Fired Up

Fired Up

The patio at P&M Market, one of East Rock’s beloved Orange Street delis, is hardly a secret. But it does have a secret, at least until you finish reading this sentence: “Pizza on the Patio,” a new warm-weather series serving up wood-fired New Haven-style pizzas every Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m.

The series was a secret to me, too, before I stumbled across the opening service last night. Using P&M’s pizza truck—technically a trailer that can be trucked around town for events—parked out front, pizzaiolos Ricardo and Michele were, respectively, “bang[ing] the dough” and “on the oven and topping ’em.” Those are the words of P&M owner Pino Ciccone, who did his part by running orders, answering questions and making sure guests knew this would be a weekly thing.

The weather yesterday was a summery riposte to an oddly wet and chilly May, which Ciccone says forced the series to start a week later than he’d hoped. The oven inside the truck reportedly surpasses 700 degrees, and yesterday’s blazing sun had the unshaded parts of the patio feeling about that hot when I arrived at 5:55. Diners and drinkers in those zones—P&M shares its patio (and its owner, Ciccone) with Enoteca Cassanova, the only spirits shop I know where you can buy a bottle and then immediately plop and pop it—seemed unfazed, perhaps just pleased to have claimed precious seats at this momentous occasion.

I was one of them, and while waiting for my order, I glanced at other people’s pies. Every pizza, available in eight varieties from Margherita to Buffalo Chicken to Broccoli to Meatball, was priced at either $13 or $14—maybe a dollar per inch, which would be one of the best pizza deals in New Haven even if the craftsmanship here weren’t top-notch.

When Ciccone brought my pie over, the first thing I noticed was the charring: the spots, the streaks, the volcanic bubbles. It should be noted that my order is not something you’re likely to order, since I don’t do dairy; and technically, it wasn’t even something I had ordered—a basil and fresh tomato, no cheese, add broccoli—because the basil never made it. I chalked this up to first-night jitters and a crush of competing orders. But while the basil would have added a welcome dimension, the next-level char and jewels of oily minced garlic provided a lot of great flavor, and the fresh tomato, which can easily turn a pie soggy, was treated just right: carved thin and laid single-file (save one slipped slice) on a chewy-crispy crust that stood up easily to the moisture.

Long after 7, when pizza service was supposed to end—at least until 7:35, when I departed—the popup was still popping, with not a single table unclaimed. Earlier, at around 6:20, the crowd had temporarily doubled in size (and tripled in volume) as a local running meetup mustered on the sidewalk and promised they’d return for the pizza. Many of them did, persuading Ciccone to keep the fire roaring.

Overall, Ciccone seemed elated and relieved at the success of the event, but he also told me he’s worried about having enough seating going forward. Based on the response to Pizza on the Patio’s opening night, he should be.

Written and photographed by Dan Mims. Image 1 features Michele (front) and Ricardo (behind). Image 2 features a meatball pie. Image 3 features my pie. Image 4 features, from left, Michele, Pino and Ricardo.

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