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Sally's Apizza


Ellen Shapiro
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I'm simply the photographer, so I'll leave it to others to explain why Sally's Apizza ("apizza" is a regional Italian spelling and pronunciation of pizza, pronounced "uh-beets") in New Haven, CT, makes the best pizza in North America. These are just some photographs taken last night on Wooster Street on the occasion of my birthday:

Bobby Consiglio, second generation Sally's stick-man (the original, now departed owner was Sal Consiglio; the restaurant is run by Sal's wife Flo and several of her children), prepares the coals for optimum performance in the ancient, massive oven:

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Pizza creation is a by-hand (dare I say artisanal?) affair. Note that the house-made sauce (from tinned Italian whole tomatoes) is spread with fingers, not a ladle:

sal3.jpg

A three-pie order ready for its trial-by-fire, being drizzled with olive oil (plastic water bottles with holes punched in the caps are the vessels of choice for this task):

sal5.jpg

A pizza baking on the hearth (believe me, not an easy flash situation from the photographer's standpoint -- I'm working on growing my eyebrows back now):

sal6.jpg

Pies coming out:

sal7.jpg

And ready to serve:

sal8.jpg

Okay, bye.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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Great... now you've made me hungry! I guess I'll just have to stop off in New Haven on my way to Boston next weekend. :wink:

As for why Sally's is the best pizza in North America, well, I don't think I can answer that as I haven't really sampled enough locations to be an expert on the matter. For thin crust pizza though, I will say that it beats what I've sampled in NYC and NJ (though I haven't tried this Di Fara's place yet). I also prefer Sally's to Frank Pepe's and The Spot, primarily because Sally's crust seems to have a better flavor and texture. For me, eating at Sally's for the first time was an understated experience... the pie didn't scream "I'm the best pizza in the world!", but with every bite I slowly came to the realization that I had a new benchmark for my favorite pizza.

However, I will say that the ONLY aspect of Sally's pizza which I would change is the sauce. For my taste, the sauce seems to be "just there" while the crust, the cheese, and the toppings all very prominently display their excellent quality. If the sauce was just a little bolder, I would say that Sally's makes the perfect pie (for my taste, anyway). As it stands, that perfect pie exists only in my mind, but Sally's is right there on Wooster Street!

PS - I think it's amazing that there are FOUR pizzerias on Wooster Street that are only open for dinner. Just something that travellers should keep in mind before they make plans to visit New Haven.

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Marcus I agree the sauce is understated but that's the pizza-making theory over there. They don't want every ingredient screaming for attention "me me me!" But I'm with you and I like the sauce to be a big thing. That's why I order . . .

. . . extra sauce. It's the easiest way to turn up the volume on the sauce -- you just get more of it. In fact my favorite pie at Sally's is a "red" with no mozz. It's just crust, a lot of sauce (like as much as sauce and cheese put together on a regular pie), olive oil, and a sprinkling of parm. My second most favorite pies there are the "white" with just mozz -- no sauce. Those are great especially in season when fresh tomatoes from Connecticut come in -- some customers like my parents bring them from their gardens. They slice the tomatoes right on there, super-thin, and they're better than any sauce could be. Zucchini and summer squash also work. Also they do a white with broccoli rabe, and one with black olives and onions. It's always worth asking what specials are available.

I haven't eaten much at Pepe's as we've always been a Sally's family. I'm also not into clams, but I hear the one definitive pie at Pepe's is the white clam -- no mozz, just fresh clams and olive oil and maybe some parm. Sally's doesn't specialize in that pie so they don't keep live clams around. Other than that one pie, the people I trust say Sally's is the better pizzeria.

Also I always recommend going on a weeknight (closed Monday) because the lines are killer on weekends.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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Ellen, your eyebrows were worth the sacrifice for the photos (from my own cold-hearted point of view). Thanks. Great fun.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Jinmyo don't thank me thank Canon.

Nina I'm no authority on Pepe's but as I learned it The Spot is the original Pepe's store and the current Pepe's is the expanded newer store (The Spot for those who have never seen the layout sits in the lot behind Pepe's). They are in theory supposed to be serving the exact same thing controlled by the same family. If there's a quality difference I'm not aware of it.

I'm not permitted as a loyalist to actually admit I've been to Pepe's but were I to discuss the theoretical differences between the pies it's the Sally's crust that makes the most lasting impression. But both are excellent pizzerias (theoretically of course).

I don't remember ever having a calzone at T&L's.

Edited by Ellen Shapiro (log)

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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God I hate Connecticut.

Jason, I know what you're talkin' about. But maybe you were jivin' and I missed it?

As far as the oven those pizza's are being cooked in.....

If the fire isn't made in the oven where the food is being cooked, I've got my doubts.

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201: Don't you know your name is Marcus now? Please see the memo we sent around this morning.

Nickn: Why? This isn't barbecue we're talking about here. My understanding is that the fuel source isn't supposed to impart an actual flavor to pizza, and given the baking times in these ovens I'm not sure a flavor transfer would occur anyway.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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God I hate Connecticut.

Jason, I know what you're talkin' about. But maybe you were jivin' and I missed it?

As far as the oven those pizza's are being cooked in.....

If the fire isn't made in the oven where the food is being cooked, I've got my doubts.

Nick: I meant it as "dammit, those New Haven bastards have no right to take artisinal pizza away from New York"

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Nickn: Why? This isn't barbecue we're talking about here. My understanding is that the fuel source isn't supposed to impart an actual flavor to pizza, and given the baking times in these ovens I'm not sure a flavor transfer would occur anyway.

FG - It's my belief, rightly or wrongly, that better cooking comes from heat that is being radiated from the walls, roof, and floor of the oven. Also, only my belief, this is best accomplished by having the fire within the oven which heats the surrounding stones or bricks to a fairly high heat and (most of the time) the fire is let to go out and it is the heat radiating from the mass that does the cooking.

For more info See here.

Jason, you think the New Haven bastards have something up their sleeve, stop in Waldoboro the next time you're going down the coast of Maine. I'll take you to pizza shop right in town. Dude retired after 20 years at Talley Industries (VP) and decided to cook pizza in Waldoboro. Not too bad.

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Nick: I'll defer to baking experts on this, but my understanding is that it's virtually impossible to satisfy the production requirements of a restaurant using a retained-heat hearth. You've got to have a live fire going. The only question is whether the fire will be in the oven compartment or in a firebox, and I don't really know that it makes a difference as long as the proper temperature is achieved.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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As far as I can see from the photo, this is a coal oven. In which case you would want the fuel in a firebox, since the flavour imparted from direct exposure to coal smoke and ash would not be good at all.

FG, I have eaten and cooked a lot of pizza in wood-fired ovens and electric pizza ovens and I can assure you that there is a definite flavour transfer where wood is used. The exact character depends, of course, on the type of wood being burnt. The dough that goes into the oven is very tender, and it quickly picks up flavour, even though it cooks in a few minutes.

In home bread and pizza ovens (rare but not unknown in Italy; even rarer in southern France) it seems more common to fire the oven -- this can take many hours -- remove the embers and then cook pizza and bread from the retained heat. Resins and smoke elements remain in the oven, and the character of the bread or pizza does change. A large home oven, properly heated, can cook many loaves or pizze. As the oven cools, it can then be used to cook meats, stews, etc. My small "beehive" oven can do a fair job on, say, 2-3 pizze before it loses the scorching heat needed for a great product. But it only takes an hour to heat up.

As you indicate, this declining heat would not work for a restaurant. So restaurants with a wood burning oven continue to add wood during service. Most restaurant ovens are slightly wider than home ovens, so that there is room for the burning logs and embers to be thrust to the side, making room for the pizza in the centre of the oven. In any case, the same retained heat is in action, radiating from the floor, roof and sides as Nickn indicates.

Wood burning pizza ovens have suddenly become popular in restaurants here, even though there are strict environmental laws about burning wood in home fireplaces in London. I assume that the restaurants have some sort of scrubber on the flue. What are the environmental laws regarding wood burning ovens in New York?

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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In New York you need a catalytic converter as well as various fire suppression devices. I believe you've got to deal with environmental codes, fire-safety codes, and building codes. Pearson's Texas Barbecue had to close down its original location in Queens primarily because it couldn't satisfy these codes, and when Danny Meyer opened Blue Smoke he had to put in something like a million dollars worth of exhaust equipment in order to get approval.

JD, let me ask you: First, what I still don't understand is why having the coals in a firebox makes any difference in terms of the heating properties of the oven. Isn't it still going to cook with absorbed and re-radiated heat? Second, isn't it correct that the flavor-transfer from wood is considered undesirable in traditional pizza baking? Isn't that why the traditional Italian wood of choice is the very clean-burning white oak? Third, doesn't coal burn hotter than wood? It would seem this would make coal the better fuel for pizza-baking. Fourth, do they ever use coal-fired ovens for baking in Europe? Finally, I don't question your observation that the crust from pizza can absorb ambient flavors quickly, but are you certain these flavors are coming from the wood? I wonder if what people perceive as smoke flavor isn't just coming from the slightly burnt flour and cornmeal that forms on the underside of the crust.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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The legend of Frank Pepe's clam pie runs that he was sensitive to mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce (not a good situation for a pizza baker) and developed the clam pie to address those issues. Too bad he wasn't wheat sensitive too -- maybe he'd have come up with something!

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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First, what I still don't understand is why having the coals in a firebox makes any difference in terms of the heating properties of the oven. Isn't it still going to cook with absorbed and re-radiated heat? Second, isn't it correct that the flavor-transfer from wood is considered undesirable in traditional pizza baking? Isn't that why the traditional Italian wood of choice is the very clean-burning white oak? Third, doesn't coal burn hotter than wood? It would seem this would make coal the better fuel for pizza-baking. Fourth, do they ever use coal-fired ovens for baking in Europe? Finally, I don't question your observation that the crust from pizza can absorb ambient flavors quickly, but are you certain these flavors are coming from the wood? I wonder if what people perceive as smoke flavor isn't just coming from the slightly burnt flour and cornmeal that forms on the underside of the crust.

I don't think the firebox versus the fuel-in-oven will make much of a difference in the heating characteristics, as such. Equally, you can get very high temperatures with electricity, which is generally cheaper and certainly cleaner and lower maintenance.

I'm not sure whose standards would decree that flavour transfer is undesirable for pizza. To believe this, you would have to believe that pizza "cuit au feu de bois" is simply a romantic idea, something that affects ambience rather than flavour. That's possible, but it seems unlikely to me.

Isn't there a Neapolitan pizza society that publishes standards for pizza quality, perhaps even on the web? It would be interesting to see what they have to say about this.

On whether the smoke comes from the wood or from burnt flour, all I can say is that the electric pizza oven I have in France (which easily goes up to 500 degrees C, in practice we tend to do pizzas at around 400 C) turns out a delicious product, but it doesn't have the same character as the best pizza from wood ovens, including some that I have used -- hence eliminating the possible confounding variable of the cook.

You certainly get an element of smoke and wood flavours when wood-fired ovens are used to cook meats. Next I am in France I will try to find out what kind of wood the pizza restaurants tend to use. You would certainly want to avoid resinous softwoods (pines, etc). But even well-cured white oak will leave some flavour elements.

I have never seen a coal-burning pizza oven in Europe. But then, there are thousands of pizza ovens in Europe that I haven't seen, so this doesn't tell us very much.

Edited by JD (London) (log)

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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The association is Verace Pizza Napoletana.

"The cooking of the pizza must take place on the surface of the oven and not in any pan or container. The oven must be a wood burning oven and structured in a bell shape and of special brick with the floor of the pizza oven constructed of volcanic stone. The oven must be fired with only wood and kindling."

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Nick: I'll defer to baking experts on this, but my understanding is that it's virtually impossible to satisfy the production requirements of a restaurant using a retained-heat hearth. You've got to have a live fire going. The only question is whether the fire will be in the oven compartment or in a firebox, and I don't really know that it makes a difference as long as the proper temperature is achieved.

FG- Just checked back into this thread. You are right that most restaurant production ovens will keep a fire going in the back of the oven. I was thinking more of bread baking and home ovens when I said the fire would be let to go out. However, here's a quote from Fitzpatrick's that shows what can be done (breadbaking.)

" I can fire up the oven the night before and bake without a fire the next morning. If I super saturate the thermal mass of this oven with the heat of several fires Friday and Saturday, I can baked bread without any additional fire all day Sunday and bake the family dinner Monday evening (almost 48 hours later)."

As far as emissions from an oven, if they are fired right, with the right wood, I doubt there's a need for a catalytic converter. Of course, when codes are written they don't take the time to investigate this.

In all this I can only offer anecdotal "evidence" from having made hardware for the ovens for the last fifteen or twenty years and learning from those who build them. And also, from having designed and built wood burning appliances for about thirty years and, with that, having given quite a lot of thought to the properties of fire and heat, its storage, and transfer. But, I'm on the periphery when it comes to using a commercial oven and would like to hear more from people that have.

JD's shown more here than I can offer.

Edited by Nickn (log)
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201: Don't you know your name is Marcus now? Please see the memo we sent around this morning.

ya see, we're using the *new* cover sheets for the TPS reports...

so how hot would you say a coal burning over gets compared to a brick burning oven. and since we're on the subject of heat, and the benefits of cooking associated with high heat, has anyone given any thought to the benefits of a liquid that boils at a higher temp than 212 degrees? (pressure cooking aside). i have to imagine that 212 degrees isn't the ideal for all things, yet few people seem to consider other options.

Note: that last paragraph added so my post isn't flagged as "off-topic."

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so how hot would you say a coal burning over gets compared to a brick burning oven

Well, bricks burn at a pretty high temperature.

has anyone given any thought to the benefits of a liquid that boils at a higher temp than 212 degrees? (pressure cooking aside).  

Yes, this process is known as deep frying. The name of the liquid is fat. :raz:

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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