I thought I had lost this photo of Sally's Apizza matriarch Flo Consiglio in a hard-drive crash. But I was able to recover some files from my camera's memory card today. Flo is a real character, as I found out during a recent visit to Sally's. But more than that, she's what our man Ed Levine calls a "Keeper of the Flame," a direct link to some of our country's fading food heritage. Here, after the jump, I excerpt what Ed wrote about Mrs. Consiglio in the "Keepers of the Flame" chapter of his book Pizza: A Slice of Heaven.
According to his widow, Flo, who now runs the show at Sally's Apizza, the late Sally (Salvatore) Consiglio was "gifted in many ways. If he could have afforded it, there would have been many fields open to him."
Pizza lovers are extremely thankful that Sal Consiglio utilized his considerable gifts in making perfect pies, with a slightly chewy, charred crust and just enough sauce and cheese for balance. Sally Consiglio perfected his pizza-making craft as a teenager in his uncle Frank Pepe's pizzeria (Sally's mother was Frank Pepe's sister Filamena). Flo, who met Sally when they were in grammar school, said that he was so small when he started making pizza that he had to stand on a box to knead the dough.
Sally worked for Frank for four years until his father became ill, forcing Sally to become the principal breadwinner in his family. Needing to make more money, Sally opened his eponymous pizzeria in 1938, when he was 18. His mother, whose homemade pizza Sally adored, had to take the liquor license out in her name, because Sally was too young. Flo insists that even though her husband opened a couple of hundred yards from his uncle's pizzeria, there was never any bad blood between the two.
Sally and Flo worked 18 hours a day for many years, turning out pizzas in their coal-fired brick oven for the Italian-American community that settled in New Haven to work in the local factories. Until he died, 40 years after he opened the place, Sally Consiglio made every pie the Consiglio family sold, with mozzarella and sausage made locally, and fresh garlic and thyme on the tomato pies, made without mozzarella (above, middle). Now Sally's two sons, Richard and Robert, are the pizzaioli, and their pies are every bit as good as their dad's. What's truly remarkable is that in the seven decades Sally's has been in business, only three people, Sally, Richard, and Robert Consiglio, have ever made a pizza there. Talk about an owner-occupied pizzeria.
Sally's tomato pie, made with the aforementioned fresh herbs, California canned tomatoes, and freshly grated pecorino Romano, is a revelation. It's a model of pizza flavor and texture balance. The absent mozzarella is not missed at all. And if you're lucky enough to be at Sally's in the summer, Flo and company make a great pizza with fresh local tomatoes, grated Romano, fresh basil, and just enough mozzarella.
The clam pie at Sally's, made with canned baby clams, is the only pie made there that doesn't belong in the great pizza pantheon.
"It's just pizza," Flo says, "and Sally knew that. But there was a lot of pride and passion that went into every pie Sally made, and I know we try to live up to his standards every day."