A Piece of the Pie

A Piece of the PieA Piece of the PieA Piece of the PieA Piece of the Pie

T here’s no gamble like starting a small pizza parlor in New Haven, where established heavy hitters suck up most of the air in the room. But if anyone could make a successful go at it, it would probably be Alexa Flagge and Andrew Holmes, two owners of East Rock’s One 6 Three.

Growing up in New Haven and Seymour, respectively, the couple met six years ago, when Holmes was hired to work in the four-truck fleet of Old World Pizza owned by Jack and Janet Flagge, Alexa’s parents, who also co-own One 6 Three. Both Holmes and the younger Flagge had worked in the pizza scene for years. “It was something we had joked about and talked about for a while,” Holmes says about the restaurant. “As we began getting more serious as a couple, it was something that kept coming up again and again.”

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Their first thought was renting a space on Wooster Street, the famous pizza drag. But a storefront on the sleepier side of East Rock, just below the rock itself, caught their eye. Opening a year and a half ago and named after the street address, “The goal really was to have a place of our own, to not have to work for people anymore, and to create a fun and healthy work environment for the staff.”

As a diner, you can feel it. When I visited on a pre-rush Friday afternoon, banter was being exchanged, dough was being prepped and passing locals were greeted by name. It was fun and light but warm and real.

While Flagge is in charge of the menu and the phone, Holmes lands more on the managerial side of things. But they both still work in the kitchen, right beside their imported Valoriani pizza oven. Built into the restaurant, its domed brick exterior houses a large cooking chamber, with a compartment below for keeping spare firewood.

Working together with their employees creates a special rapport, according to Holmes. “We have a really low turnover rate. Since we opened, we have a lot of the same people.” “And that just doesn’t happen,” Flagge chimes in.

I ended up trying two pizzas, including the Breaking My Meatballs ($13 for a 12-inch, $17 for a 16-inch). More sophisticated than the typical meatball pie, its soft creamy ricotta contrasted fiery spice, while the meat was crumbled over the top. The crust was thin but chewy, with a beautiful stretch and blackened bubbles.

The second was The Goat ($15, $19), which, topped with caramelized onions, asparagus, honey goat cheese and cranberry jam, was nearly a dessert pizza, though the asparagus added a welcome bitterness and crunch.

The menu features non-pizza options, like sandwiches; fried cheese curds (what Holmes calls “a souped-up mozzarella stick,” pronounced here with the New Haven “mootz”); and what the couple says is the most popular item of all: the Fresh Cut Fries ($3 for a small, which is still large, and $6 for a large, which must be huge). Skin-on, spiced and served with two to three house-made dipping sauces, the fries I tried were almost perfect. My favorite sauces were the ranch, which has a strong hit of basil, and the tangy barbeque. “Everyone gets them,” Flagge says.

But the pizza’s still the star. Holmes says customers often compare it favorably to Pepe’s and Sally’s, which he says is an honor, because “they set the tone, they set the standard for pizza in New Haven.”

And as a pizza parlor in New Haven, you’ve got to hit a certain standard. As Holmes says of New Haveners, “These people know pizza.”

One 6 Three
163 Foster St, New Haven (map)
Mon-Fri 11am-10pm, Sat noon-10pm, Sun noon-9pm
(203) 777-5141
www.one6threect.com

Written and photographed by Anne Ewbank.

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A California native and world traveler, Anne came to New Haven for graduate school and discovered that New England is as cold as everyone said it was. She loves reading books, playing guitar, exploring new towns and taking road trips but only as long as she gets to pick the music.

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