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Cero’s Pizza: Revelation on State Street

Any review of a recently opened New Haven pizza place should start with a description of the region’s pies, for the uninitiated. You should discuss the history of pizza in the Elm City, the sparring between proprietors, and the long running battle for “Best of New Haven” between Sally’s and Pepe’s. Unfortunately, caring about pizza history is boring and pointless.

All you really need to know about New Haven pizza is this: It’s cooked in hot hot hot ovens, and the crust is thin though still slightly doughier than in NYC. Toppings are purely optional, as is cheese. Some of the best pizzas I’ve had here are just crust-sauce-grated parmesan. And because of the heat of the ovens, slight charring of the crust is to be expected.

Our personal long running favorite here has been Modern Apizza, in part because they nail the formula, and in part because it’s such a cozy, friendly restaurant once you get through the 30+ minute wait out on the sidewalk. But Modern, your place in my heart has slipped, with the recent opening of Cero’s Pizza, at 974 State Street and Bradley Street.

It doesn’t hurt that this place is two doors down from my apartment. The space is ENORMOUS, with tables scattered all over in little nooks and alcoves. There also appears to be a full, separate bar, which I made a note to stop by after work one day. The staff was courteous, and Maria, our server, made a point to tell us to come by for happy hour, since we lived so nearby.

We began with a simple house salad (iceberg lettuce, and bland tomatoes that can be blamed on the time of year). We were also given some rolls, which were actually a high point of the evening all in themselves. Soft, pillowy, warm, and starchy. Jillian even described wanting to “live inside of them.” Also of curious note: dinner service was on paper plates. This could just be a touch of folksiness, but I suspect they opened the restaurant before the dish room was fully completed, and will have this ironed out shortly.

But on to the main event: The pizzas. We ordered two small, one with just mozzarella cheese, and one with sausage, mushrooms, and hot peppers, my personal favorite. They arrived quickly, and were served sidecar-style, next to the table. Every ingredient was exquisite. The red sauce was delicious, perfectly balanced between acid and sweet. The sausage was terrific, and the mushrooms fresh rather than canned. Modern Apizza could take a note, here.

What is setting Cero’s apart from the New Haven Sally’s-Pepe’s-Modern crowd, however, is the crust. Slightly thinner and crispier than you usually see in this town, with a high proportion of cornmeal to give the crust a satisfying snap. It also had the perfectly burned edges that Modern seems to have long ago left behind in favor of “blacker is better.”

In summary, you may think another pizza place is the last thing this city really needs, and in some ways, you would be right, particularly with so many masters of the craft. But Cero’s is not trying to copy any other style. They have some kinks to work out, and their prices are SLIGHTLY high ($19-$23 for their large “specialty” pies). However, their massive space, their innovative crust, their fresh, incredibly delicious ingredients, and their unbelievably friendly staff make Cero’s well worth the out-of-the-way trip. I also can’t wait to see what they do with their massive courtyard, once the weather warms up, and I will definitely be making a return trip for their happy hour.

There Is 1 Response So Far. »

  1. Hello dear Malcolm and Jillian. You have just been tagged by me for the 20 Random Things about you game.You have to write 20 Things about you and tag other 5 bloggers as well . Just check my blog for the examples. And by the way, your blog is also featured on mine.

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