I just returned to Kansas after a week in Connecticut. I went for a bellydance teacher training and was hosted by a friend who grew up here, but has since put roots down on the East Coast. My friend Pajes and her family made sure that I got a good sample of the wonderful food from the area…and there was lots of it. They are blessed with proximity to New York City, so their standards are very high and there was incredible diversity of choices, from Moroccan to regional Italian and the some of the best pizza I have ever eaten.
I ate a lot of pizza. Connecticut pizza is different, and varies from shop to shop, but one of the main differences I noticed was the quality of the crust. The crusts were challenging, thin and crunchy but still quite chewy, with a noticeably charred bottom. The sauce was minimalist, just tomatoes, salt, and garlic in most places, and the toppings were too—the basic pizza was tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella. I loved a white clam pie from legendary Frank Pepe’s, a wood-fired pizza joint with lines out the door. It was covered with garlic, herbs, and shucked whole-belly clams. The small pie was enormous, the size of a sheet pan, and so delicious and clammy that just thinking about it makes me start to drool. I also sampled a pie from Colony Grill, a little dive famous for its greasy, cracker-thin pizzas covered with pockmarked cheese. I had a sausage pie that was sparsely decorated with intense Italian sausage. Pajes ordered the one with hot oil, a spicy hot crunchy cheese bomb spiked with hot pepper infused olive oil. That pizza was marvelous, lip-scorching hot and immensely satisfying. It was a masterpiece.
I had a fantastic time, and ate many more things, not the least of which was a taste of ricotta-stuffed gnocchi with Bolognese sauce that changed the way I will forever think of pasta, and homemade pumpkin bread that I ate with goat cheese curds, and charred octopus with potatoes and roasted peppers. It was one of my best food vacations ever.