Joe’s Pizza (New Canaan) – Decades of Great Pizza

When the subject of pizza arises in my travels, Connecticut is always included in the discussion as a destination. Many consider New Haven the epicenter of Connecticut pizza with the Big Three, Sally’s, Modern and Pepe’s, each creating pizzas baked in their decades-old coal-fired ovens. But throughout our state there are numerous local establishments that also create fantastic pies. Many of these pizzerias are local hangouts, some are co-located within bars, a few offer pizza as a choice on independent Italian restaurants’ menus and still others have great pizza hidden amongst higher end menu items. Joe’s Pizza in New Canaan ranks as one of those local pizzerias that has delivered fantastic pizza for decades to the citizens of New Canaan.

Joe’s (a single word is all the regulars require) has been a fixture in town for two generations. After Joe retired, his son Lorenzo (Larry to friends and neighbors) took over the peel and oven. Over the last 18 years I have enjoyed 100s of Joe’s pies and I am not alone. During lunch Joe’s is overflowing with firemen, local officials, and police officers; teenagers are constantly crowding the counter whether after school, practice, into the early evening or on any given Friday and Saturday night; and the constant ringing of their phones from late afternoon through early evening indicate many residents are enjoying Larry’s pies for family dinner six days a week. In addition you will see Lorenzo and his staff at various town and school functions; they are a fixture in town.

Larry continues experimenting with toppings, techniques and increasing the menu offerings with non-traditional pizzeria items including several varieties of “Wings.” Great pizza begins with the dough and each day Lorenzo combines his secret recipe. It is a labor of love. The end result is a delightful combination of chewiness and softness plus a very mild flavor that adds just a little taste without interfering with the other ingredients. The sauce has always been house-made and many of the toppings are also created on the premises. Each day the sauce is started with plum tomatoes which are first roasted to enhance the flavors. Then the roasted tomatoes are brought to the back where the sauce is made every day. Lorenzo also makes is the sausage, which is a balance of spiciness and fennel flavor which I love on his pizza and he roasts the peppers on premises, and fresh, never canned mushrooms are hand sliced.

Several years ago Lorenzo installed new glass enclosed circulating gas fired ovens in the middle of the floor where all can watch the pizzas as they cook. This four-tiered steel monster has pizza stones on each level and allows constant attention to the pies. The temperature gauge reads between 550-600 degrees, less than traditional coal and wood fired ovens, but this temperature works well with his dough. Whether Lorenzo or one of his trusted assistants is creating one of hundreds of pies each day, the end result is fantastic. Toppings include traditional mushroom, sausage, pepperoni, meatball, peppers, fresh tomato, as well as specialty pies that target the non-traditional pizza customer with BBQ Chicken, black olives, garlic, bacon, salami, pineapple, broccoli, ham, spinach, anchovies, eggplant, and onion. The end product is a semi-crispy, semi-pliable crust with great ingredients and oozing cheese. Joe’s technique allows for a nice crust around the circumference. On the larger pies it is necessary to apply the “fold” method while the smaller pies allow for a non-fold execution.

My recommendation…I cannot choose between these two so I order half bacon and tomato and half sausage and peppers. You gotta have diversity. Eighteen years, hundreds of pies and I still look forward to each of them, and they deliver.

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