Haven that have opened in 2016 and 2017.
Vaughan's Pies and Pints
The pizzeria sibling to Vaughan's Public House in Hartford opened in July in the former Backstage Pizza space, tucked away behind Farmington Avenue and facing the Brace Road parking lot.
"I kind of stumbled upon this place," says owner Johnny Vaughan. When he met Backstage's owners, they expressed interest in selling the business, and he began thinking about an idea for a casual, family-style restaurant with pizzas and beer.
A shepherd's pie pizza is a nod to the Pratt Street pub, Vaughan said, an ode to the comfort staple with braised short ribs, curried matchstick carrots, whipped potato, cheddar cheese and green onions atop a crust. Other specialty pies feature short rib and beer cheese, pork belly and smoked bleu cheese with truffle oil, grilled artichoke and tomato and Vaughan's "Margherita-ish" with kale pesto. Pizzas are $8 to $13 (small) and $12 to $19 (large.)
Longtime chef Don Fritz and his son, Sam, opened Pizzeria Sassano in South Glastonbury's Buck's Corner plaza in September 2016, naming the restaurant for the elder Fritz's grandparents' hometown in Italy. Don calls Sam the "expert" pizzaiolo, bringing experience at Giovanni's, Harry's and Bricco Trattoria to the new family venture.
Don Fritz says Sassano strives to keep its pies classic, rejecting toppings like pineapple or buffalo chicken. "We try to be purists. Even most of our food, we try to adhere to Italian standards."
Best-sellers include a sausage pie with onions, peppers and dollops of ricotta, along with a carbonara (pancetta, pecorino romano, soft-cooked egg from nearby Killam & Bassette Farmstead and chives) and a roasted vegetable version with artichokes, mushrooms, eggplant, broccolini and pesto. Pizzas are $10 to $14.50 (small) and $17 to $23 (large.)
2249 New London Turnpike, South Glastonbury. 860-659-2275, sassanopizza.com.
Vero Cucino Rustico
At the Middletown Italian restaurant, which celebrated its grand opening in January 2016, owner Taso Kariofyllis believes the secret to its thin-crust pizza is small batches of fresh toppings.
"The flavors, I believe, come out because of the ingredients we use, and that's always key," he says. Fresh clams are shucked daily for Vero's white clam pie, and a recent seasonal "angel" pie showcased fresh summer tomatoes and spinach with ricotta. Top-selling specialty pizzas include the Blanco, with baby spinach, mushrooms, gorgonzola and pecorino, and the Big Spud, with garlic cheddar mashed potatoes and bacon strips.
Vero's pizza prowess even extends to the dessert menu, with two sweet versions: a caramel Heath crunch pie with sweetened ricotta and melted milk chocolate and another topped with fresh strawberries and blueberries on a sugar/cinnamon crust. Pizzas are $10.95 to $22.95 (small) and $13.95 to $27.95 (large.)
Vero Cucino Rustico is at 749 Saybrook Road, Middletown. 860-343-9413, verocucino.com.
E&D Pizza Company
While technically not new, Mike Androw's E&D Pizza Company (named for his sons Enzo and Dario) underwent major expansion in 2017, moving to a larger space in August and augmenting its menu with wings, appetizers, pastas and more specialty pizzas. The Avon business, which opened in late 2014, outgrew its tiny original location much more quickly than anticipated.
"We had to do something or we were going to implode," Androw says. "The volume we were hitting, it was too much. We couldn't maintain it with the small space we had."
Luckily, a spot became available next door to his original pizzeria on West Main Street, allowing for a kitchen twice the size and seating for about 35 guests. Guests now enjoy beer and wine with the expanded menu options, including fresh signature pies like the Positano (black mission fig, goat cheese, red onion and chili honey) and the Calabrese (Italian sausage, hot capicola, provolone, red onion and oregano.) Pizzas are $12.95 to $18.95 (small) and $16.95 to $23.95 (large.)
E&D Pizza Company is at 200 W. Main St. in Avon. 860-255-7360, eanddpizzacompany.com.
Butchers & Bakers
Butchers & Bakers, by the Locals 8 Group [b Restaurants, Tisane, The Half Door] opened in early April 2017 at The Exchange in Farmington. The restaurant replaced the former Maratta's Front Row sports bar, inheriting its double coal-fired ovens.
Pizzas ($11 to $14) are based on a fresh dough recipe made with a natural sour starter. Popular sellers include the Butchers pie, with house-made fennel sausage and salami, sliced meatball and pork belly; a veggie selection with peperonata, caramelized onion and Brussels sprout leaves and a fennel sausage pie with cherry peppers. Creative compositions feature such flavors as shrimp and grits with house-made andouille sausage; sweet corn soubise; fontina and Cajun dust; and a "pit pizza" with ale mop sauce, smoked brisket, baked beans, white cheddar and pickled chilis.
Butchers & Bakers is at 270 Farmington Ave., Farmington. 860-470-7414, butchersandbakers.com.
Olives & Oil
The "electric Italian" restaurant by Fork Hospitality, a sibling to the trendy Elm City Social cocktail bar, debuted in December 2016, taking over the Temple Street space that previously housed Tavern New Haven.
Olives and Oil makes use of the former Tavern's pizza oven, which now turns out small thin-crust pies with unique flavor profiles: the All Praise the Pig with pineapple marmalade and 16-hour pork belly; the NY City Bagel with poached egg and everything bagel spice; the Day Trippin with mixed mushrooms, caramelized shallots, truffle oil, fig and balsamic; and the Sweet Sausage, with red wine-marinated "drunken" goat cheese. Pizzas are $15 to $18.
Olives and Oil is at 124 Temple St., New Haven. 203-891-5870, olivesandoil.com.
One 6 Three
Andrew Holmes met his soon-to-be-wife, Alexa Flagge, while working for her parents' business, Old World Pizza Truck. The two decided to branch out and start their own pizzeria, taking over the former Angelo's in New Haven's East Rock neighborhood in February 2016.
The snug 18-seat space (with a seasonal patio) fills up quickly on busy weekends as guests arrive with their own wine and beer and order wood-fired pies with creative flavors. The Memphis features pulled pork with feta and fresh blueberries; the Goat combines sauteed asparagus with caramelized onions, honey goat cheese and drizzles of basil aioli and cranberry jam and the A&A special, named for the couple, melds roasted chicken with honey goat cheese, smoked bacon, hot cherry peppers, tomatoes and horseradish aioli. Pizzas are $12 to $16 (12-inch small) and $16 to $20 (16-inch large.) 10-inch personal pies are also available, from $5 to $8.
Holmes says he sees the pizza destination of New Haven as a community, rather than seeing heavyweights like Modern or Frank Pepe as competition.
"More is better. There's no shortage of people or business. ... If you're going to sell pizza, why wouldn't you want to sell [it] where people go to eat pizza?"
163 Foster St., New Haven, 203-777-5141, one6threect.com.
When barbecue boss Jamie McDonald prepared to move the Hartford operation of Bear's Smokehouse to its current flagship location on Front Street, he and managing partner Justin Morales flipped the script at Bear's original Arch Street space. The smokers were replaced by a Marra Forni wood-fired oven and by January 2017, they were topping pizza dough with Bear's Kansas City-style meats: brisket, burnt ends, chopped pork and "moink balls" (smoked meatballs wrapped in bacon).
Current top sellers include a smoked wing pie with dark chicken meat, buffalo sauce, mozzarella and gorgonzola cheeses and crispy skin; a chicken bacon ranch creation with jalapeños and a classic margarita, says Morales. The pizzas ($9 to $14) are coupled with small plates, creative and classic cocktails and a draft beer lineup focusing on Connecticut breweries.
Blind Pig Pizzeria is at 89 Arch St., Hartford, 860-744-4333, blindpigpizza.com.
Savoy Pizzeria & Craft Bar
Max Restaurant Group's newest concept opened in October 2016, with a menu of Neapolitan-influenced pizzas, wood-fired small plates, salads, cheese and charcuterie.
Varieties with red sauce range from classic marinara and Margherita to more intricate combinations, like soppressata with oregano, hot honey and Mystic Cheese's Melinda Mae. White pizza preparations feature freshly shucked clams, sweet sausage with broccoli rabe and fontina and the "4th Song From The End," a four-cheese pie with fior di latte, ricotta, fontina and Parmesan, gilded with truffle paste. Savoy managing partner Dante Cistulli says top sellers include the Joey Ravita, combining prosciutto, fig, asiago, goat cheese, arugula and hot honey drizzle, and the Jersey Shore, with meatballs, fontina and cherry peppers.
Pizzas are $10 to $15. Savoy's Road Show, a portable wood-fired oven mounted on a trailer, also makes appearances at special events and is available for private catering.
Savoy Pizzeria & Craft Bar, 32 LaSalle Road, West Hartford, 860-969-1000 and savoypizzeria.com.
V's Trattoria, the latest project by the Vito's Restaurant Group, is a rebranding of sorts. After closing Hartford's 20-year-old Vito's By The Park in late November 2016, Rob Maffucci moved the restaurant's operations up the road to the Prudential building at 280 Trumbull St. He reopened in two phases, immediately introducing a Vito's To Go cafe in the building's lobby, then debuting the modern Italian-style trattoria nearly six months later in May.
A focused menu of small plates, salads, pastas and entrees also includes Vito's renowned pizzas ($13 to $20.) Classics like chicken pesto, fresh ricotta and primavera join more gourmet toppings like prosciutto with garlic, heirloom tomato and arugula with balsamic drizzle and guanciale with black truffle and soft-cooked egg.
V's Trattoria is at 280 Trumbull St., Hartford, 860-904-5453, vitosct.com/vs-trattoria.