By Leah Andelsmith
One poet chased horses across an ocean. Another sought the ghost of the Susquehanna. A third walked bravely into “The Blue Death.” All of them came back to what made them who they are.
Those journeys came to life last Saturday night at “Songs and Stories,” a monthly music and storytelling night hosted by writer Saul Fussiner at Next Door New Haven. Over 60 attendees squeezed in standing-room-only to hear six poets and songwriters tell the origin stories of selected poems and songs before performing the pieces described.
The result was an homage to the way that the places and people we come from makes us who we are today, and an exploration of the odyssey that often connects those two points.
David Brooks began with a guitar riff that wouldn’t leave him alone. As he told it, the name of his hometown popped into his head and became a three note melody. Before he knew it, he was writing about Harrisburg, Pennsylvania—the town to which he swore he’d never return. The song became “Ghost of the Susquehanna,” an ode to the river that flows through the city.
David Brooks: Don’t you wish you’d drunk some of that water?
The water rolls down from the end of the bridge to the power station towers…
Don’t you wish you’d drunk some of that water?…
The ghost of the river rides on and on
At key points in the song, he sang the name of his town quietly, his voice strained with a mix of sadness, pain, and nostalgia. The song ended on a chord filled with tension; it had no real resolution. Memories often don’t.
And then again, sometimes they do. At least, that was the case for writer and arts reporter Karen Ponzio.
“My first memory is of fear,” she said at the start of her performance. “My mom telling me don’t … don’t go near the stairs, you might fall. Don’t go near the road, you might get hit by a car. Don’t, don’t, don’t.”
The biggest “don’t” of all was “don’t go near the water.” Ponzio recalled her mother saying again and again, “Something might happen.” And yet she did, venturing onto the beach as a teenager.
As mother and daughter lived out their lives bounded by fears, “what happened is what always happens,” Ponzio said. “Something happened.” In this case, her father passed away.
And yet, his passing gave her the courage to step beyond her fears—onto the stage as a poet and storyteller.
Check out our Chefs Robin Bodak and Chelsea Peterson talking to Lucy Gellman in the latest episode of Kitchen Sync! CLICK HERE.
It takes confidence to open a new pizza place just a few blocks from local heavyweights Modern Apizza and Da Legna. But Robin Bodak, Doug Coffin and Domenic Giannotti have done it anyway with Next Door Pizza and Bar. This ownership trio is actually a trifecta, bringing a wealth of relevant experience to an eatery that’s both casual and trendy, with pizzas and plates to share, draft beers and “craft cocktails,” familiar flavors and new creations.
13 years ago, when Coffin expanded his catering business into a fleet of mobile wood-fired pizzerias emblazoned with the name Big Green Truck Pizza, it hardly crossed his mind to worry about the competition. “I wasn’t really that intimidated by it,” he says, “in part because I was… doing something that no one else was doing.” The next step of opening a brick-and-mortar place—a business that, as the menu says, “(hopefully) won’t need a tow truck!”—was natural, and Coffin seems as unconcerned as ever about the competition. “You cannot, perhaps, possibly saturate the market for pizza in New Haven,” he says. “Good pizza generates more interest in pizza.”
New Haven is the opposite of a pizza desert. World-renowned pizza, er, apizza options abound, from Pepe’s, Sally’s and Modern to BAR and relative newcomers such as De Legna. So when I heard that pizza was one of the specialties at Next Door, a new bar and restaurant on Humphrey Street, I admired the restaurant owner’s chutzpah but privately wondered if the concept would work. Arriving at the restaurant on a recent evening, I learned that Next Door is about far more than just pizza.
Opened in June, in the space that once held the venerable restaurant Humphrey’s, the expansive interior includes two distinct, yet linked, bar and dining areas. Each has a warm and welcoming neighborhood feel. In addition to its creative pizzas, Next Door has a wide variety of well-crafted and interesting food options, and the bar features 32 craft beer taps as well as excellent cocktails.
Photography by Dozy Images, Cameron Harris.
New article on the Branford Patch!
NEW HAVEN, CT - If you know the history of New Haven's vast bar and restaurant scene then you know that one of the legendary locales was the former Humphrey's restaurant at 175 Humphrey Street, just a little way from the busy State Street area.
Humphrey's is long gone and many a restaurant has come and gone trying to make a go at the same location.
As of this June, there is a new restaurant trying to make a go of it at the historic location - Next Door.
The difference, the owners of this pizza/craft beer/small plates establishment told Patch in a recent interview is twofold: they are experienced restaurateurs and, they repeatedly told us: "We are in this for the long run."
Thank you New Haven Independent and Thomas Breen!
Mike Zullo tossed a ball of pizza dough in the air, rolled it flat, and topped it with sauteed mushrooms and slices of yellow summer squash that had been prepared in an adjacent kitchen earlier in the day.
As he lifted the pizza into a massive wood-fired oven, customers just a few feet away flipped through a drinks menu that contains cocktails infused with syrups and infusions made in that very same kitchen.
Zullo was at work in Jocelyn Square’s newest reborn restaurant, Next Door. The connection among the pie, the libations, and the fresh veggies reflected the joint’s strategy — creating a sum greater than, but linked to, its parts.
Next Door is located at 175 Humphrey St., the former home of the restaurant Humphrey’s,
(with a storied history dating back to a Prohibition-era speakeasy) at the corner of Humphrey and East Street. A little over a year after getting its final zoning and building approvals from the city, Next Door officially opened to the public on June 6.
Big Green Truck Pizza is planning to lay down brick-and-mortar roots — and feed the surrounding Jocelyn Square neighborhood the way owner Doug Coffin remembers Humphrey’s restaurant doing in the 1990s.
Coffin bases his mobile pizza business next door to the former Humphrey’s restaurant, the historic Piurek Building at 175 Humphrey St. Now Coffin is in the process of creating a new restaurant at shuttered 175 Humphrey with an old-fashioned theme.
The building housed Humphrey’s bar and restaurant for a near-historic run before it became Carissa’s Cafe in 2012 and then Park Place East in 2015.
Distancing themselves from those latter versions, Coffin and business partners Domenic Giannotti and chef Robin Bodak said they want to create a pizzeria, bar, and special events venue that functions as an outcropping of Coffin’s Big Green Truck Pizza catering operation and adds Mediterranean flavor to the city’s culinary landscape. (They haven’t yet settled on a name for their restaurant, which they hope to open by the fall.)