Sometimes the most obvious things are right under your nose. For Connecticut culinary colossus Tyler Anderson, that idiom takes on a literal meaning when it comes to pizza. “Recently I came to the conclusion,” Anderson says, “it’s my favorite food in the world, why the hell don’t I have a restaurant that serves it?”
Anderson has the reputation and name recognition to pack a newly opened restaurant no matter what’s on the menu, but to maintain success in a state that knows and loves its pizza is another story. With zero experience in the pizza game, Anderson had to plan accordingly when he opened Square Peg Pizzeria in Glastonbury in October. “There’s no chance in hell I was gonna do it without somebody who’s got years in pizza,” Anderson says. “It’s not a cuisine you can just dip your toe into.”
That’s where Dante Cistulli, formerly managing partner at Savoy Pizzeria and Craft Bar in West Hartford, comes in. The three of us chat in a private room while my square Sicilian pepperoni pizza ($17) — Anderson’s favorite item on the menu — is prepared and placed in the wood-fired oven. Cistulli and Anderson clearly have lofty aspirations for Square Peg. “I want to see how many of these we can do,” Cistulli says. “I want to see how far we can take this together.”
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The new place is under Anderson’s Tanda Hospitality umbrella along with Millwright’s in Simsbury, Hamilton Park and High George in New Haven, and Terreno (formerly Porrón) and Bar Piña in Hartford, but the vision is for Square Peg to become a restaurant group of its own. “I want to have fun, Tyler wants to have fun, and we’re in business together to do that and serve pizza,” Cistulli says. “And that’s all I want to do with my life.”
Pizza and fun is a combo that’s tough to beat, and if that’s the goal then the wall lined with old-school arcade games makes more sense. But it’s still work before play. “We’ve spent a lot of time procuring the right goods for this project,” Anderson says. “Like stupid things; we’re getting pepperoni that nobody else gets.”
Cistulli chimes in. “It’s the best pepperoni you’ve ever had.”
Where’s it from?
“We can’t tell.”
Fair enough. And I have to agree. Most pepperoni is a cured concoction of saltiness and spice, but Square Peg serves up a meaty masterpiece that really does rise above the rest. And speaking of rising, the Sicilian dough is unbelievably light and airy despite sitting about two inches off the plate. I’m shocked to find myself this impressed by a pepperoni pizza.
Unfortunately, it required two trips to find this out. The Sicilians were sold out during my initial visit on a busy Friday night. Chalk that up to the growing pains of a new restaurant and the ability to properly prognosticate how much dough needs to be prepped for a four-day fermentation process. “Anybody who takes Sicilian crust very seriously will run out, on occasion,” Anderson says.
If that’s the scenario on your visit, a thin-crust round pie is a more-than-sufficient consolation prize — seven red and six white specialty pizzas are on the menu. The Bianco (rosemary cream, goat cheese, ricotta, parm, spicy maple, $14) and Brussel & Potato (Brussels sprouts, bacon, rosemary-parmesan cream, lemon, $14) are truly standouts, and there are plenty of appetizers, pastas, salads and sandwiches, as well as a full bar.
Square Peg Pizzeria
1001 Hebron Ave., Glastonbury
Hours: Mon.-Thu. 11:30 a.m.-midnight, Fri.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.-1 a.m., Sun. 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. (brunch/bloody mary bar until 3)