Located in pistol-wavin’ New Haven, Connecticut, the self-proclaimed pizza capital of the world, Modern Apizza brandishes a big, old, coal-fired brick oven and a street-filling queue that rivals both the oven’s size and age. Often mentioned in the same breath as New Haven’s iconic Pepe’s and Sally’s, Modern Apizza claims to have served the best pizza and calzone in town since 1934 and conveniently so, we’ve got the chops to test that very claim.
Establishment. Modern Apizza has the familiar ambiance of a wood-paneled den circa 1973 with a line stretching into the street on a typical Friday night (apparently a prerequisite for New Haven pizzerias) and a severe lack of parking. Framed by wretched Red Sox memorabilia, this restaurant offers a quick glimpse of its oversized coal-fired oven at the front counter amongst a thorough spackling of superfluous chowderhead propaganda. Misguided loyalties aside, Modern is otherwise marginally comfortable (cozy like a cafe…), albeit being a bit outdated and tremendously cramped (…or cozy like a basement). The service somehow managed to be personable and quick as well as snippy and mind-numbingly stupid, unable to answer simple questions like, “how long is the wait?” or “what is your best pizza?” and inexplicably throwing down full glasses of water on adjacent tables, splashing our party in the process. Modern’s menu consists of a limited variety of Italian appetizers and entrees, as well as sandwiches and calzones in addition to traditional apizzas, apizza specialties including crabmeat, clam, tuna, and both Italian and Veggie “Bomb” variants, and the infuriating overuse of the locally accepted term “apizza.”
Pizza. This pizza (or apizza, rather) did not exactly blow us away. In fact, it was quite average in light of what New Haven has offered up thus far. Founded on an oven-blistered, chewy, and uncharacteristically floppy crust, this (a)pizza was incredibly cumbersome and sloppy to eat while being (almost perplexingly) perfectly thin. The sauce was very simple, lightly seasoned and carrying the slight sweetness and unmistakable tang of crushed tomatoes. Unfortunately, it was in severely short supply and was thoroughly masked by the salty notes and golden brown smokiness of the high quality cheese that topped it. Further muted was the sauce in the presence of our toppings of choice: average but salty sausage and boring, flavorless, bring-nothing-to-the-table, waste-of-a-topping mushrooms. The problem with this pie was balance: an overpoweringly bad texture, a virtually dry crust, and overportioned cheese that killed the clean subtleties of an otherwise good sauce combined to create an average (a)pizza and proof that a coal-fired oven located in New Haven, CT does not necessarily spit out good pies.
The bottom line. While New Haven-style by definition, Modern’s haphazard, off-kilter “apizza” does not exhibit the unique qualities of a true New Haven pie, let alone those of a good one.
Hits the Spot: 6.5/10
Large Cheese: $14.00