Pizza: Tollis or DePalmas

Paul Morrone |

By Thomas Morrone, CFP®, CPA

Growing up in East Haven, there was no shortage of good pizza options. It has been said that pizza from the New Haven area is some of the best in the country. Obviously, I am biased on that comment but when traveling around the country, most times, the pizza never stacks up to that available “back home”. Two restaurants that have stood the test of time in East Haven are Tollis and DePalma’s, both on Main Street in the same block. I played Biddy Basketball as a kid and both establishments sponsored teams and the two teams were rivals on the court and their pizzas were rivals at the table. I played for both teams over the years and consumed my share of “pies” from both restaurants. At the end of the season, the owners of the restaurants would have a pizza party for the players and coaches. Life was good. We lived down the street so as a family we frequented both locations and would alternate. Both places always made a good pizza. As I got older, obtained my driver’s license, my pizza experiences expanded beyond the local East Haven places. Though I have frequented Tollis occasionally over the years as an adult, I have not been to DePalma’s since I was a kid. Now, fast forward about 5 decades or so.

On a recent hot and sunny Saturday, we coordinated with some of our neighbors, Art & Nel and Jim & Robyn to go for pizza and beer. I suggested DePalma’s in East Haven. I have not been there since I was a kid and neither of our neighbors had ever been. So, we had a plan. I gave the disclaimer that it had been a lifetime since I stepped inside the building and it was going to be about the pizza, not the ambiance. Everybody understood the situation and we were then on a mission and off we went.

As we walked up the stairs into DePalma’s, the smell of pizza was welcoming. It quickly went downhill after that. As we entered the restaurant, it was quickly evident that nothing had been done to modernize or update the inside since I last was there some 50 years ago. It was not nostalgic, it was old, dirty and had an unusual smell even with the smell of the pizza that welcomed us when we were outside. Strike one! We made our way to a booth that had wooden benches. As I sat on the bench to slide in, the bench was sticky. Strike two! We all laughed about it and remembered we were there for the pizza and beer. There were several bottled beer options on the menu which was a good thing. We placed our drink order and our server returned and said they were out of some of the beers. Ok, no problem we just ordered 6 Coors Light. She came back and said, “we only have 3 beers”. It was a hot Saturday night and the restaurant only had 3 beers. Strike 3! As we were sliding out of the sticky booth to leave, the owner offered to go to the liquor store to buy more beer. I don’t think so. We walked down the street and went to Tollis without ever having a chance to try the pizza at DePalma’s.

At Tollis, we sat outside on some nice patio furniture. The entire inside and outside of the building was updated and clean. It was already light years ahead of DePalma’s. We ordered a pitcher of ice-cold beer that came with chilled glasses. We ordered 4 different pizzas and laughed the entire time about the difference in the two locations. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and the second pitcher of beer was as cold as the first. The pizzas were all delicious and lived up to their reputation. It was a night to be remembered and will be laughed at again and again.

After pizza at Tollis, we walked a little further down Main Street and went to Jennifer’s Ice Cream Shoppe for dessert. Pizza beer and ice cream, the meal of champions. Life is Good!

Until the Next Tom’s Take………………………

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