New Haven pizzerias primed for potential visit from Kamala Harris

Will the VP try one of the Elm City's iconic pies?

Photo of Nicole Funaro

New Haven makes headlines for its pizza as much as it makes its famous product. From topping The Daily Meal’s “101 Best Pizzas in America” list, to being the conclusive “pizza capital of the United States” as deemed by Barstool Sports’ David Portnoy, New Haven pizza has its brushes with the spotlight.

And with Vice President of the United States Kamala Harris poised to visit the Elm City on Friday, one more chance for New Haven’s apizza to generate headlines may be on deck — should the vice president have time for a stop at one of the area’s famed pizzerias.

For Sally’s Apizza on Wooster Street, such stops by politicians and celebrities are just as much part of its history as its iconic pies. Rob Nelson, director of operations at Sally’s Apizza, says that the favorite New Haven haunt has been frequented since its establishment in 1938 by a host of famous faces, from politicians such as former presidents John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton, to Old Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra. In fact, Nelson says Sinatra was a frequent patron of Sally’s Apizza.

“Tony Consiglio, Sally’s brother, grew up to become Sinatra’s driver and very good friend,” said Nelson. “They would shut the restaurant down when Sinatra came, he’d come in through the back door and get the restaurant to himself. When he’d perform in New York City, he’d even send Tony to get pies for after the show.”

No stranger to star sightings, Nelson said that most recently, New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman stopped to try a slice of Sally’s pizza for himself, after Barstool Sports founder David Portnoy awarded them a 9.2/10 rating in his “One Bite” series and deemed in February 2021 that New Haven was the pizza capital of the United States.

If Vice President Harris were to make a stop during her New Haven visit, Nelson said she should take Portnoy’s rating of Sally’s seriously. 
“With respect to the other amazing pizzerias, if I had to make a case, I consider Sally’s to be the perfect representation of a New Haven pie,” he said. “If she were follow the direction of the real ‘el presidente’ David Portnoy, she would stop at Sally’s.”

Vice President Kamala Harris will make a stop in New Haven on Friday, March 26, 2021, part of the administration's "Help is Here" campaign focusing on their coronavirus relief legislation.

Vice President Kamala Harris will make a stop in New Haven on Friday, March 26, 2021, part of the administration's "Help is Here" campaign focusing on their coronavirus relief legislation.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press

For State Street’s Modern Apizza, however, anticipating famous faces is not something they focus on, said owner Bill Pustari, though “thousands” have walked through the doors over the years.

“I’m not a star searcher,” said Pustari. “But if I had to pick a favorite who’s eaten here, it would be Steven Spielberg. And he’s showed up several times.”

If Modern Apizza were to add the vice president to that long list of luminaries who have graced the restaurant, Pustari said that he would be excited for her visit – and would have ready for her his classic pie.

“I would want to serve her a traditional cheese pizza,” he said. “Just keep it simple and give her a taste of a typical New Haven pizza.”

Sally’s would opt to serve its classic sauce pie plus whatever the vice president and her team were eyeing on the menu. And Nelson says Sally’s has nothing but respect for its fellow New Haven pizzerias.

“New Haven pizza wars is sort of a myth,” said Nelson. “We are all very cordial with each other and have the highest respect for every pizzeria in New Haven.”

For Pustari, the same holds true in his experience interacting with the pizzerias.

“We’re not really competitors, we’re more just friends.”

[Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana did not respond to requests for comment.]