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Eclectic chef at Mexican bakery puts the ‘a' in Apizza

Fernando Garcia is making crispy-crust pizzas for his “New Haven Apizza Shop” in the afternoon and evening at his family’s Mexican bakery where a bagel shop used to be in the same little strip mall where Pearl’s and the Shanghai are located across Fifth Street West from ever-growing Safeway.

How did he get there and why New Haven style pizza, which is already a great success at Carol and Sam Morphy’s Red Grape?

According to Fernando, he left his home in Oaxaca and miraculously arrived in New Haven, Connecticut alone at age 14. Immediately he got a job in a restaurant and stayed working there for 15 years, the chef being the source of Fernando’s fabulous banana cream pie and espresso tiramisu recipes, in which he bakes the “sponge” instead of using packaged lady fingers.

His brother bakes Mexican “pan dulce” in many forms early morning and afternoon. Try the croissant, possibly the best in town. And the one sprinkled with sugar is a little cake-like but worth the splurge. Fernando takes over as soon as the bakers are finished using the ovens.

We sat down to salads of arugula, kale and shrimp, the greens coming from Luke at Sweetwater Spectrum’s Sonoma Farm on West Spain Street. Delicious.

Then came 10 apizzas for tasting, all with Fernando’s “signature deeply charred crust,” which crunches crispy with each bite. Fernando says the “a” before pizza came from Neapolitan pronunciations in New Haven.

Pizzas cost $14 for small, $24 for medio, and $31 for grande. You can order them with fresh “mootz” (mozzarella), red sauce or no sauce at all with garlic olive oil, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, gorgonzola or feta and loads of toppings from meats, Hawaiian, Portobello mushroom, mashed Yukon Gold potatoes, Crimini mushrooms and prosciutto, shrimp scampi, hand-cut pepperoni, roasted poblano peppers, chorizo, Applewood smoked bacon and just about anything else imaginable. Vegan and gluten-free options available.

Go in, order ahead, pay cash, run an errand, and come back when they tell you to. Fernando has added some picnic tables so you might be able to eat there and definitely can take home or elsewhere. Mexican and other sodas available. Open from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday and Sunday, and until 10 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 555 Fifth St. W. 931-4694.

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