I asked Gerard Robertson, one of the owners of Coalhouse in Stamford, Connecticut, "Why coal?"
His response was that coal is a drier heat than gas—or even wood— and gets the pizzas crisper than either. The oven at Coalhouse is coal-fired, but with some wood in the mix for flavor, and is kept at about 600 degrees. This is a man who cares about pizza—he said he's "neurotic" about it.
He says that he opened Coalhouse because he "was sick of driving to New Haven and Brooklyn for good pizza." So will his pies save Stamfordites a trip out of town?
We ordered two pies, a Margherita (which they call a "Blue Sky") and one with hot oil and hot sausage. The crusts on both pies were extremely thin, very crisp (and remained so as we ate), and featured some nice charring. There was a bit too much flour on the crust of both pies, giving the pizza a slightly gritty mouthfeel and raw flour flavor.
The sauce was flat-out excellent: bright and a little sweet with good straightforward tomato taste. The mozzarella was tasty but a little overcooked in spots, and there were just a few shreds of basil on top.
The homemade sausage was very good, though unusual. You get a choice of hot or sweet sausage, and it's applied in very thin crumbles, not standard slices or chunks. The flavor of the sausage seemed almost Mexican, with a heavy dose of cumin.
Overall, I was quite impressed with the ingredients used at Coalhouse, but I wished for a more generous hand with the toppings.
At Stamford's Colony Grill (Slice review here), the hot oil pizza is delightfully greasy and spicy. At Coalhouse, the hot oil was not very noticeable. Pour it on, man!