New Haven residents are always raving about their pizza and insisting folks travel our way to give it a try. But it's probably harder to get New Haveners to try a pizza place outside of the city than it is to lure someone from the 'burbs into our clutches. But let me make the case for a trip up to Meriden's Little Rendezvous, a tiny establishment serving only pizza, albeit not New Haven-style, but a style all its own.
Little Rendezvous uses a nearly 126-year-old coal-fired brick oven, in place since the Pratt Street building's former usage as a bread bakery. Little Rendezvous' dining room holds half a dozen wooden tables, old photos of Meriden landmarks and a map of Meriden dating to the late 1800s. Meriden is my hometown, and I enjoyed being able to pore over the photos while my friend and I eagerly awaited our pies. Yes, pies.
We started with a medium plain, which is just sauce and grated cheese ($10). I indulged in my second favorite combination, plain with bacon and jalapeños ($12 for a small). My friend, who is vegetarian, chose a small mozzarella pie with mushrooms ($11.50) and a small plain with feta and pesto ($12). Our pizzas arrived in close succession, all incredibly hot from the oven. The roof of my mouth paid for my inability to wait to take my first bite, but it was worth the scalding.
Little Rendezvous' pizzas have a bit of a thicker crust than New Haven-style pizza, but I wouldn't use the words "thick" or "bready" to describe it. It's pretty dense, not at all floppy and has a nice crunch. We ordered traditional crusts, but Little Rendezvous also offers thin crust, double dough and gluten-free.
My friend is an unabashed New Haven pizza snob, but he was impressed with our order. We sampled from all the pies as we sat alone in the small dining room (I got to hog all the bacon and jalapeño), and watched as a few take-out customers came in to pick up their orders. Even if you plan to eat in, it's a good idea to call ahead, especially on Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights. Or you could wing it and know you'll have plenty to look at while your pizzas are cooking.
Little Rendezvous is at 256 Pratt St., Meriden. Hours are Wednesday and Thursday 1 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 9 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Information: 203-235-0110, www.thelittlevous.com.