I’m not going to lie: we were excited about Zuppardi’s.
Sometimes when you’re scoping out potential pizza place, the word on the street (or the internet, in our case) is so positive that you know you’re in for a great meal. As Roadfood.com reviewer Nick Perna puts it, “Zuppardi’s is at least as good as, if not better than, the big name apizza places in New Haven, without the long lines. Actually, I think it is the best in the state.” Add to that homemade sausage that Connecticut Magazine has dubbed the best in the state, and you can see why we suspected Zuppardi’s would be something special.
We arrived at Zuppardi’s at peak dinner time on a Saturday night, yet we were nonetheless able to grab one of a couple free tables. There were no Wooster Street crowds here—just a bunch of hungry West Haven locals looking extremely happy.
Zuppardi’s has the decor of an old-school takeout joint, with a few homey touches. A drink cooler in the corner is topped with a large sign that says “Laugh, Love, Family,” and tacky but lovable Easter Bunny figurines were stationed by the counter. The obligatory panettone, left over from the holiday season, was stationed behind a cooler bearing an array of Libby’s Italian Ice. If you’re looking for an upscale restaurant, head elsewhere, but as far as we were concerned, Zuppardi’s was legit.
Once we were seated, Stephen and I began with the usual: a one-liter bottle of Foxon Park cream soda. Placing our orders, we selected a red pie with mozzarella and a Zuppardi’s special (sausage and mushrooms). After hearing so much about the sausage quality, there was no way we could pass it up. The Connecticut Magazine “Best of 2008” article, beckoning from a nearby wall, reminded us of the sausage’s porky pedigree. When the pizzas arrived, we were wowed.
Perhaps the best thing about the pies was the crust. Zuppardi’s crust was thin in the middle but crisp and chewy on the outside, with the kind of flavor and character that you usually find only in homemade bread. Folks looking for airy pizzas should head elsewhere. With a little bit of char (more on the sausage pizza) and periodic bubbles, this crust was an absolute delight. The red pie with mozzarella was straightforward but delicious: we didn’t want to stop eating it. Light on garlic, the pie had decent-quality cheese and was topped with flavorful homemade sauce. At NHPP, we’ve realized that it’s actually harder to make a solid red pie with plain mozzarella than it is to throw a mess of toppings on something and make it taste good, so we were impressed. But the sausage and mushroom pie was even better.
Try and imagine how good Zuppardi’s sausage could be. Ok, it’s actually better than that. Sweet and juicy, the sausage on our special pie made us question whether we should ever order similar pies anywhere else. Not crumbly, grainy, or gristly like standard supermarket schlock, these pillows of porky goodness (not slices, but rather generous nubs) were packed with flavor. Lightly seasoned with fennel, they were absolutely wonderful. The only downside to the special pizza was the lackluster canned mushrooms that accompanied the pork. But when pizza is this good, small mishaps like that are quibbles indeed.
Our meal at Zuppardi’s was so good that we decided we would have to return in the future. It’s unclear whether the restaurant is better than the temples of Wooster Street, but here’s our opinion: it sure comes close, and it may even be better. Frankly, when you have pizza this tasty, the debate probably isn’t that important.
We give Zuppardi’s a four-star ranking on our five-star scale. It’s a great pizza restaurant, and if you go, be sure to order something with their homemade sausage.
Zuppardi’s Apizza 179 Union Avenue West Haven, CT 06516 (203) 934-1949