Brothers Kris and Jason Wallenta like to tell stories with food. Their first restaurant, Dos Santos Taqueria de Mexico (1475 East 17th Avenue), captures the flavors of their mom's Mexico City upbringing. And their new venture, White Pie (1702 Humboldt Street), will serve wood-fired pizza in the style of their home town of New Haven, Connecticut. The brothers hope to open White Pie this week, pending final sign-offs of the restaurant's liquor license.
"My family has always been about food," Jason explains. "The best stories for us to tell are from our youth — like the tacos and guac [at Dos Santos], and we were born and raised in New Haven."
With White Pie, he says, "we're trying to re-create that tradition from when we were kids. It's an ode to the New Haven style — salty, sweet and really light, not too much cheese."
Like Neapolitan pizza, New Haven pizza — as exemplified by the Wallentas' favorite spot, Sally's Apizza — is cooked in a wood-fired dome oven, but the styles diverge from there. High-protein East Coast flour is used (instead of Italian 00 flour); at White Pie, a house starter is used to ferment the dough for 48 hours, giving it a hint of sourdough tang. The pie rounds are started by hand and then finished in a dough roller, making for a super-thin crust with an irregular shape. High heat and a three-minute cooking time result in a crisp crust with charring around the edges — so what some might consider burned is just part of the style, adding a toasted flavor around the edge (but not on the bottom).
The menu offers eight pizzas, ranging from the Mootz, with red sauce, mozzarella, basil and olive oil (the addition of pepperoni brings the price to $13) to the Ava Angelina, a white pizza with fior di latte, ricotta, pecorino, prosciutto and arugula (topping out at $16). For appetizers, there's the House Puff, an inflated flatbread smeared with rosemary butter; burrata drizzled with Mike's Hot Honey (an East Coast product); and carpaccio sliced paper thin — either beef or hamachi.
The Wallentas also brought on Jason Linam as sous-chef; he spent seven months in the kitchen at Frasca and will be cranking out handmade pasta for White Pie, including the thin pasta sheets in a ten-layer lasagna sauced with bechamel and marinara. Other pastas on the menu include ravioli, gnocchi, cacio e pepe and fettuccini in vodka sauce. "I want the pasta to change every three to four months, so it will be seasonal," explains Kris, the chef of the two brothers.
At the bar, customers can sip a special White Pie lager made by Station 26 Brewing or choose from a frozen negroni cocktail or "frozé" — that's a rosé slushy blended in a frozen-margarita machine with vermouth and strawberry purée.
The liquor license could come as early as today, but the Wallentas aren't holding their breath. Jason says they've fluctuated between frantic construction and long waits, but the last few weeks have been nonstop. "We've been working around the clock to get this done," he says. That includes building much of the decor with the help of their father, Ken Wallenta — and Jason built a wine-bottle chandelier with hundreds of back-lit bottles suspended in an undulating pattern from the ceiling.
Once open, White Pie will be open Monday through Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m. Keep reading for more photos.
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