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February 9, 2023

Pizza Day event promotes making pie state food

PHOTO | LIESE KLEIN New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker bites into a slice of Modern Apizza pie on Pizza Day, Feb. 9, 2023.

If Connecticut is going to have a state food, why not make it (a)pizza?

That was the argument made by a gaggle of hungry lawmakers and New Haven boosters on Thursday in front of Modern Apizza, seeking to bolster the economic impact of the city’s prime culinary tourist attraction.

“We are called the pizza capital of the world. We are known as the pizza state. And I think we should be officially called the pizza state,” said Colin Caplan, author of a book and documentary on local pizza.

Caplan also leads pizza tours through his business, Taste of New Haven. 

“You’re talking tens of thousands of people working at pizzerias… you have spin-off businesses like delivery. You've got pizza box makers here in Connecticut,” Caplan said. 

“We have the most pizzerias per capita of any state in America,” he added. “They're mostly family owned, so most of the money is staying in Connecticut, versus going to some corporate headquarters somewhere else.”

Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said pizza is an economic development tool for New Haven. 

“You will see in New Haven that housing develops around pizza,” Bysiewicz said. “So I'm excited to be here because pizza is not just an economic development tool for New Haven, it's an economic development driver.”

Modern Apizza owner Bill Pustari with Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz at a Pizza Day event in New Haven on Feb. 9, 2023.

At issue at Thursday’s event was perhaps the most important bill of this year’s Hartford legislative session, the “Pizza Bill,” S.B. 390, which seeks to declare pizza Connecticut’s official state food. 

State Sen. Gary Winfield (D-New Haven) proposed this year's version of the Pizza Bill: A similar measure passed the House last session but stalled in the Senate due to lengthy debate around recreational cannabis regulation. 

If passed, the Pizza Bill won’t bring additional funding to the state’s tourism efforts but will give it some bragging rights over pizza pretenders like New York and New Jersey, Bysiewicz said on Thursday.

“Are you listening, New Jersey? The gauntlet has been laid down,” Bysiewicz said. 

In fact, most states don’t have an official “state food,” no doubt due to the intense partisanship around the issue. New York does have a “state snack,” yogurt, and New Jersey claims the high-bush blueberry as its state fruit. Massachusetts has a state dessert, Boston cream pie, but no state food. 

Caplan said the Pizza Bill will promote local businesses and carry with it a tasty message of unity. “It’s just a willingness to have some good stuff in our lives and positivity, something to bring us together, And I think that's an easy thing to do.”

Contact Liese Klein at

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