An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Jan 13, 2014
09:26 AM
The Connecticut Table

Best Pizza in New Haven? Da Legna, Says One Top Connecticut Chef

Best Pizza in New Haven? Da Legna, Says One Top Connecticut Chef

Mara Lavitt/New Haven Register

Pizzas take 90 seconds to cook in Da Legna’s wood-fired oven.

In November, when Connecticut Magazine told the world about the new desserts "wizard" at the restaurant Community table (Ct) in Litchfield County—a restaurant favored by the likes of Conan O'Brien and Dorothy, Hamilton, founder and CEO of the International Culinary Center— that pastry chef, Tommy Juliano, offered some thoughts about his favorite places to dine in Connecticut. On the list is Da Legna in New Haven, the wood-fired pizza and gourmet Italian restaurant of his friend Daniel Parillo. With places like Da Legna being perfect havens in the winter, we went back and found the tempting New Haven Eats blog post from last summer to warm up the rest of January:

You might wonder why New Haven needs another pizza restaurant, but a visit to Da Legna will convince you there’s always room for one more.

Da Legna co-owner Daniel Parillo comes to Italian cooking honestly. His parents, Maria and Anthony, emigrated to Hamden from Caserta, Italy. Parillo grew up speaking Italian and helping in his mother’s kitchen. That led him to DeMatteo’s in Hamden, where he began his pizza passion. His father suggested that the best way to learn the business was to start his own, so in 1996 Parillo opened Portofino’s in North Madison. The long hours he put in did exactly what his father thought it would: taught him how to make an excellent pizza. After nearly a decade-and-a-half it was time to crack New Haven’s pizza scene.

Parillo opened Da Legna in December of 2011, taking over the former D’Amato’s restaurant space at the corner of Clark and State streets. It was barely up and running when a fire on the building’s second floor ended Parillo’s fledgling run, closing the business for a year.

Undaunted, Parillo and co-owner Derek Bacon took the opportunity to completely remodel the space, creating a decor all their own. The installed a Neapolitan, wood-fired pizza oven that cooks Parillo’s razor-thin pizzas in 90 seconds. It’s that oven that lent the restaurant its name: Da Legna, “of wood.” They brought in David Foster to create a myriad of salads and small plates.

Between Parillo’s pizzas and Foster’s dishes, Da Legna offers a remarkable variety of choices. Parillo, a vegetarian, is particularly proud of his vegan pizzas. “Our main goal here is that everyone can enjoy a pizza, one that is just as good as our ‘regular’ pizza.” Parillo bases his pizza on an Old World recipe, using a sourdough with natural fermentation for the base, adding fresh ingredients and importing others from Italy, such as water buffalo mozzarella from Caserta and San Marzano tomatoes.

Parillo has vegetarian and gluten-free offerings as well, and the menu lists more than 15 salads and 30 small plates ranging from grilled calamari and duck bolognese to edamame hummus and delectable gnocchi. (Above, seafood lasagna, with lobster, shrimp, crab in squid-ink pasta sheets is deliciously rich.)

eafood lasagna: lobster, shrimp, crab in squid-ink pasta sheets is deliciously rich

eafood lasagna: lobster, shrimp, crab in squid-ink pasta sheets is deliciously rich

The pizzas can hold their own with the city’s best. You can always build your own, but with Parillo’s 18 different combinations, it can be a heck of a lot more fun starting with that side of the menu. Either way, Da Legna can hold its head up with pride in the self-proclaimed pizza capital of the world.

Da Legna is located at 858 State St. in New Haven. It can be reached at 203-495-9999 and 203-562-2760. It is open seven days; Sunday through Wednesday, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Thursday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.

Best Pizza in New Haven? Da Legna, Says One Top Connecticut Chef

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