Monday, January 19, 2015

Mike's Appiza in West Haven, CT-must try asap!

I grew up in West Haven.  Somehow I never tried Mike' appiza even thought Mike was a neighbor of ours.  I will make it my first stop next time I get back to West Haven.  In the meantime, I'm having a 60th birthday party at Urbn Pizza in North Park on Saturday afternoon on Feb. 14th.  Come join us.

Stolen from a Yelp review by Joe C from Madison, CT:

Here is a link to the Yelp page

A lot of people talk about New Haven style pizza THIS and New Haven style pizza THAT. But ask them to describe New Haven style pizza and except for the usual "charred crust" response, you're likely not to get much else out of them. That's because New Haven style pizza is kinda complex and somewhat difficult to describe. Some traits of it are noticeable like the charred crust but other traits are very subtle. In many ways it's like New York style, but in some ways it's not.

Exhibit #1: take a look at my photo of the whole pie. THAT'S a New Haven style pizza. You cannot see the underside but it is slightly charred with little bits of burnt "who-knows-what". I like the burnt "who-knows-what". It adds a smokey flavor and is just the result of not continuously scraping the oven. On the top of the pizza you will see multiple bubbles and every bubble is blackened (some say burnt). Also, the mozzarella cheese is grated and not sliced.

Not evident in the photo is a good supply of tomato sauce. The amount is enough to make your hands messy and get your shirt and pants into trouble (if it all slides off your slice). Unlike its New York cousin, New Haven style pizza is typically more messy to eat. Sometimes it can be a big slop fest. But any good chef will tell you good food is almost never neat. That's something our NY friends don't understand and will often judge a slice by it's "neatness". Which as a long time New Havener boggles my mind. They'll also load up on lots of toppings, eventually turning their pizza into a big casserole. Take a look at all the toppings in my photo. Yup, there are none. That's because a good New Haven style pizza can stand by itself without toppings.

So how's Mike's apizza? It's very good. It's not the best pizza in the area, but it's very good and is probably one of the better pizzas in West Haven. I like it because it's slightly thicker than Zuppardi's. That reminds me, here's one more thing about New Haven style pizza; some people will say it is thicker or thinner than NY pizza. The truth is it can actually be both. New Haven style pizza can either be thick or thin depending on who is making it. Mike's apizza is more in line with the thicker styles of Grand Apizza and Ernies Pizza.

Crust, sauce and cheese were all good.

The interior of Mike's is a little hokey. I mean it's dark, there's an in-your-face fish tank, and there's odd looking diamond plate lining the walls. Plus, there's a total of three separate rooms which make its layout kinda confusing, especially if you have to pick up a pizza at the pick-up window.

So how's service? Eh. From my little communication with the pizza makers they don't seem to be the most hospitable people in the world. Unfortunately I think I've received more warm feelings from a wet rag.
  • Mike's Apizza & Restaurant - West Haven, CT, United States
  • Mike's Apizza & Restaurant - West Haven, CT, United States

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Buona Forchetta: A Taste of Naples in South Park

Sometimes the best places are the hardest to find.  Buried deep in the recesses of South Park sits a great little Italian restaurant and pizzeria.  Buona Forchetta.  A friend of Kyle's recommended it and we thought we would check it out.

Keep in mind, my pizza quest stems from my hailing from near New Haven, CT-home of arguably the best pizza in the world.   I suffered through a couple of decades of a pizza drought in San Diego, CA where people think Fillipi's is good pizza.  It's not.  It's average. It's doughy and its filling.  Half way through the first slice and I'm done.  It's not good enough to justify the calories.  That's actually my barometer for good pizza.  I'm not overweight but I could easily be.  I'm very careful about what I eat.  We avoid processed foods, eat natural, fresh local vegetables and limit our sugar.  When I treat myself to pizza it had better be good.  I know it's good if I say "screw it" and down more than two slices.  I'm very good at quitting before I'm stuffed.  I don't mind stuffing myself at Pepe's, Zuppardi's, Sally's or Modern in Connecticut.  I still need to try Mike's in West Haven.  In San Diego, so far, I'll pig out at Urbn, Bronx, Cafe Calabria, and now Buona Forchetta. 
I need to try Pizzeria Bruno again.  And there are many more. The drought is over.  Landini's and Napizza in Little Italy do a good job.  
I'm sure there is a story behind Buona Forchetta's authentic oven

My New Haven pizza background does not make me an expert.   I just know that I love it and I need it.  I've never been to Italy, so I have no expertise when it comes to authentic Neapolitan pizza.  I have had pizza in other countries in Europe. It was very good.  The point is I have a bias. The bias is:

But back to Buona Forchetta.  I have to believe this is close to what you would find in Naples. The owner is from Italy, as are most of the staff.  Our waiter certainly was.   We arrived around 6:00pm or so.   There was a line of people waiting to be seated and every table was taken.  The patio was full.  We would be eating outside on the patio because we had our dog, Roo, with us.  

I recognized an old co-worker from my Merrill Lynch days.  We caught up.  He highly recommended we order the artichokes as an appetizer.  I have to be honest. That didn't particularly excite me.  We had a 45 minute wait.  In the meantime we talked to people, window shopped at the neighboring stores and took Roo around the block. 

Seinfeld, party of 4!   Actually it was Steve party of 4, if you count Roo.  We were seated, outside.  It was a beautiful evening.  The sun was just going down.  Jets were flying overhead were just off of the flight path.  We watched the 7:00 pm daily British Airways 747 come in.  The restaurant is far enough away from the flight path that the noise wasn't an issue.  

Our Italian waiter greeted us.  Took our drink orders and returned with wine and a Peroni for me.  

The last piece of the Artichoke appetizer.  We fought over this one.
The patio was perfect.  I'm afraid it was pretty loud inside.  

There were three of us; me, Kyle and her mom, Mary.  We ordered the artichoke appetizer and two pizzas, the Regina Margherita and the Alexa.  The Margherita came with 
Buffalo mozzarella, Tomatoes, basil and extra virgin olive oil.  
Regina Magherita

The Alexa had rapini, scamorza, house made fennel sausage and EVOO.  Rapini is a small, bitter broccoli.   Scamorza is a smoky, cow's milk cheese similar to mozzarella.  

Before the pizza arrived we got the artichoke appetizer.   I don't know what that did to it but it was amazing.  There were four artichokes. Pretty much the heart and the stem.  It was soaked in an incredible olive oil and garlic mixture.   Order the artichoke appetizer. 

Our Italian waiter delivered the pizzas.  I asked for grated Parmesan.   He looked at me like "really dude?".  I was like, "is that not done?"  It was fun and light, but he let me know that this sacred pie really should not be desecrated with the scourge of this filthy condiment.  I might as well have asked for catsup.  He followed up with letting me know the customer is always right and he would be happy to oblige me.  I relented letting him know I would accept his recommendation.   I don't think it mattered one way or the other.   I always put Parmesan on my pizza.  I didn't this time.   I've never heard of this.  I googled it but can't find anything that says this is " a thing". 

 I loved the Margherita.  Easily comparable to the pizza we had at Cafe Calabria the week before.  The crust was a little bit better here.  Again,the pizzas were the smaller, individual size pies.  Three of us has no problem finishing the two pizzas. People who have bigger appetites are going to need more. 

The Alexis was delicious as well.  For me it was better with out the rapini.  I found it bitter and not a great topping.  I took it off and are it separately.  The sausage was exquisite. 

An unsung hero was the Peroni.  It was perfect with the setting sun and great authentic Neapolitan pizza. Of course when you forgo New Haven pizza you forfeit your right to Foxon Park Birch Beer. 

I'm really enjoying this explosion of quality pizza in this town.  I still look forward toy pilgrimages back to Pepe's et al, but it great to know I don't have to go far to find a great pizza.  I just have to look and work a little harder. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Caffe Calabria in North Park-a Delightful Surprise

How our groupon helped us find a great new pizza joint. 

There are so many great eateries in San Diego, both new and established. We prefer quaint,  unique one of a kind places.  Pizza hasn't really been a priority lately. I took a trip back to Connecticut a few months back and made sure I got to some of the best pizzerias on the planet. This time it was Pepe's and, for the first time ever for me, Modern Pizza in New Haven. I need to try Mike's in West Haven next chance I get. 

It hardly seemed worth the effort to look for a new spot here in San Diego.  We definitely are no where near the "pizza belt". The odds of finding worthwhile pizza are not 

My wife was on her way home from work tonight.  After a long week of beautifying the lucky women of San Diego she deserved a nice dinner dinner and drink. We were looking for a fun happy hour and came up with Tom Hamm's Lighthouse on the harbor. We'd just been there for dinner a few weeks ago to celebrate our 26th anniversary. Our first date was there in 1986 at a friend's wedding.  I know this because Kyle(my wife, she's a girl) tested me a week earlier and I failed.  I won't forget that one ever again.  

It turns out Tom Hamm's happy hour, which by the way features $1 oysters , ended at 6:00pm.  We didn't have time to get there so the hunt was on.  

"What do you feel like?"  

"I don't know, what do you feel like?"

"Why do I always have to decide?"

"Ok, then how about sushi?"

"Naw, I'm not feeling sushi tonight"


Kyle had a groupon for pizza at a place called Brooklyn Pizza.  Never heard of it but why not?

So we headed over there. It was a small shop in a tiny strip mall at the corner of Texas and University. Next to the Olympic Diner. There was nothing exciting about the place from the outside.  One quick look and we decided we would save the groupon for another time.  Take out perhaps.  I'll let you know if it's any good when we try it. 

We were almost in North Park by now.  Our favorite pizza in town is Urbn Pizza. The owner, Jon Mangini has done a nearly flawless job of bringing New Haven to San Diego.  He has the two locations for Urbn, one in North Park and the other in Vista.  In addition, he owns Basic Pizza, near Petco Park.  Basic was just named Best Pizza in SD by SD Magazine.  I've never tried it. Not yet anyway.  Must go soon. 

So we get to the heart of North Park.  Man has that place changed, for the better, since we moved away a decade ago. The place was hopping. 

Parking was a bear. We ended up parking in the library parking lot after a neighbor told us it would be ok.   We walked a couple of blocks to University and came around the corner to Urbn.  The place was crazy. It was jam packed.  There is no recession in North park.  We found out it would be an hour and a half to be seated, an hour just to order a pizza.  

Plan C. We whipped out our phones and started looking
at nearby places on Yelp. Kyle found an Italian place called Il Postino.  We walked a few more blocks. Poked our heads inside.  It didn't excite us.  

Next door to Il Postino sits Caffe Calabria.  I've heard great things about this place, but only about their coffee. They were recently  voted best the coffee house in town, again by SD Magazine.  We peeked into the place.  I had no idea they were a full-on restaurant and pizzeria.  Just inside the front door was a guy rolling dough and working the pizza oven.   It looked interesting and we were getting pretty hungry so we stayed.  

The guy making the pizzas was right out of central casting.  When I first started watching him I mentioned to Kyle I thought the dough was pre rolled. It looked way too perfect.  Then we watched him proceed to make more.   He pulled clumps of dough, rolled it, sprinkled it with flour, pounded it and shaped into flawless pies. 

We ordered some red wine and a $5 insalata verde.  Best five dollar salad I've ever tasted.  Kyle ordered the pizza, a Quattro Stagioni.   All the pizzas are made Neapolitan style.  

Quattro Stagioni means Four seasons - organic san marzano tomato, prosciutto cotto, fior di latte, mushroom, artichoke, black olive, grana.  The sauce was quite possibly some of the best I've ever tasted- rich, just the right touch of sweetness.  The toppings were arranged into quadrants on the fairly small sized pizza. Every pizza served was more of a personal sized one.  I'm not sure, but I don't think they serve larger sized pizza. . 
We shared one and it was the perfect amount for two people who don't eat a lot.  The table of four next to us each had their own pizza.  We would have most certainly ended up taking half home for leftovers had we ordered one each. Between the salad, which we also shared and the small pizza we were perfectly satiated with just enough room to head down the street to Heaven Sent for a tasty dessert. 

Between the sauce and the delicious fresh toppings of organic tomatoes, prosciutto, artichokes, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese this pizza was nearly perfect.  The thin crust was tasty, but a bit soggy for my taste. I prefer it crispy and slightly burned. But it couldn't diminish the other flavors. 

The atmosphere has very a European feel.  We could have easy been sitting in a small bistro in Italy.  

One of the first pizza places I tried when I started this hunt was Pizzeria Bruno on Park Avenue.  I wasn't initially pressed, but I think it is worth a trip back to check it out again.  The oven and the style of pizza was very close to what we had at Caffe Calabria.   

Being from Connecticut has been a blessing and a curse.  My standard for a worthwhile pizza us high.  Very few places can stand up to the challenge.  Caffe Calabria stands up to the test. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Urbn Revisited....Again!!

Man is this good pie.  I'm gearing up for a visit to the East Coast in a few weeks and I can hardly wait to get to New Haven(or West Haven) to treat myself to Pepe's, Sally's or Zuppardis.  I may try to hit Modern this time, since I've heard a lot about it, but I've never been there.

We are hosting a Swedish hockey player for the San Diego Gulls Junior team(18-20 yr olds).  He arrived last week and I've been introducing him to the USA and to San Diego.  First stop was In N' Out Burgers.  We hit Luche Libre on Washington St. for tacos....but the highlight for me was showing him what good pizza is...

My first and only choice was Urbn Pizza on University Ave. in North Park.  Of course the Urbn in Vista is just as good if not better, but too far for me.  If you've read anything I've written, you will know that Urbn is my favorite Pizza restaurant in town.   I know it's good, because, in addition to recreating the New Haven Napoletano style of pizza, I can't stop myself from eating once I start.  I can down a half of a large pizza in one sitting if I want to.  Usually,  I try to restrain myself and save 2 or 3 slices to take home for eating cold out of the fridge or reheated in the toaster oven.   When I eat most other pizza's in San Diego, I can barely finish 1's just not usually good enough to waste the calories.   Most of the pizzerias I've reviewed in previous columns are good and warrant at least 2 slices, but Urbn takes the "pie".

So Ludwig, our guest Swedish hockey player, and I ordered a large cheese with sausage on 1/2, bacon on 1/2 and was de-freaking-liscious.  I loved it.  Ludwig was impressed.   It was everything I would expect and hope for...sloppy thin pizza with a tasty crunchy crust.  Perfecto!   Foxon Park Birch Beer ....mmmm!!!   One caveat.  $30 plus tip for a large pizza with 3 toppings and 2 drinks.  Not cheap.

My mouth is watering thinking about scarfing down pizza in New Haven...tempted to head back to Urbn for more, but I'll hold off.  

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

New York vs. Chicago

We recently visited a couple of Pizza Joints in town that I've been hearing good things about.  Our first stop was at Bongiornos Pizza in Poway.  My friend, Howie from the Scripps Ranch Dog Park has been telling about this place for Months.   I've been meaning to try it for a while now and since we were just preparing to move out of the Ranch, we jumped at the chance to check it out.

Bongiorno's is a funky little dive in a non-descript strip mall in just off of Poway Road.  I would never have tried it without the recommendation.  I wasn't disappointed.  It's a fine example of a decent New York pie.  Thin crust, crispy, good sauce and cheese....definitely worth it if you are in the area.  Eat it there if you can.  I don't know how well it would travel.  They sell by the slice.  Very good but I'm not sure how far I would travel to eat there.  Great find for a local inland north county spot tho. 

The restaurant is decorated with all kinds of New York City decor.  Friendly staff.  Try it if you are in the area.

 We recently moved to Mission Hills area and are thrilled with the abundance of eateries in the area.  Another friend, also from the dog park, recommended a place in Hillcrest called Lefty's Chicago Pizzeria.  You may recognize the building.  It is the location of the original Phil's Barbecue before he relocated to the Sports Arena area.

As a New Englander, I never thought much of Chicago Style, deep dish pizza.   I figured it would be too filling and never had the desire to try it.  I'm not sure, but I may have tried it in a mall or an airport one time, but either way I've never been a fan.

So we go in...there's a huge line.  A long wait to be seated.  The place was abuzz with eager diners.  We gave our name and placed our order and hung out, enjoying the energy and ambiance.  We ordered slices.  I didn't want to risk buying an entire pie since I probably wouldn't care for it any way.  They also have New York style, thin crusted pizza and a large pasta menu.  We ordered 1 of each slice and a pasta dish to share.

I was amazed at how good the deep dish slice was.  The New York slice was really good and easily comparable to most of the decent pizza we've found in our quest.  I would order it again.  But the Chicago style was a complete surprise.  Even though it was deep dish, the crust was surprisingly tasty and not too filling.  What delighted me the most was the chewy cheesy filling and tomato sauce was amazing.   Notice the sauce is on top, covering the cheese.  I'm looking forward to another trip soon.  I'm still a New Haven pie junkie, but this was damned good pizza.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Landini's Pizzeria, In the heart of Little Italy

Had a chance to sit and enjoy a slice of pie at Landini's Pizzeria in Little Italy earlier today. A fine example of New York style pizza. It was pretty good. I still prefer Bronx Pizza on Washington Street for my favorite NY Style pizza in town and of course, I'll always go for the New Haven Style of Urbn Pizza in North Park and Vista.

Of course there is the ambiance and buzz of Little Italy, so the atmosphere adds to the experience. That's something you don't get everywhere.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Has My Quest Ended

Urbn Pizza on Urbanspoon

Well, with Urbn Pizza in Vista and North Park and the recent news that my daughter will be attending Uconn(with Pepe's Pizza only 30 minutes away from the Storrs Campus) has my search for the ultimate New Haven pizza come to a happy ending?

For the past few months we've bounced back and forth between the 2 locations of Urbn in San Diego County; Vista and North Park.  Mostly, because the pizza is so good and the closest thing to eating at Sally's, Pepe's or Zuppardi's that I can find in San Diego.  Also, because I haven't heard of much else.  We keep meaning to get to Naked Pizza in Hillcrest and Bongiorno's in Poway.

If you have any recommendations, please pass them on.