Dining

A Giant Pizza My Heart

The latest on New Haven's famous pizzerias, Sally's and Pepe's
New Haven Pizza News
Photo: Tasting Table

You can't sell one of America's best pizzerias on Craigslist.

Not that they've tried, but maybe they should. The peace sign logo could be of some inspiration. The New Haven Register recently reported on the Consiglio family's troubled attempt to sell their famed New Haven pizzeria Sally's Apizza, with the New York Times following suit. Al Dente LLC, the potential buyers, nearly closed, but the Consiglios decided not to sign the contract. What did Al Dente do when they didn't get what they wanted? They sued the Consiglios. Next time I go to the store and it's all out of yogurt, I know what I'm going to do.

The case was dropped, with the court ruling in the Consiglios' favor, but now the pizza family is suing right back. The original deal had Al Dente offering $3.1 million for Sally's. That's the cost of 335,135 small plain pies, with just enough change left over to wash it down with a local Foxon Park birch beer. If it were up to me, everyone would calm down and let the healing power of melted cheese do its thing. But it's not up to me; it's up to lawyers and 78 years of history that's tough to forget.

Sally's has been slow to expand, and in 2014, the news that a sale was being remotely thought about was Connecticut's biggest earthquake. Anything that's been around since 1938 is going to be reluctant to change, and I don't blame them. I've been around since only 1992, and I stress out about buying hand soap with an unfamiliar scent.

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Nearby Pepe's pizza, which is equally as (or more) famous as Sally's, has nine locations total now, with one in enemy territory. It's worth noting that Gary Bimonte, the current owner of Pepe's, is a cousin of the Consiglio family and was among the first to place a bid on Sally's. I'm still waiting for an investigative reporter to reveal that there's really just one kitchen, with children shuttling pies back and forth between the two pizzerias.

After four years of college in New Haven, I consider myself qualified to judge the city's pizza. I count among my greatest collegiate accomplishments the time I ate an entire pizza by myself in one night. I wasn't hungry for 48 hours afterward. I'm still on the fence about whether to add it to my résumé.

In the Sally's vs. Pepe's debate, I lean heavily toward Team Pepe's. I blame this on my upbringing. In the way an older sister might teach you how to tie your shoes, mine taught me to speak softly and carry a Lactaid pill, because you never know when you'll find yourself with an original tomato pie with mozzarella. I learned the tricks to Pepe's success—be in line by 11:07 a.m. for its 11:30 opening—and always order no less than three times of what think your stomach can handle.

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A few blocks down Wooster Street, Sally's has plenty of devotees as well. The Clinton family loves its pies, and a pizza-happy photo of Frank Sinatra hangs on the wall. Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau is a fan and has included Sally's pies in his comics (Related: Trudeau is also big on "Hey Jude." He sang it with the Yale marching band at a gig once. Then he signed our glockenspiel.)

Walk past the cherry blossom-lined street of New Haven's serene Little Italy, and you'll see no sign of unrest. There's still the line forming for dinner at a time many would call lunch. The grease-spotted parchment sheets still hold bubbling thin-crust halos of pizza glory, fresh out of the coal-fired oven. And, frankly, even when (or if) the Consiglios decide to sell, I don't think we'll have much to worry about. Because if anything changes, the new owners are sure to get a pie in the face.

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