Sally’s Apizza, one of several classic New Haven, Connecticut, pizzerias, has its eyes on Boston-area expansion. Few regional foods inspire the same level of diehard enthusiasm as pizza in New Haven — or apizza, as it’s called there, pronounced a-beetz, a nod to Connecticut’s Italian immigrants who spoke the Neapolitan dialect and brought pizza to the area. From the coal-fired, charred crust to the fact that mozzarella (“mootz”) is an optional topping, not a default inclusion, from the beloved white clam pies to the obligatory Foxon Park soda on the side, New Haven pizza is very much its own thing, separate even from New York-style pizza nearby.
Ask anyone with a remote tie to New Haven about pizza, and you’ll immediately learn if they’re team Sally’s, Pepe’s, or Modern. (There are a few others as well with loyal followings, such as Bar and Zuppardi’s, but if you watch the excellent New Haven pizza documentary Pizza, a Love Story, you’ll learn that Sally’s, Pepe’s, and Modern are essentially the big three.)
Buckle up, team Sally’s: The restaurant is eventually coming to the Boston area.
Sally’s director of marketing, Krystina Nataloni, confirms to Eater that while the company is currently focusing on several expansions within Connecticut, including a soon-to-open Stamford location, the team is also “in active discussions with leading developers in the greater Boston area,” particularly in the Woburn area about a dozen miles north of Boston.
There isn’t one particular type of location that Sally’s looks at for potential expansion, but one vital factor is that coal-fired ovens must be allowed. Back in 2015, when New Haven’s Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana was planning its first Boston-area location and Newton coal-fired pizzeria Max & Leo’s was expanding to Boston proper, pizza fans were questioning whether that kind of oven was even allowed within the city of Boston. It is, although there are strict regulations about ventilation, fuel storage, and equipment. Wood-fired pizzerias are more prevalent in the Boston area, but coal is not unheard of. For Sally’s, it’s absolutely essential.
“We would lose everything if we changed our oven,” says Nataloni. “Sally’s wouldn’t be Sally’s. That’s what turns out the best quality for us, the pizza our fans have come to know and love, so that’s non-negotiable.”
For fans worried that the oven in a new location won’t get the same results as the decades-old original, Nataloni notes that ovens for new locations have been in development for a few years now and great care is being taken to make sure that they are just like the original. “No detail has been left out,” says Nataloni. “No stone has been left unturned.”
As for the more general worry that expansion would dilute what makes an icon like Sally’s special? “Our fans can rest assured that our entire team is very hardcore about the pizza,” says Nataloni. “Our desire to keep the pizza exactly the same is very deep within our organization and within the hearts of our most ardent fans. We are obsessing over keeping it exactly the same and authentic as [founder] Sally [Consiglio] made it from day one.”
Sally’s Apizza came under new ownership a few years back (with the new owners, Lineage Hospitality, expressing an eagerness at the time to expand nationally), but Consiglio’s sons Robert and Richard are still quite involved. You’ll often see one or both onsite talking to customers and keeping an eye on things in the kitchen, Nataloni says. “They’re there for quality control.”
With new ownership, not to mention a pandemic, expansion plans aren’t the only change. Sally’s, which dates back to 1938 and remained pretty much the same for many decades, has suddenly modernized. The decidedly old-school joint (think cash-only and gruff service) now has a shiny website, a social media presence, and even online ordering and delivery. The pandemic was a driving factor behind a lot of the changes, especially delivery, but everything will continue past COVID.
While the Sally’s team busies itself with the forthcoming Stamford location, as well as several other Connecticut ones in the works in Norwalk, Fairfield, and Wethersfield, there’s a lot of excitement about getting into the Boston area next. “Everyone on our team loves Boston,” says Nataloni. “We love the history and the culture and the energy that Boston has.”
When Sally’s arrives here, it will join a small but growing group of New Haven-style pizzerias. The aforementioned Pepe’s first came to town at the end of 2015, opening in Chestnut Hill and later expanding to Watertown and Burlington. Meanwhile, Douglass Williams — chef and owner of Italian restaurant Mida in Boston’s South End — plans to open a pizzeria called Apizza in Boston’s West End, serving both New Haven-style and Roman al taglio pizza. Want a preview? He’s currently serving his take on New Haven-style pizza at the brand new Newton location of Mida.
Follow Sally’s on Instagram for updates on forthcoming locations, and stay tuned for the solidification of those hopeful Boston-area plans.
In the meantime, let the words of Eater’s former restaurant editor Bill Addison get you excited for a taste of Sally’s Apizza:
But the real killer was the tomato pie. I suddenly, truly, understood how a pizza without cheese could be a thing of glory. ... The closest comparison is probably Spain’s essential tapa, pan con tomate, but in that case the garlic is rubbed on and the tomato spooned over. Blasting the tomatoes and garlic in the heat deepened and caramelized them into something new, something elemental. The tomato’s tanginess lit up every corner of my palate. A thousand holy yesses. It made complete sense that parents with small children, college students, and senior citizens all ignored the scruffy digs and staff’s brusque ways to savor these wonders.
A thousand holy yesses. Here comes Sally’s.