Summer is road-trip season, so we're taking a culinary tour of America. But because Portland is a city of immigrants from other states, we don't have to leave town to do it. We're traveling to 50 Portland restaurants to try one distinctive food from each state. Our 50 Plates tour continues with New Haven style pizza from Connecticut, which joined the union on January 9, 1788.
The state: Connecticut, which is sort of the opposite of California. This is not where the bomb ass hemp be. You may occasionally find a dance floor empty. They don’t wear Chucks but Ballies, and don’t riot but rally. The girls are relatively forgettable and are not known to melt popsicles.
The food: Apizza, the famous New Haven-style pie often regarded as the best pizza in the world. It’s a riff on the traditional Neapolitan, with a thin, chewy and tangy crust that’s cooked hot and fast, often over coal. The progenitor, Frank Pepe, opened in 1925 and is most famous for mozzarella-free plain pies topped with tomato and ground pecorino, and for a white pie topped with chopped garlic and littleneck clams on the halfshell.
Other dishes considered and rejected: The B.M.T., the most popular sandwich from the state’s native Subway chain, Milano cookies from the state’s native Pepperidge Farms, a burger in honor of Louis Lunch, pretender to the Throne of Hamburg.
Get it from: Southeast Hawthorne’s Apizza Scholls, which like its Atlantic-side neighbors, models its pies closely on the Old World originals, and ends up with an incredible pizza built on a character-rich crust. The dough gets a long, slow ferment and goes into a super-hot electric oven monitored with infrared. It comes out crisp but pliable and kissed with char. After that crust and bright sauce, the toppings are almost perfunctory. In New Haven, mozzarella is considered an extra topping, but Apizza Scholls pies come with with mozz. Among the many Scholls policies there’s a prohibition on putting more than three toppings on your pie, which would slow the cooking time beyond what the crust is designed to accommodate. The best pie only has two: Mama Lil’s hot peppers and crumbles of housemade sausage.