Author, historian and architect Colin M. Caplan is a great champion of New Haven-style pizza, which the locals know, according to the old dialect spoken in New Haven’s Little Italy, as apizza. He operates Taste of New Haven and the Elm City Party Bike, leading pizza tours for both, and helped organize the New Haven section of Where To Eat Pizza as the global pizza guide’s regional expert for Connecticut. For most of his life he has been as sure as red sauce is red that New Haven has the best pizza in the world.
But that was before he traveled to Italy in December to get married and, yes, eat pizza. For the location of their destination wedding Caplan and April Amellin chose the Museo della Bussola in Amalfi, a town with two claims to fame: Its spectacular coastline is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s one of New Haven’s sister cities.
For native New Haveners like Caplan and Amellin the attachment to Amalfi runs deep: There are more than ten times as many people of Amalfi stock living in the New Haven area as there are what the New Haveners refer to as Amalfitanis residing in Amalfi itself.
Caplan ate pizza on every day of his wedding voyage, from Rome to Naples to Sorrento to Amalfi. In Naples he stopped at the legendary L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele and Pizzeria Brandi, the mythical birthplace of the Margherita pizza. “Both amazing places,” he says.
On the flight home Caplan looked down at his belly, and then out the window, gazed at the ocean dividing the old country from the new, the Italian peninsula from his Little Italy on Wooster Street, and reached this conclusion:
“The best pizza in the world, in my world of course, rests in New Haven.”
New Haven pizza was popularized in the 1920s by Frank Pepe, an immigrant from the Amalfi coast town of Maiori, 34 miles southeast of Naples. Much as I love the white clam pizza at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana and revere apizza as one of the truly great regional styles in the pizza diaspora I wouldn’t necessarily say New Haven has the best pizza in the world, in my world. But I would be crushed like tomatoes for the famous tomato pie at Sally’s Apizza, another New Haven classic, if Colin stopped believing it was.
It’s bad enough when anyone turns their back on their hometown pizza, the pizza they grew up with, the pizza they shared with their mom and dad. But when the pizza town is Amalfi’s sister city in Connecticut and the anyone is no less of an anyone than Caplan, the bond is sacred.
I don’t wish to contemplate a world where Colin M. Caplan no longer thinks the best pizza in the world – in our world – looks like this biomorphic beauty: