Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New Haven Pizza Wars - Sally's

The following is an almost accurate transcription of the notes I took during the third and most fateful battle of the New Haven Pizza Wars.

Date: Sunday, April 15, 2012

Location: Sally's Apizza, New Haven, CT.

4:01pm - I begin the walk from my apartment to Sally's. My sources tell me this is the hardest of all apizzas to obtain, for the restaurant is only open six days a week, five hours a day (Tues-Sun, 5-10pm). This is parallel to almost all my work hours here in New Haven, so I have one chance, and one chance only to catch the elusive pie.

4:15pm - I arrive at Sally's. It's dark inside. No activity is spotted in the immediate area. In contrast, the line outside of Pepe's is nearing 20-deep. I question the "get here early" advice found on both Yelp and Sally's website, shrug, and walk around the neighborhood.

4:19pm - I find a nearby park playing host to the Wooster Square Cherry Blossom Festival. My allergies flare up. I stop to pet some dachshunds. This brightens my day.

4:27pm - I remember why I'm in the area in the first place and head back to Sally's.

4:33pm - In the 18 minutes I spent listening to someone from the New Haven Historical Society tell me about their cherry blossoms, people started lining up for pizza. I am now the 8th person in line.

4:37pm - 5 more people get in line

4:41pm - It starts drizzling. Not a heavy rain, but enough for me to notice that Sally's does not have an awning.

4:49pm - I put away the book I've been reading to occupy my wait in line because it's drizzling harder and I realize it's too hard to hold an umbrella and a hardcover book at the same time.

4:53pm - 18 people in line, and not a lot of them have umbrellas.

4:55pm - On his walk past Sally's, a gentleman from the neighborhood stops near the front of the line and loudly proclaims, "I can name three things better than Sally's: my mom, my wife, and my daughter!" He continues walking.

4:57pm - The group in front of me are passing the time by fondly recalling past Sally's visits ("Oh, I got mozzarella on mine once...oo yeah, you gotta get the mooz...and the clam pie, I had that once...oh yeah, you gotta get the clams...")

4:59pm - The group behind me notices that there's one minute left. "I am starving!" the lady calls out.

5:01pm - My stomach starts growling.

5:03pm - A cop and his brunette lady-friend walk past the line, into the restaurant, and get seated. 25 people in line now have mixed expressions of annoyance, respect, jealousy and awe.

5:07pm - There are now two lines - those of us waiting for a table, and a gaggle of locals watching those of us in line. The air is a mixture of excitement, hunger and humidity, and I feel like that time I spent 105 minutes waiting in line for a turn on Superman - The Ride at Great America and right before I got buckled in, I had this immense fear that it wasn't going to as good as those 2 hours of waiting had built it up to be.

5:08pm - Fluorescent lights go on, the door opens and...the groups of people who have been watching us are let in. Apparently they made reservations. "So much for being the first in line," says the guy at the (former) front of the line.

5:10pm - I enter the hallowed doorway. There is a brief reshuffling of seats when I tell the waiter "Just one...nope, only me, I'm by myself" and he moves two people from a really small table to a booth so I can be seated at the really small table.

5:13pm - Sally starts working the room, greeting guests and hugging old friends. She's wearing a flowery blouse I'm pretty sure my grandmother once owned, an orange and yellow apron with 50-year old grease stains, and bifocals with the longest and most garishly beaded chain I've ever seen. She's adorable. I'm enchanted.

5:16pm - The waiter takes my order.

5:19pm - I notice the enthusiastic gentleman from outside laughing with Sally and others near the kitchen. It turns out he's an old friend of the establishment, not a crazy person as I had originally thought.

5:28pm - I get antsy and start taking still life's.

5:44pm - My apizza arrives.

5:47pm - It's not's ok, but it doesn't really taste like...anything? That can't be right.

5:49pm - I eat. I think. What makes this so different from not just all the (regular) pizza slices I've eaten, but the other two apizzas I've had?

5:51pm - Enlightenment. I get it. I get the point of an apizza - it's the perfect blend of the crust, sauce, and toppings - so that no one component outshines the others. Most other pizza's have a theme - Meat Lover's Pizza. Four-cheese. Hot-dog-in-crust. But a Sally's apizza isn't that at all. It doesn't have to showcase one ingredient over another, because it's created so everything fuses together. You don't really taste the sauce, the crust isn't that noticeable, the cheese doesn't come out and scream, "hey! I'm cheese!!" Instead, what you taste is the harmonic combination of it all - and it tastes good.

5:56pm - I get the check. My small mozzarella and mushroom cost around $8, but I ordered a ginger ale as well. With tax and tip, $12 total.

6pm - I'm out the door, giving my table to the next lucky customer.

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