The Slice Is Right

A mid New Haven’s boisterous pizza debates, Costa Pizza has been quietly making an argument for itself since 2012. Even with a sandwich board on the sidewalk, the little storefront at the bottom of Whitney Avenue is easy to miss. But let the lighthouse on its sign beckon you inside and you’ll find not only thin-crust pizza but also a thick menu full of subs, wraps, pasta, salads and more.

Co-owner Ahmad Saleh is reluctant to go so far as to call Costa’s pizza “New York-style”—he calls it Napoletana—but if you’re craving thin, chewy crust and tomato sauce with a peppery, oregano flavor, then Costa is your place. Add to that the fact that, unlike at New Haven’s most popular pizza joints, you can actually buy a single slice at Costa just like you can on the streets of the five boroughs, and you’ve got yourself a little piece of New York City on Whitney Avenue.

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Costa also sets itself apart by offering robust vegan and gluten-free options. “Right now, we are leading in New Haven for the vegan [diners],” Saleh contends. The menu boasts vegan pizza toppings that reach far beyond plant-based cheese to include chicken, sausage, ham, pepperoni and ground beef. Costa also serves up vegan subs ($12.95), from Sausage and Peppers to Steak and Cheese to a Fishless Filet option. For patrons avoiding gluten, the menu includes gluten-free pizza, pasta, subs, wraps and paninis.

While I waited for my order, Saleh’s cousin Moudy Makarem shaped the dough for my pies behind a counter displaying slices to go. A wall of gas flame glowed at the back of the brick oven as Makarem slid the pizzas in. I waited at one of the dine-in tables; most of the orders these days are takeout. Costa will deliver directly, but you can also order from the usual delivery services.

I brought home a small Veggie Pizza ($15.95) and a plain cheese Gluten Free Pizza ($10.95), which is served in the small size only. The Veggie Pizza was topped with big, colorful slices of fresh vegetables: long, slender crescents of green pepper and purple onion, big chunks of eggplant, black olives, spinach, broccoli. The crust was thin and chewy but not charred like we’re used to. The Gluten Free Pizza, smothered in red sauce and mozzarella, was, surprisingly, every bit as good. Less yeasty and tasting more like grain, the crust didn’t feel like a compromise.

Since Costa’s menu includes a great deal more than pizza, I also tried a couple of customer favorites as recommended by Makarem. The Cajun Alfredo ($14.95) was a generous portion of egg noodles with two small chicken cutlets grilled in a slightly spicy rub. The silky alfredo sauce was rich without being heavy. I also sampled a Chicken Caesar Wrap ($8.25)—panini-grilled and full of seasoned grilled chicken chunks finished with grated parmesan cheese, a bright Caesar dressing and a little bit of lettuce that was still crunchy even after being heated. This nicely balanced sandwich was grilled to a crisp and, unlike most wraps, held together to the last bite.

Originally from Egypt, co-owners and family members Saleh, Makarem and Tallat Naby have held together, too. They come to Costa by way of two previous pizza businesses: Westville Pizza and, in West Haven, Bella Villa, both of which they sold. Costa’s block was bustling pre-pandemic, but these days pedestrians are few and street parking plentiful. In that light, it’s a great time to swing by and grab yourself a slice.

Costa Pizza
9 Whitney Ave, New Haven (map)
Mon-Thurs 10am-midnight, Fri 10am-2am, Sat 11am-2am, Sun 11am-11pm
(203) 782-6782
www.costapizzeria.com

Written and photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel.

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About Kathy Leonard Czepiel

View all posts by Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Kathy Leonard Czepiel is Daily Nutmeg's associate editor. She's also a fiction writer, writing teacher and book club troubleshooter. Her perfect New Haven day would involve lots of sunshine, a West Rock hike, a concert on the green and a coffee milkshake.

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