First Look: White Pie Brings a Slice of the East Coast to Uptown

The brothers behind Dos Santos are set to sling New Haven–style pizzas
May 16, 2017
by Ruth Tobias

Photos by Ruth Tobias

The gist: In paying tribute to their Mexican heritage, brothers Kris and Jason Wallenta made a monster hit of modern Uptown taqueria Dos Santos. Fast forward a couple of years, and they’re ready for a repeat. Only this time, they’re celebrating their East Coast Italian roots with the Connecticut-style pizzeria they’ve talked about opening “for as long as we can remember,” according to chef Kris, whose dad Ken “had me in the kitchen from a young age, helping him bread eggplant and make tomato sauce.” In contrast to the hip, high-energy vibe of their flagship just around the corner, GM Jason says that White Pie — which should open no later than Thursday — will be a warm and cozy ode to both the New Haven parlors they grew up frequenting and their Sunday dinners at home: “This is more about community, about family, sharing awesome food and awesome wine.” 

The food: To that end, Kris sources many of his ingredients from back East, from burrata to the high-gluten flour he prefers for New Haven–style crust — “charred, smoky, yeasty, slightly sourdough.” His Wisconsin oak–fired oven will initially turn out eight types of pizza, including the namesake with mozzarella, crème fraîche, garlic, bacon, criminis and a sunny-side-up egg; they’ll be supplemented down the line by specials like the clam pie for which New Haven’s so famous. Elegantly simple salads, salumi and a few other starters such as meatballs al forno kick things off, while a quintet of seasonal pastas from sous-chef Jason Linam, who honed his skills on the line at Frasca, complete the picture (along with cannoli, biscotti and weekly specials for dessert). Linam’s inaugural selection is entirely vegetarian — think gnocchi in cherry tomato–white wine brodo — but cooler weather will bring meatier creations. That none of these items cost more than $16 may come as a surprise, but Kris says the goal all along has been “approachable food at friendly price points.”

The drinks: As at Dos Santos, the Wallentas favor a streamlined bar. That means four local beers and one cider on tap; about 14 easy-drinking wines (most by the glass); and six cocktails, from a classic Aperol Spritz to a frozen Negroni and a frosé with vermouth and strawberry purée — representing what looks to be the trend of the summer.

The space: The brothers took their design cues as well as their culinary inspiration from Connecticut’s historic parlors, and the result is as charmingly rustic as you’d expect: brick walls, whitewashed woods, logs stacked on shelves at every turn and a horseshoe counter surrounding the oven, glowing orange. Which isn’t to say the 50-seat space lacks for chic, what with custom-built furnishings that include marble-topped community tables and a fabulous ceiling sculpture Jason constructed from hundreds of wine bottles (“I lost count around 600,” he says), not to mention a 30-seat patio. In other words, whereas most restaurateurs who strive to have something for everyone manage to deliver a whole lot of nothing, White Pie could actually live up to the ideal for couples and families, scene-chasers and next-door neighbors, lovers of high cuisine and lovers of comfort food alike.

The details: 1702 Humboldt St.; 303-862-5323. Initially, White Pie will open Tuesday–Sunday for dinner only; lunch service will be added later.

Delicate hamachi carpaccio made bold with garlicky chopped-herb vinaigrette 

Speaking of garlic, the Wallentas' answer to garlic bread is the "house puff" with whipped garlic-rosemary butter

Burrata from New Haven (really) with tomatoes, basil and a drizzle of chile honey

The same honey boosts the kick delivered by pickled peppers on the Porky Porkorino with crispy-cupped sopressata. Note the uneven crust: Jason lightly rolls and then hand-stretches it on the grounds that Connecticut-style pie "should never be perfectly round"

Ricotta-herb ravioli in a roasted-crimini sugo

Beef carpaccio​ with all the classic garnishes — olive oil, arugula, Parmesan — plus a touch of walnut pesto

The wonderfully pungent Fuggetaboutit pie, with pecorino, extra garlic, oregano and kalamata olives 

The lasagna clocks in at a whopping 18 layers 

italian food
white pie
kris wallenta
jason wallenta
dos santos