Hot from the oven: new coal-fired pie hits Stamford.
Mary Kate Hogan
Photograph by Bob Capazzo
For pizza lovers, Stamford is a blessed location. It has plenty of good pizza places that call the city home and is situated between the two meccas — New Haven and New York. To be sure, we are surrounded by outstanding pie. Still, newcomer Coalhouse Pizza opened last fall amid buzz that it would be a destination to rival Sally’s, Pepe’s and Colony. Coal-fired pizza so close to home and no lines to wait on? I couldn’t wait to go.
I went to Coalhouse on a Sunday afternoon for a late lunch with my family and two old friends, including one real pizza aficionado. The restaurant is located in a strip mall across from Lord & Taylor, but inside it’s a welcoming space. Portraits of jazz and blues legends decorate the walls, and the open kitchen with bar seating lets customers get a prime view of the coal-fired oven. Above the bar a row of guitars punches up the wall space; tables are topped with memorabilia like Benny Goodman record covers and old black-and-white photos.
Before delving into the pizza, we sampled the Ma Rainey’s Roadhouse chicken wings and Smokestack Lightnin’ baby back ribs. I opted for the wings with the Bourbon Street Buffalo sauce and was blown away by the sweet and tangy flavor. The menu says that the wings are marinated for twenty-four hours, coated in panko and lightly fried before being tumbled with one of the sauces. The variety we ordered comes lightly sprinkled with sesame seeds and scallions. We were definitely competing for the dozen wings set on the table.
“I want to have that blue cheese sauce bottled up to take home,” my friend commented. A huge hit all around.
I liked the smoked paprika flavor of the ribs, though they were on the salty side (and this observation is coming from a salt lover). If your idea of perfect ribs involves gooey sauce, then these dry-rub St. Louis–style ribs won’t be for you. But I would order them again.
The menu includes an array of salads that sound tempting—the Easy Rider, with baby arugula, fennel, candied walnuts, shaved Grana Padano cheese and a citrus vinaigrette is a popular choice—but I must admit we bypassed these in favor of fast-forwarding to what we came for. Pizza!
We ordered personal pies from the menu of specialty pizzas, all named for classic jazz and blues tunes. Coalhouse has cooked up truly creative topping combos, like Walk on the Wild Side’s, which counts white kimchi, shiitake mushrooms and beef marinated in a Korean sauce among its ingredients. However, the pizza that wowed us most is actually a classic. The Little Red Rooster is a simple marinara, mozzarella, basil and pepperoni pizza. Perhaps Coalhouse’s elevated ingredients, such as seeded San Marzano tomatoes and fior di latte mozzarella, make this standard pie so magical. It was so outstanding that after we had finished eating everything, we actually ordered another one — embarrassing but true.
Another pie I highly recommend is the Sidewinder, a tasty blend of marinara, mozzarella, basil, garlic, sauteed broccoli rabe, cherry peppers and hot oil that has a bit of a kick to it. We also enjoyed the white pizza called Favorite Things, which showcases ricotta cheese and mozzarella seasoned with homemade pesto and rosemary and topped with Prosciutto di Parma that’s just slightly crispy from the uber-hot oven.
Among the more adventurous pies we tried is Freddy Freeloader, which gets its south-of-the-border appeal from roasted chicken topped with scallions, cilantro and pico de gallo as well as assorted cheese. The pie was very fresh tasting, but for me it was too much like a quesadilla.
The most important thing to know about all the pizza here is that it should be eaten piping hot; it really loses something when it cools off. If you are sampling several pies with a group, you might want to ask to have them brought out one or two at a time.
Service at Coalhouse was friendly but a bit hit or miss. One drink order was lost, and the waitress forgot to bring a plate for our youngest taste tester. We had to ask for extra napkins to go with our wings and ribs. But the service was about on par with most pizza places.
The food, however, was clearly above par. You can cap your meal with traditional Italian Brutti Ma Buoni “ugly” cookies or a choice of dessert pizzas. Or you can give in to gluttony like we did, and order that extra Little Red Rooster to go.