Behind the Net Pizza @ The Darien Ice Rink

Amy Kundrat
An affinity for hockey or a hot tip was the only way you’d discover Behind the Net, a concession stand in Darien’s ice rink that is serving up slices of New Haven style apizza heaven—until now.

Behind the Net opened on September 1, 2010 in the concession space adjacent to the busy suburban ice rink just beyond Darien’s Post Road.  Home to dozens of youth hockey games and practices, the rink also welcomes open skate nights and is teeming with families, practically guaranteeing a hungry audience. Thankfully for us, word soon spread that mere steps from the ice was purportedly some real-deal New Haven pizzaa pizza style characterized by an adherence to a thin crispy crust, decent charring from a super hot oven, fresh San Marzano tomato-based sauce, and mozzarella.


Behind the Net certainly sports the New Haven street cred, the culmination of the vision of a native New Haven restaurant owner and a one-time Pepe’s pizza maker. Billy Ferguson is Behind the Net’s owner and grew up in New Haven enjoying weekly jaunts for Wooster Street pies after his own trips to the rink as a kid. Sealing Behind the Net’s pedigree is pizzamaker Derek Furino.


Furino also grew up in New Haven, capitalizing on his pizza proximity and logging ten years in the kitchen at Frank Pepe's Pizzeria Napoletana. He began by washing dishes as a 15 year-old, working his way up to making dough and firing their thin-crust coal-fired pies that first made Wooster Street famous. With over ten years at Pepe's in both the original New Haven and Fairfield location, Derek is the constant fixture at the rink, working alongside his teenage son when I stopped in for my first taste.

Upon my first visit to any pizza joint, and I feign purist, opting for a plain cheese or a Margherita as a benchmark. These plain cheese pies at Behind the Net are textbook and memorable. The layers of thinly charred crust with a slick layer of oil along its crust, paired with the fresh tang of the sauce and a thin layer of mozzarella will net you a satisfying crowd-pleaser. From here you’re going to want to up the ante and try the white clam available on Fridays and Saturdays, another nod to New Haven, or any of the other twenty five toppings available. Behind the Net also does one heck of a Colony-inspired hot oil pizza using olive oil infused with serranos, jalapenos and habaneros.

All the dough is made on premise with what Derek calls a "modern take on a double proof process" using wet yeast. He admits to constantly tweaking his recipe based on the weather to get the dough consistency just right. The result is an astoundingly uniform and very thin pie that stands up to most toppings you can throw at it.  It’s firm, yet still quite pliable.

The Bakers Pride ovens used at Behind the Net aren’t the coal-fired ovens of Wooster street but are lined with brick and can easily crank to just over 600 degrees. The simplicity of the propane-fueled oven stresses the need for simple ingredients and Derek proves you still can get a decent char out of them.

Behind the Net is slinging pies that Darien locals swear are New Haven-style pizza and I am tempted to agree, but my gaze turns south as well. Clearly inspired by New Haven, Behind the Net equally embraces the thinly pliable pizzas produced by the gas-powered ovens of New York’s famous and inimitable pies. And geographically this makes sense. Behind the Net is one part New Haven and one part New York, with all of Darien reaping the rewards.

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