Reporter’s Notebook: Pizza month descends on Westport
In my job as a reporter for the Westport News, I cover many night meetings at Town Hall and, once or twice, have sought sustenance at Joe's Pizza & Italian Restaurant to prepare me for what I anticipate to be a particularly long meeting.
I returned to Joe’s last Thursday night (March 1)before a meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission which, of all town bodies, has the longest meetings. If pizza is the athlete’s food of journalism, Planning and Zoning is an endurance sport. My choice of grub was also informed by First Selectman Jim Marpe’s recent announcement that March is Westport Pizza Month.
A short walk from Town Hall, Joe’s is my pizza shop of choice for proximity purposes, but I also return for the cozy atmosphere tucked in the basement floor of a building on Main Street and the friendly service provided by Joe himself, who opened the shop in 2006, and will chat but also leave me alone when I so desire.
Joe’s always surprises with its single-slice pizza options and, on that particular Thursday, I got lasagna pizza with bologna sauce, ricotta cheese and basil. Yum!
Congruent with Marpe’s Pizza Month pronouncement, Matthew Mandell, executive director of the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce, announced a new event: the Great Westport Pizza Contest, in which 14 pizza-making restaurants in town will compete throughout the month in seven categories to be crowned the Best Pizza Maker in Westport.
1093 Post Road East
43 Saugatuck Ave
190 Main St
1759 Post Road East
Julian's Brick Oven
539 Riverside Ave
1460 Post Road East
383 Post Road East
540 Riverside Ave
50 Railroad Place
30 Charles St
3383 Post Road, Southport
599 Riverside Ave
243 Post Road West
143 Post Road East
Pizza-eaters who vote online in categories ranging from “best-delivered pizza” to “best gluten-free pizza” will be entered to win a free pizza from one of the winning establishments.
“March is a good time to create some activity in town, and pizza’s a warm food during a colder month,” Mandell said, and declined to name his favorite pizza shop so as not to show bias.
But I called on six Westporters who did provide their pizza recommendations.
“It’s Westport Pizza, there’s no question. They were the first real pizza place in town — opened in the mid-’60s, located downtown,” said Chip Stephens, a Planning and Zoning Commission member who grew up in town and still lives here.
Westport Pizzeria and Restaurant, as its full name reads, moved from Elm Street to the Post Road East downtown in 2014. The owner, Mel Mioli of the Mioli family, is a great guy, Stephens said, and noted Mel’s brother, Joe Mioli, represented Westport as a representative in Hartford for a time.
“Just a great family — always generous to the town in bringing pizza. Good pizza, good family place,” Stephens said.
Former First Selectwoman Helen Garten concurred. “Westport Pizza — incredibly friendly place, fast delivery and good pizza,” Garten said, adding she prefers the mushroom pizza.
Jimmy Izzo, who also grew up and still lives in town and owns Crossroads Ace Hardware on Main Street, solidified my understanding of Westport Pizzeria as the most popular pizza spot in town, at least according to my survey.
“I used to have it as a kid growing up here. It’s been here forever. It’s like a cult thing,” Izzo said, adding he especially loves the pizzeria’s traditional cheese pizza.
Izzo didn’t only mention Westport Pizzeria because he said he wants to keep everybody happy. “I love the thin crust from Joe’s and to sit down and eat Rizzuto’s (Restaurant and Bar) brick oven pizza is very good,” Izzo said.
Planning and Zoning Commissioner Cathy Walsh responded to my question with the same trifecta of Westport Pizzeria, Joe’s and Rizzuto’s and said she especially enjoys the personal pies with arugula, prosciutto and anchovies from the later.
Not all Westporters were partial to Westport Pizzeria, however.
“Angelina’s (Trattoria). We’ve been going there for 20-plus years every Friday night. We have a group that gets together and we always order from them,” Patty Haberstroh, a family programs specialist in the town’s Human Services Department and longtime Westporters, said, noting that while she’s boring and likes plain pizza, Angelina’s will make anything.
Jennifer Johnson’s, a land-use activist in town, said her family ordered pizza and a salad every Sunday night from Julian’s Brick Oven Pizzeria in Saugatuck until it closed the Saugatuck location recently, although Julian’s still has a location open on the Post Road.
Father to two young sons, Greg Kraut — who seems to be involved in most town initiatives these days — said he takes his two young sons to Planet Pizza on the Post Road, although he prefers Colony Pizza, which doesn’t have a location in Westport.
“For the good staple, right in town, really quick, Planet Pizza is the place where my kids like to go the most,” Kraut said.
Take these suggestions if you will or, until March 31, judge for yourself what’s the best pizza in Westport.