More than 90 years ago, Dominic Zuppardi, an immigrant from Italy and a veteran employee of various bakeries specializing in artisan Italian breads, opened his own bread bakery in New Haven, Connecticut, with his wife, Angelina. He called it Salerno’s Bakery, but it would eventually get a new name that would become legendary in the pizza industry: Zuppardi’s Apizza.
When Dominic suffered a stroke in the late 1940s, his son Anthony took over the business. By then, apizza (pronounced abeeetz) had been introduced and sold alongside the well-loved loaves. Eventually, though, Anthony had to choose one or the other, and pizza—by this time becoming more popular—won the battle.
In 1960, as Anthony and his wife Frances grew the business, they moved Zuppardi’s to West Haven, taking over and remodeling an old laundromat, where the pizzeria remains today. “We grew up above the restaurant and lived there most of our lives,” recalled Lori Zuppardi, Anthony’s daughter and current co-owner with her sister, Cheryl Zuppardi Pearce, in a 2013 interview with PMQ for the Pizza Hall of Fame. “It’s been our way of life.”
More recently, Cheryl told NBC Connecticut that she started making pizzas at the shop when she was just 10 years old. She noted that the pizzeria still uses her grandparents’ recipes.
The women-owned pizzeria has incorporated a few newer toppings (think Buffalo chicken and broccoli rabe) to satisfy modern customers since the old days, but the menu has remained largely the same. The pies are carefully crafted in the traditional New Haven style, with a slight char developed on the brick oven-baked crust.
Customer favorites include the Traditional Plain Pie, known for being Anthony’s favorite and featuring a “healthy amount of tomato sauce and grated Peccorino Romano,” as well as the Spicy Shrimp Casino (a white sauce, mozzarella, shrimp, hot cherry peppers, bacon and garlic).
But there’s also the New Haven-style classic, the Fresh Clam pizza, considered one of the best in the country. It’s a white-sauce pie made with shucked-to-order Little Neck clams baked on fresh dough with a mixture of garlic and spices. Eater.com has said Zuppardi’s clam pizza is simply “on another level,” adding, “The sweetness of fresh Little Necks mingling with parsley, dried herbs, and garlic is vibrant on the chewy, thick crust.”
In addition to opening locations in Ansonia and Derby, Connecticut, the Zuppardi’s reach has expanded through frozen 10″ pizzas sold in local convenience stores and bars and for nationwide shipping via Goldbelly. The family has also added two food trucks—the Zupp’s Truck for catering and, in March 2023, the new Mobile Slice Shop for events at colleges and universities and music venues.
“Our customers have turned into family; they’ve been with us through thick and thin,” Lori Zuppardi told PMQ in the 2013 interview. “Those personal relationships we’ve developed say a lot for the business.”
Of course, larger entities have also helped spread the word. Zuppardi’s has been singled out on major TV networks and in travel guides as the best pizza in Connecticut and has tallied numerous awards in the local press. “We’re proud of our awards, our family and our kids, and we value every customer,” Lori added. “It’s nice to be able to work with a smile on your face every day. You just have to be prepared to work—and be humble and grateful for everything.”
This article has been edited and updated from the original version appearing in the October 2013 issue of PMQ.