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.