A Brooklyn Brewery Now Has New Haven-Inspired Pizzas on Tap
The owners of Grimm Artisanal Ales have opened Lala’s Brooklyn Apizza in East Williamsburg
Though perhaps not as recognized nationally as Kansas City is for ribs, Chicago is for Italian beefs or Philadelphia is for cheesesteaks, New Haven is synonymous with pizza for those in the know. The thin, oblong pies are coated in Pecorino and olive oil and charred before being pulled out of ovens throughout the third-largest city in Connecticut, most notably on Wooster Street.
Known as apizza within city limits, New Haven’s Neapolitan-inspired pies can be served with or without tomato sauce and cheese and have been topped with everything from clams to mashed potatoes.
During their days brewing beer at since-closed Paper City Brewery in Massachusetts because they didn’t have a spot of their own, Grimm Artisanal Ales founders Lauren and Joe Grimm would often stop in New Haven to get a pie and go eat it in the park on their way back to Brooklyn. “For every batch of beer, there was also pizza lunch,” says Joe, who became familiar with New Haven’s apizza scene while attending Yale.
No longer nomadic brewers road-tripping from Massachusetts, the Grimms opened their 7,500-square-foot brewery in East Williamsburg in 2018. Last month, they topped it off with a rooftop restaurant dubbed Lala’s Brooklyn Apizza that serves up six pies inspired by their days in New Haven.
Rolled out with a pin as opposed to being stretched out by hand, the Grimms’ pies are made with the same water, yeast and brewers’ wheat malt as their beer. Baked in a wood-fired oven sourced from Italy that was shipped to the U.S. in pieces and rebuilt by hand in Brooklyn, the pies at Lala’s are crafted from dough made from a sourdough culture that originates from the Grimms’ sour beer.
“Hundreds of years ago, breweries and bakeries were in the same building or next door to each other, so it made perfect sense to start making bread in our brewery out of the same ingredients that we used in our beer,” Lauren says. “Joe and I are people who love fermenting. When we thought about opening a restaurant, we thought it had to have fermented food. I had been making sourdough bread for many years, so we decided to make a sourdough culture from our beer-mixed culture.”
Once they were ready to start finalizing a menu, the Grimms set up a wood-fired oven in their backyard and made pies every day to the point where their children stopped wanting to eat pizza anymore. “We tested lots of micro variations of the dough and read every word on the internet and every book about pizza. I believe the best one is The Elements of Pizza by Ken Forkish. That’s a great book. It was one of our touchstones as we put this thing together.”
After testing (which involved the consumption of six pizzas a day on average) was complete, the Grimms decided to offer a red base pie (no cheese) a white base pie (no sauce) and four others finished off with a variety of toppings including mashed potatoes and fermented cherry tomatoes, squash blossoms and ricotta, pepperoni and serrano chilis and Riesling butter sauce and chopped clams.
While the pies nod to what’s being served in Connecticut, the Grimms maintain that their pizzas are distinctively different than the apizzas that are available in New Haven.
“We’re not trying to clone Sally’s or Pepe’s,” Joe says. “We’re calling what we’re doing Brooklyn Apizza because we want to reference and pay homage to those classic Wooster Street places that we love, but also give ourselves leeway to offer our own creativity and make our own mark. Our crust is even thinner than what you would see in New Haven. It makes a noise when you bite it but also still has a little bit of chew. We were very fixed on them being ultra-thin because we wanted customers to be able to enjoy a nice session of drinking a lot of beers and having one or two pizzas without feeling overstuffed.”
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