When it comes to pizza in New Haven there are the classics and local favorites: Frank Pepe, Sally’s Apizza, and Modern Apizza. Not as well-known is the pizzeria across the street from the city’s other famed food institution, Louis’ Lunch. Bar’s Bru Room is much younger (since 1996) than New Haven’s storied pizzerias, but it’s another place to sample the city’s signature style. There are no less than 24 topping options. The most intriguing, the reason for a Bru Room visit, is mashed potatoes.
Before getting to the main event, there are a few requisite New Haven inspired pizza topping combinations to put up against renditions previously sampled at Pepe’s, Sally’s and Modern: the clam pie, the clam and bacon, and a red pie with shrimp.
There are perils and merits to clam pies. Until Pepe came to Yonkers, New York’s best versions didn’t measure up to New Haven’s. Neither does Bru Room’s, not quite. It’s not a bad pie— you could argue that it’s better than New York’s best (minus the new Pepe). The crust is crispy about an inch out from the cornicione, with char. Clams are fairly juicy (though slightly chewy), good garlic ratio, thin crust. Hella herb. Heavy oregano. The crust just isn’t quite as good, missing a bit of soft chew.
Clam pie with bacon is always the next step. Bru Room’s bacon has typical breakfast variety taste and thickness and bits almost the size of the clams. Good move.
As with the clam pie, the red pie with mozz and shrimp is served with a lemon half. Shrimp isn’t overcooked, but not quite that barely-cooked, amaebi texture at Pepe. A spritz of lemon really zips up the sauce — tasty. Cheese congeals fast so get eating.
Mashed potatoes on bread. Ah, the ol’ doubling up on starch move. But which way, white or red? “Some people order it on the red pie, I don’t really get that,” noted the server. “It’s great on the white pie, but in this case, you want the cheese.” She was right. The pie looks a bit like it’s covered with thick béchamel. The mashed potatoes are well-seasoned and fairly creamy for having just baked in an oven. And there’s lots of garlic. Lots.
The verdict? Bru Room may have a way to go before being mentioned in the same breath as New Haven’s best pizzas, but the mashed potato pie is really good — a definite check-it-off-your list item.
Bru Room at Bar
254 Crown St.,
New Haven, CT 06511
Phone: (203) 495-8924
This post was originally published September 22nd, 2010, on the now-defunct, James-Beard Award-nominated blog AlwaysHungryNY.com.