Governor declares New Haven ‘Pizza Capital of America’
State and local officials and pizza lovers gathered at Ernie’s Pizza on Feb. 9 to celebrate New Haven’s pizzerias on National Pizza Day.
Tyler Odermann, Contributing Photographer
Ernie’s Pizza held this year’s annual celebration of National Pizza Day. The celebration, which included remarks from state and local officials, hosted the owners and representatives from New Haven’s various pizzerias.
Pizza, which has played a crucial role in shaping New Haven’s fame, has also helped generate economic growth in the restaurant industry. To honor its centrality to New Haven’s identity, Governor Ned Lamont took the opportunity to declare New Haven as the pizza capital of America.
The festivities commenced with a speech from Colin Caplan, the owner of the culinary entertainment company Taste of New Haven.
“This is a day to celebrate what pizza’s all about. It’s about community, it’s about sharing, it’s about the hard work of the people that stand behind me,” Caplan said.
Caplan highlighted the economic impact of pizza in New Haven, saying pizza alone contributes $100 million to New Haven’s economy, with a significant portion of that being through tourism.
Mayor Justin Elicker also spoke about the importance of the dish in driving market interest and tourism.
“It is just amazing how folks are taking a risk, investing in our community, bringing a lot of attention to New Haven,” Elicker said in his speech.
Connecticut State Comptroller Sean Scanlon highlighted the significance of celebrating the city’s most famous food.
“What we do here is a special thing that people come from all over the world to see. We should be really proud of that,” Scanlon said.
Rep. Patricia Dillon brought a bill to the House floor in 2021 to recognize pizza as Connecticut’s state food, but the bill failed to pass the Senate.
Even though the bill didn’t pass, Dillon said that she still hopes that the city’s pizzerias get the recognition they deserve.
“When I brought out the pizza bill in the house, I said I wanted to honor people who make things with their hands — the craftspeople. The people who kept us alive during the pandemic,” Dillon said. “When we were home safe, they were in the kitchen cooking.”
Despite this sense of community and unity, pizzerias across the city have been vying for the spot as No. 1 in New Haven.
George Koutroumanis, the owner of Yorkside Pizza, described this as a healthy form of competition, however.
Despite the underlying sense of competition between the pizzerias across the city, Koutroumanis said it’s all in good fun, adding that at the end of the day, the different pizzeria owners are “all friends.”
He also highlighted the difficulty of labeling one pizzeria as the best. There is much more than taste that determines a customer’s preference, according to Koutroumanis.
“Every pizza has a special palace in every person’s heart. When I came to America from Greece, I used to go to a pizza place in Waterbury,” Koutroumanis told the News. “That place has a very special place in my heart. Everyone has a pizzeria or a slice that is very special to them. So it’s very hard to say where the best pizza is.”
Ernie’s Pizza is located at 1279 Whalley Ave.