Da Legna: Stellar Pizza, and More, for All

You might wonder why New Haven needs another pizza restaurant, but a visit to Da Legna will convince you there’s always room for one more.

Da Legna co-owner Daniel Parillo comes to Italian cooking honestly. His parents, Maria and Anthony, emigrated to Hamden from Caserta, Italy. Parillo grew up speaking Italian and helping in his mother’s kitchen. That led him to DeMatteo’s in Hamden, where he began his pizza passion. His father suggested that the best way to learn the business was to start his own, so in 1996 Parillo opened Portofino’s in North Madison. The long hours he put in did exactly what his father thought it would: taught him how to make an excellent pizza. After nearly a decade-and-a-half it was time to crack New Haven’s pizza scene.

Parillo opened Da Legna in December of 2011, taking over the former D’Amato’s restaurant space at the corner of Clark and State streets. It was barely up and running when a fire on the building’s second floor ended Parillo’s fledgling run, closing the business for a year.

Undaunted, Parillo and co-owner Derek Bacon took the opportunity to completely remodel the space, creating a decor all their own. The installed a Neapolitan, wood-fired pizza oven that cooks Parillo’s razor-thin pizzas in 90 seconds. It’s that oven that lent the restaurant its name: Da Legna, “of wood.” They brought in David Foster to create a myriad of salads and small plates.

Between Parillo’s pizzas and Foster’s dishes, Da Legna offers a remarkable variety of choices. Parillo, a vegetarian, is particularly proud of his vegan pizzas. “Our main goal here is that everyone can enjoy a pizza, one that is just as good as our ‘regular’ pizza.” Parillo bases his pizza on an Old World recipe, using a sourdough with natural fermentation for the base, adding fresh ingredients and importing others from Italy, such as water buffalo mozzarella from Caserta and San Marzano tomatoes.

Parillo has vegetarian and gluten-free offerings as well, and the menu lists more than 15 salads and 30 small plates ranging from grilled calamari and duck bolognese to edamame hummus and delectable gnocchi.

The pizzas can hold their own with the city’s best. You can always build your own, but with Parillo’s 18 different combinations, it can be a heck of a lot more fun starting with that side of the menu. Either way, Da Legna can hold its head up with pride in the self-proclaimed pizza capital of the world.

Mara Lavitt

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Restaurant Website: http://dalegna.com/

• The Detes: 858 State St., New Haven. 203-495-9999 and 203-562-2760. Open seven days, Sunday through Wednesday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Thursday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.

• Price Range: Small plates $4-9, salads $5-9, sandwiches $8, pizzas: $8-13 for a 12-inch, $13-18 for a 16-inch.

• Style of Food:  Italian, wood-fired pizza

• Favorite dishes: goat cheese tartlet, crispy mac ‘n’ cheese wedge, gnocchi, duck bolognese, margherita and patate pizzas.

• Drinks: full bar

• Vegan/Vegetarian/Gluten-free available: pizzas and small plates

• Outdoor seating: no

• Events: yes

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