The Great CT Pizza Challenge


If you grew up in Connecticut, specifically close to New Haven, chances are you’ll throw down to defend your favorite pizza place. Or, shall we say “apizza” place. For 31 years, I have been frequenting Pepe’s Apizza of New Haven. Even more impressively, my dad has been enjoying it for 62 years, and my grandfather began eating pizza there 80+ years ago. Needless to say, we are no novices, and in fact, quite hardcore critics.

My family has debated and argued with others about their tried and true pizza joint. Modern? Get out of here. BAR? Nice try. And do not even MENTION Colony. But, the truth is…it’s all in good fun and all of the pizza in this state is quite superb. We often talk about how lucky we are to live in the land of the best pizza. But which one is REALLY the best? And how will we ever know?

That’s when a friend and I came up with an idea to do a great pizza challenge. We would order 8 large cheese pizzas from a variety of favorite (and not so favorite) pizza places in the surrounding area. It was important to have the all-time favorite spots as well as some poorly ranked pizza to even out the playing field. The pizzas would be numbered 1-8 and no one would know where we bought any of the pizzas from. Taste testers would be blindfolded, because if we are being honest, we know exactly what our favorite pizza looks like. Taste testers would give a one bite (everybody knows the rules) 0-10 score. No complicated instructions. No categories. 0-10. That’s it.

When the day arrived for the challenge we made a plan to pick the pizzas up so that they would all arrive somewhat hot at 5 p.m.. We ordered from New Haven legends… Pepe’s, Modern, and BAR. Unfortunately, Sally’s was unable to make a large cheese pizza in under two hours, so we had to replace them with another New Haven spot called Ernie’s, which I had never heard of. We also ordered from fan favorites Colony of Fairfield and Roseland of Derby. Then we picked two random places we did not know much about, Arthur Ave pizza (made at Brennan’s Shebeen of Bridgeport) and Legends in Shelton.

14 people arrived the day of the event and we were prepared for the ultimate showdown. I blindfolded 4 people at a time and brought them into the pizza tasting room. I used my daughter’s pants as blindfolds which made it a little more entertaining. As they took one bite (everybody knows the rules), they came up with their score and I placed their score into a cup that matched the number pizza they were eating.

During the pizza taste testing I did not expect to laugh as much as I did. I was watching die hard fans of pizza groan in disgust as they ate their favorite pizza, insisting it was Domino’s. I listened to people rave over the local pizza shop that we had never heard about and question the taste of the all time greats like Pepe’s. It made me wonder, do we really know our true favorite like we think we do?

When the taste testing was over, I tallied up the scores for each pizza and was shocked at the results.
Starting from the bottom…
8. Legends – Shelton
7. Modern – New Haven
6. Colony – Fairfield
5. BAR – New Haven
4. Pepe’s – New Haven
3. Ernie’s – New Haven
2. Roseland – Derby

And the winner is….

1. Arthur Ave Pizza (Brennan’s Shebeen) – Bridgeport

After all the critique, the number one winner was from a pizza shop none of us have ever heard of or been to before. What does that tell us about our palates? And what does that tell us about this diamond in the rough pizza shop?

Whether we agreed or disagreed with the results, it was all around a great night with a ton of laughs, debates, and plenty of pizza to go around.

Next time we plan to get Sally’s, Zuppardi’s, and Salerno’s in the action. We are now taking ideas for our next great food challenge. We have discussed cheeseburgers, potato chips, Mexican food, and wings. What are your thoughts?

Even though Pepe’s was not our winner, we will remain loyal customers. My two daughters had their first pizza at Pepe’s both at 6 months old. We hope their kids will too…

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Caitlin lives in Shelton with her hard-working and task-oriented husband, two opposite personality daughters, Liliana and Kinley, and her fluffy Goldendoodle, Boomer aka Boomy, Mr. Boombastic, Boombear. She is an enthusiastic kindergarten teacher and wholeheartedly believes in making school fun. Caitlin loves to drop it like it's hot on the dance floor, make the house smell scrumptious by baking a variety of confections, and travel to sunny and tropical destinations. She spends her free time going on all sorts of adventures with her girls, never slowing down or pressing pause. She adores childhood and all the ups and downs that go with it.


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