No one out pizzas Monroe

Andy Vasiliou, owner of Country Pizza & Restaurant, 418 Main St., holds a large onion pie in his kitchen Thursday.

MONROE, CT — National Pizza Day is this Friday and pizza lovers who want to celebrate don’t have to go far for a slice, whether it’s thin crust or deep dish. Monroe has at least a dozen places to satisfy residents’ cravings.

On Thursday afternoon, Andy Vasiliou, owner of Country Pizza & Restaurant, 418 Main St., pulled a large onion pizza out of his oven for a takeout order.

“We’re known for our pizza,” Vasiliou said, adding the sausage pizza is Country Pizza’s most popular pie. “It’s homemade. We make our own.”

Of the popularity of pizza, he smiled and said, “it’s Friday. It’s a pizza day all the time.”

Andy Vasiliou slices up a large onion pizza.

Country Pizza, which first opened in 1978, is also known for its large dinner portions, Vasiliou said, adding no one leaves hungry.

Main Street also has Marcello’s Italian Eatery, Honeyspot Pizza, Julian’s Brick Oven Pizzeria & Kitchen, Crown Pizza, American Pie, Vazzy’s Osteria and Sal’s Family Ristorante & Pizzeria at 630 Main St.

Sal’s was founded by Sal Altobelli in December of 1989. Manager Andre Carlini said the restaurant has been the number one pizzeria on Yelp for the past decade and there are posts about it from fans on the Pizzaholics Facebook page.

“We make a good margarita pizza,” Carlini said. “All our basic pies, people enjoy our veggies and meat pies … buffalo chicken. We make a really good seafood pie and it’s fairly inexpensive compared to other restaurants. We put a fair amount of seafood on it.”

This close up picture of a pie from Sal’s Family Ristorante & Pizzeria, 630 Main St., was shared on the Pizzaholics Facebook page.

Sal’s seafood pizza is topped with clams, shrimp, calamari and scallops.

“Our pies are cooked to order, but our regular pizza is thin and crispy, New York style,” he said. “We mainly cook our pies to a crispier side, the bottom is nice and brown. It’s not white.”

Sal’s also has pizzas for those who prefer to sink their teeth into a thicker pie. “Our Sicilians, the thick square ones, sell out every weekend,” Carlini said.

Carlini expressed his belief that New Haven gets too much credit when it comes to good pizza, while places in Monroe, Bridgeport, Shelton and Fairfield more than hold their own.

Across town, Monroe Turnpike has Marylou’s Ristorante, Lia’s Pizza, Bella Rosa Pizzeria Ristorante and Jennie’s Pizzeria.

A trophy by the front counter of Bella Rosa’s says “Voted #1 Pizza in Monroe, CT” for a contest the restaurant won in 2011 or 12. A warming oven had a tray of single slices for lunch Thursday.

Dave Rodrigues, owner of Bella Rosa Ristorante, 500 Monroe Turnpike, is making heart-shaped pizzas for Valentine’s Day.

Dave Rodrigues, who opened the restaurant 12 years ago, said his most popular pies are probably cheese, pepperoni, bacon and sausage.

“Those are probably our top sellers,” he said. “Then there’s our buffalo chicken and margarita pizzas.”

Bella Rosa has been making heart-shaped pizzas for Valentine’s Day.

When it comes to a good pizza, Rodrigues said, “I like it with not too much cheese, not heavy on the sauce and cooked a little on the well done side.”

Jennie’s, established in 1935, is tied as the 17th oldest pizza restaurant in the U.S. Rich DeSimone, who runs the business with his brother Al, said it was started by their grandfather in Bridgeport, then taken over by his father and uncle before they took the reins.

“It’s been in the family for three generations,” DeSimone said Thursday afternoon.

Jennie’s planned to make 104 cheese and pepperoni pizzas for Monroe Elementary School’s Valentine’s Day party on Friday, and in March the eatery will make pies for the school’s Pizza Bingo.

Rich DeSimone stands by Jennie’s Pizzeria’s large rotating oven that can make 24 pies at once.

Jennie’s large rotating gas oven, which is 45 years old, will help the restaurant get the job done. It can fit 24 large pies that can all be cooked within 15 minutes.

DeSimone said one of his customers’ favorite pizzas is Pop’s Dirty Pie with grated cheese, garlic, hot oil and extra spices — and some customers like it with sliced peppers.

“We call it dirty because it comes out dark,” DeSimone said. “The hot oil makes it really good.”

Jennie’s margarita pizza is also a favorite with plum tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, garlic, basil, salt and pepper.

DeSimone said he thinks pizza is a popular American food because it’s reasonably priced when feeding the whole family. “It’s a good food to eat,” he said, adding many parents have told him their kids only want Jennie’s at their parties.

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  1. I’m so happy to see New York Pizza coming to CT. After moving here from NYC 51 years years ago, it took some time getting used to this style of Pizza. We were also amazed to hear the term New York Pizza. New York Pizza varies by borough. So, Brooklyn pizza is a little different than Bronx pizza. And each borough has it’s followers. Over the years, I lived in Queens and The Bronx but worked in Manhattan. So, I had a variety. But my favorite was Brooklyn style – thin with extra sauce and oil. As a kid growing up on The Island (yes they had a version too), I remember getting burned by the hot oil rolling down my arm after folding a slice right out of the oven. You quickly learned how to fold the thin slice and keep it level when taking a bite. In those days, it was 25 cents for a slice and a small coke. That hit the spot before walking home after the Friday night movies.

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