Owner Randy Price curates a creative menu of New Haven–style "apizza" in more than 30 styles. His team crafts fresh dough daily using unbleached flour, creates sauce from handpicked Italian and Chilean tomatoes, and sprinkles pies with cheese from home-schooled cows. The famous Challenger—a 22-inch pizza stuffed with a mélange of vegetables and meats that weigh in at nearly 10 pounds—presents the hungriest visitors with a challenge to conquer the hot wheel in an hour or less, a feat that has earned a place on the Travel Channel's Man Vs. Food roster of surmounted food battles.
At Pizzeria DaVinci, the signature house pizza—aptly named the Da Vinci—is a vegetarian one, piled with spinach, sun-dried tomato, and feta. However, there's plenty of meat options on the pizzeria's menu, too. There are 16 thin-crust pizzas to choose from, each baked on a hot stone and topped with delicacies from baked potato fixings to clams and bacon.
It's no wonder that Dave and Camille, the owners of Camille's Wood Fired Pizza, have adopted the mantra "food is love." Nearly a decade ago they met in a pizzeria without any idea that one day they would fall in love and open their very own restaurant. Today, their love for each other and for great food helps to warm the inviting atmosphere at Camille's, along with the kitchen's wood-fire oven, which heats up to more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The taste furnace renders crispy crusts on specialty pies, which chefs top with products from organic and sustainable farms whenever possible. Small plates such as artisanal salads and inventive ideas such as eggplant fries round out meals and bring an upscale touch to pizza night.
The penne, spaghetti, and linguine at Pastori's Restaurant & Bar may be the only pastas that are actually imported from Italy, but every bite of manicotti and alfredo tastes authentic. Yet the Italian specialities only claim a small portion of the menu. There are also burgers and grinders, wraps and pitas, and seafood dishes, such as sea scallops tuna steak. Plus, the bar promises cocktails, beer, and wine, as well as games broadcast on TVs and regular karaoke.
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In 1909, Frank Pepe immigrated to the United States from his native town of Maiori, Italy. He was poor, illiterate, and just 16 years old—but he had a strong work ethic. After a stint in a New Haven factory and service as an Italian solider in World War I, he settled down for good in New Haven with his wife, Filomena, and started a bakery delivery service. But because he couldn’t read, he had trouble deciphering the orders. So he started having his customers come to him, and in 1925, he and Filomena added a simple item to the menu: Neapolitan-style pizzas.
To this day, the staff still heats up coal-fired ovens to bake the original tomato pies that Frank and Filomena first made famous. They can also add toppings such as bacon, Italian-imported anchovies, and house-roasted red peppers to their pizzas, or create specialty pies such as their signature white clam with olive oil, fresh garlic, and oregano. Diners can pair their pies with Pepe’s salad, tossed in balsamic vinaigrette, or have the server tap draft brews such as Sam Adams Boston Lager and Peroni. They’ve served Foxon Park soda since 1925, so diners can request bottles of cream soda or diet white-birch beer made from only the sveltest birch trees.
For more than four decades, one family has passed down the tradition of crowd-pleasing pizzas, grinders, and pastas. Hartford Road Pizza owner Greg Procaccini claims the honor of the pizza-making paterfamilias from both his father and his uncle Mike, who recently retired after a long career of Italian cookery at Hartford Road’s affiliate, Gino’s Pizza. Greg continues his family’s proud tradition with plates of stuffed-shell pasta, tender veal parmigiana, and pizzas crowned with toppings such as hamburger, anchovies, eggplant, ricotta, and pineapple. Each meal stays as close to home as possible, with hearty grinders and saucy meatballs sourced from local meats when available, and traditional dishes such as the housemade pasta fagioli soup made from time-tested family recipes.