Da Legna is the best kept secret for New Haven pizza lovers. But it shouldn’t be.
Ask a friend who lives or works in New Haven for their favorite pie, and steel yourself for a slew of anecdotes, a bit of Elm City history, and maybe even a neighborhood geography lesson – Wooster v. State Street. Then, after declaring their allegiance to one of the “big three,” lean in, because your friend may end their (a)pizza diatribe with an almost conspiratorial whisper of “Da Legna,” the two-year old State Street restaurant devoted to wood-fired pizzas, Italian tapas, and a refreshing lack of pretense.
Da Legna takes its pizza style cues from both Neapolitan and New Haven style: thin and charred, yet rustic and ingredient-conscious. The approach is by design. Da Legna owner Dan Parillo grew up in New Haven but spent summers in Italy each year.
“I wanted to gear it to being right in the middle of both styles and traditions. It is kind of like a Neapolitan New Haven-style pizza,” said Dan Parillo.
Da Legna has earned its spot as a favorite among New Haven pizza cognoscenti (and Connecticut Magazine's Best Pizza in Connecticut), and as a rewarding stop for those willing to explore beyond the usual suspects. There are so many reasons to add Da Legna to your New Haven dining agenda, here are just a few:
Capricciossa: prosciutto, wild mushroom, artichoke hearts, oil cured olives, fresh mozzarella
Wood-Burning Di Fiore Oven
Da Legna is one of the few wood-burning pizza ovens in New Haven, and that imparts a singular flavor to its charred crusts, toppings, and small tapas-style baked menu items. (In case you’re wondering, Sally’s and Pepe’s use coal, BAR uses gas, and Modern uses an open flame to cook their pies).
That Sourdough Crust
The crust at DaLegna is similar to its New Haven brethren in many structural ways – it’s thin, chewy, and charred. But that's where the similarities end. The sourdough approach produces two discernible benefits. It creates lovely small pockets of air within the crust making it a bit lighter and thin yet very bread-like, and it imparts a tangy, more complex flavor. The intricacies of this dough can not be underestimated. Da Legna’s Daniel Parillo has been nurturing this particular sourdough strain for over twenty years. He would not divulge any of its details, except to admit its complexity – the fermentation, dough temperature, and timing– is an intricate process that only he knows.
“It is my little baby, I nurture it along. I really enjoy making it... I have my hands on every piece of dough that has gone out of here since we opened,” said Dan Parillo
Ingredients & Integrity
Da Legna’s two types of pies, traditional and artisanal, vary from the minimal and rustic, to the layered and complex. The common thread throughout the pizza menu is a high standard for ingredients. The pizza sauce is an uncooked San Marzano tomato sauce. Cheeses are sourced from Liuzzi, Grande, and an imported Burrata cheese used on the Margherita, that Parillo sources from his parent’s hometown of Caserta in the Campagna region of Italy. Fresh shucked clams adorn the Vongole pies, imported cured meats such as prosciutto di parma, and fresh vegetables are abundant elsewhere.
Italian Tapas c/o Chef Dave Foster
I rarely veer from the pizza menu, but when I do, I always wonder why I don’t do it more often. Their list of about twenty-four small plates and twelve salads is the perfect complement to their pies and executed at the same standard. At the very top of my list are the baked meatballs with marinara served with a housemade basil toast, as well as the Boston Bibb lettuce with golden beets, herb marscarpone cheese wontons and port wine vinaigrette. Chef Dave Foster, a well-known New Haven personality, is the creative mastermind behind this part of the menu.
“I love what I do. I really love it. And I think that all our employees here share a love for the trade. We have a a rich history here in New Haven that everyone is really proud of. To me, pizza is art you can eat….you can appreciate it with your eyes and tastebuds,” said Parillo
858 State Street, New Haven, CT