With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sad City Travels: New Haven

While we are on the topic of pizza, we would be remiss not to mention New Haven, our neighbor to the south. Those of us that are diehard Hartfordites probably find it tempting to hate New Haven. After all, New Haven gets the benefit of some advantages that Hartford doesn't, and some of those seem a little unfair. New Haven is the home to Yale University. While Hartford has it's share of excellent schools, none are Yale. When your city is home to a university that has a $19.4 billion endowment and has educated five U.S. Presidents, well, that's going to help out quite a bit.

New Haven is also located conveniently close to New York City. Being only a short train ride from the worlds financial center is also very beneficial to New Haven. Now Hartford can't move any closer to New York, but it would be nice to be connected to Metro North, but that's another story for another day.

Its not all roses for New Haven though as the city famously let the New Haven Coliseum become so outdated that it was eventually closed in 2002 and demolished in 2007. Today New Haven still has no major arena to draw acts. Certainly Hartford won't be repeating that mistake.

As many know New Haven is also famous for having perhaps the best pizza in the world. Whether one prefers Pepe's, Sally's, or Modern, everyone seems to have an opinion and everyone thinks their favorite is hands down the best pizza to be found. This is where Sad City has to make a confession. Despite living within an hour of all these amazing pizza places for most of our lives, we had somehow managed to never visit any of these world famous pizzerias. Disgraceful, we know. There is really no excuse at all. Well last month that was remedied as we finally visited Pepe's.

That evening Pepe's was out of their clam pizza so we settled for a margherita. It was great, no question about it. Was it the best pizza in the world? No idea. We still haven't tried Sally's or Modern. But we will say it was just about the best pizza we have ever had, and there none of the close contenders are in Hartford. Sad City gives credit where credit is due, and New Haven has us on pizza.

We've also tried mashed potato and bacon pizza at BAR, a combination that seemed moronic when first suggested to us but turned out to be an awesome revelation. Seriously, bacon and mashed potato, who knew? Without a doubt, New Haven has some incredible pizza. No shame in losing to New Haven in that department, as the general consensus is they could put up their pizza against anyone.

 Other Sad City favorites in New Haven include the Union League Cafe and Toad's Place, a legendary rock club where you actually want to pay the cover to see the bands play. New Haven is a very cool city and while lots of it's advantages over Hartford are due to sheer luck and geography, us Hartfordites shouldn't hate New Haven because of it's good fortune. Instead we should be happy to have a nice, similar sized city so close to visit and strive to make some of our own good fortune right here in Hartford. Let's just not take them on head to head in the pizza department.


  1. Seriously, bacon and mashed potato, who knew?

    You should have. I'm going to guess that you made the classic mistake that most people make when they hear of odd pizza toppings, which is to imagine said topping over mozzarella, sauce, etc. If you'd just thought "crust, mashed potatoes,bacon, & cheddar", it would have instantly made sense.

    Too bad that you didn't get to try the clam, but the Manchester Pepe's is only a short drive away and makes the same pies as New Haven. They also have the benefit of ample seating.

  2. The deli located diagonally across from Pepe's (I think it's called Ferrucci's, or something like that) makes some of the best friggen' sandwiches I've ever had! Sadly I think New Haven's got us beat on sandwiches too.

  3. Did they have the sign with cartoon clams that reads "We have some bad news... NO CLAM PIES TODAY"?

  4. I think the Pepe franchises in Manchester and Danbury produce pizzas that are inferior to the Mothership.

    (Sad, its is possessive--it's is a contraction of "it is." And the fifth sentence of your post is incomplete."

  5. Pizza perhaps....Grinders......noooo F'n WAY! There needs to be a story about giant grinders....I've been to every state in the USA except SD, ND, and OR...... and no place does grinders like Franklin Giant or Maple Giant (Franklin being my personal fav) You might be able to do an entire post just on Franklin Giants meatballs...SO FLIPPIN GOOOOD!

    I have some insider info that tells me First and Last Tavern's pizza recipe is VERY close to pepes, perhaps even 'borrowed' The owners of FnL didn't like the wood ovens and invented the rotating coal fired oven as the answer....might be worth some investigative journalimizing

  6. I agree that the Manchester Pepe's is not as good - there is nothing like New Haven's Pepe's. Don't forget to stop at the bakery a few doors down - its great.

  7. I have actually been to Mancester Pepe's 2x before the New Haven one, but I had never considered that going to Pepe's. If you have to subject yourself to the Buckland Hills area, the Manchester Pepe's makes for a decent reward. it's good pizza.

  8. I've been to Pepe's in Manchester, New Haven, and Mohegan Sun and they've all tasted the same to me.