Editor's Note: Please welcome Amy Kundrat of CTbites, who'll be checking in with intel on the Connecticut pizza scene.
It's impossible to discuss pizza in Stamford, Connecticut, without at least giving a nod to Colony Pizza (reviewed on Slice here), the home of an inimitable thin-crust pie that has been in a league of its own for 75 years. Stamford newcomer Tappo Restaurant is no Colony, and thank goodness for that.
A modern yet cozy Italian trattoria, Tappo's approach is regional Italian cuisine, with about a third of the menu given up to Neapolitan pizza worship. If the menu at Tappo was suddenly culled to that one page, a beacon of 14 pizza offerings, we wouldn't mind too much. It's not that the rest of the menu doesn't deserve its own nod—in fact, it does. But the pies at Tappo are good enough to make us believe this corner of Connecticut is serious about staking a claim to excellent Neapolitan-style pizza.
Tappo owners Joseph and Aldo Criscuolo have several Connecticut pizza joints under their belts. They chose chef Massimo Stecchi, a northern Italian who has done stints in several New York restaurants, to run the kitchen, along with manager Gerardo Mascolo running the front of the house. It all adds up to a restaurant full of not only Italian food, but also Italians who know Italian food.
The Tappo pies start with gorgeous ingredients, including an unfiltered Corato olive oil, San Marzano tomatoes, San Daniele prosciutto, homemade sausage, buffalo milk mozzarella and ricotta, and guanciale, should you wish to stray from the classic Margherita.
I say, start simple. This well-executed Margherita is not to be missed. The crust is a delicately blistered affair with just enough chew, and a flavor that shines with freshness. The marriage of tomato and melted milky mozzarella is artfully done, and each element is well-proportioned.
With this benchmark under my belt, I knew I had to meet a few of Tappo's other offerings—a list of equally rewarding yet slightly more complex pies boasting combinations of high-quality ingredients. The Pomodorini Speck Rucola e Grana was a first foray into this complexity. Layered with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella as its base, the pie does its tour of duty in the oven before being topped with thinly sliced speck, a lightly dressed lemony layer of arugula, and savory slivers of grana padano. The pie is as well-balanced as the Margherita but with a one-two punch of earthiness from the speck and grana, and spice from the arugula.
An off-the-menu request, a white pie with broccoli rabe approached perfection. Perched upon a generous cloud of cheese, well-seasoned broccoli rabe perfectly cut the considerable richness of this pizza.
The Guanciale, Patate e Olio Tartufato pie boasted that same crisply delicate crust but felt pummeled by the richness of the truffle oil. The combination of guanciale, fingerling potatoes, and truffle oil was a savory match made in heaven, albeit a heavy one. Share this pie with a friend or three.
While Tappo has an ambitious menu, and the setting invites lingering over aperitifs, insalata, and antipasti, the pizzas are reason enough for a visit. It doesn't hurt that the people behind Tappo are just as warm and inviting as their pies.