Dayton Street Apizza lies just a few miles up Whalley Avenue from downtown New Haven, but it feels well off the beaten path. This restaurant is a true neighborhood place: an unpretentious takeout joint with just 14 seats, it is hardly a destination restaurant like New Haven’s Big Three, and most of its residents are Westville locals from just down the street.
Thin, chewy crust with fresh toppings arranged conservatively and baked to well-done perfection: this is the crux of good apizza, and Dayton Street follows the rules.
Hungry and expectant, we ventured to Dayton Street on a weeknight to see if these claims held up. Entering the restaurant’s cozy brick interior, we examined the menu, which was displayed above the main counter and takeout window and included options ranging from the pungent-sounding Cousin Artie (onions, garlic, and anchovies) to more typical specialties like Clams Casino, Margherita, and Hawaiian. (The restaurant also serves Italian specialties like pasta and subs.)
Unable to decide, we asked the woman at the counter what she would recommend. The white pie with chicken and broccoli, she told us, was one of their most popular pies, so we ordered one of those and a red pie with mozzarella.
Having ordered, we sat down and admired the surroundings. Dayton Street isn’t much of a full-service restaurant, but it has plenty of the neighborhood charm that comes with a true takeout joint. A large drink cooler was filled with a rainbow of Foxon Park sodas in flavors ranging from gassosa (Italian lemon-lime) to cherry to birch beer. A TV in the corner was playing Jeopardy, a clock on the wall was shaped like a pepperoni pizza, and jars of Bobo’s Pasta Sauce, homemade by the restaurant, were clustered on a shelf near the counter. Red, white, and green neon lights framed the large street-facing windows in front. As we waited for our pies, we selected a one-liter bottle of cream soda from the cooler. The woman behind the counter brought us plastic cups.
The crust was perhaps our favorite aspect of the pizzas. Light and airy, it crackled when we bit in and had a pleasant floury flavor without much char. Unfortunately, the crust lacked the rustic character and flavor one finds at other New Haven establishments. After several bites, we all realized that it was pretty bland.
Overall, we found the pizzas satisfying but somewhat boring. The cheese on the red pie with mozzarella was standard supermarket quality and the tomato flavor was minimal, and though the pie was delicious and savory when it first emerged from the oven, as it cooled it became much less appetizing.
The chicken and broccoli pie was worse. Topped with tiny chunks of fried chicken cutlet and fresh broccoli florets, it was light on flavor. Perhaps it was just our entirely subjective taste preferences at work, but we found that we weren’t eager to have seconds.
This is not to say that Dayton Street pies are bad: they’re fine, and are in fact a strong example of very good takeout pizza. These pies would walk all over New Haven eateries like Yorkside Pizza and Alpha Delta Pizza, but when we stacked them against New Haven’s finest, they didn’t quite seem able to compete. Perhaps we just ate there on an off night, and the more favorable reviews are justified. But any one of the Big Three, as well as neighborhood places like Zuppardi’s and Roseland, are superior in our book.
With this in mind, we give Dayton Street Apizza one star on our five-star scale. The pizza is decent, but if you’re looking for the best New Haven pizza we would recommend going elsewhere.
Dayton Street Apizza 60 Dayton St New Haven, CT 06515 (203) 389-2454