ON MARCH 11, WILLINGTON'S RED POTATO PIZZA STARS WITH UCONN ALUM ON "BEST THING I EVER ATE"
On March 11 at 9pm, Hannah Chloe, a UCONN Bachelor of Fine Arts acting graduate and New York City actor and chef, will appear on the Cooking Channel's "Best Thing I Ever Ate" during a "Back to School Nostalgia" segment where she chose Willington Pizza House's Red Potato Pizza. Chef Chloe is Hannah Chloe Kaplan who has hosted other episodes of "Best Thing," as well as 16 episodes "Spoonproof" for Spoon University, "Craftless Cocktails."
The ORIGINAL – THE VERY FIRST – RED POTATO PIZZA was invented in 1994 at Willington Pizza House in Willington, CT by its classically-trained chef, Richard Rogers. That very first year it won first prize at the National Pizza Festival. Since then the Willington Red Potato Pizza has been celebrated on national television, in The New York Times and other media. Willington's amazing red potato pizza comes to you with a hand-thrown crust whose crispy-on-the- outside, tender-on-the-inside dough was made that same day. Add lots of sour cream, red potatoes, cheddar cheese, broccoli and bacon - toast in a 500 degree oven and Yum! Yum! Willington's Red Potato Pizza. Often copied, never duplicated.
Willington offers vegan, vegetarian, 20 specialty and 15 Designer Pizzas which include another national winner, the Seafood Casino Pizza, plus Shrimp Scampi, Hawaiian, Chicken Gorgonzola, Vegetarian and others. Innovative specialties are Shepherd's Pie, St. Patrick's Day Pizza with corned beef, potatoes and cabbage served during the month of March, and Ball Park Opening Day Pizza with hot dogs and baked beans offered in April. Willington also serves American food, soups, salads, sandwiches and burgers. You want something? Just inquire. "We make anything people ask for," said Rogers.
An amazing aspect of Willington's Designer Pizzas is that the yummy crispy-tender crust stands up to all those goodies without getting soggy or tearing apart. The second most popular pizza at Willington Pizza is the cheeseburger pizza. A large weighs in at around four pounds. "We put a lot of toppings on our pizzas," says owner Jeff Kelly, who started 40 years ago with a take-out place that has grown to seat 200 and a nearby second location, Willington Pizza Too.
Richard Rogers is a graduate of the Culinary Institute at Johnson and Wales in Providence Rhode Island and the inventor of the Red Potato Pizza. One customer wanted his Red Potato Pizza without broccoli or bacon but with pineapple and jalapeno peppers. "It was very tasty," says Rich who has been at Willington for 29 years.
Willington has always had vegetarian food, and its newest pizza offering is Vegan Pizza, a pizza with dairy-free cheese, with gluten-free or regular crust, with toppings or not. You'll also find gluten-free soda there. "Willington is not a gluten-free restaurant or G.I.C.-certified. Our top priority is always the health and safety of our guests," said Kelly.
Many day-to-say specialty pizzas have resulted from suggestions from college students who work at Willington. The recently successful Pickle Pizza joined Willington's BLT Pizza, Cajun Chicken, Cajun Shrimp, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Chipotle Ranch, Goat cheese Florentine, Sloppy Joe, Southwest Chicken, General Tso's, and other pizzas. Willington also has 20 draft beers on tap, 13 of which are from Connecticut breweries.
"I first had a cheeseburger pizza at Willington Pizza, and we also love the Ball Park Pizza because we count down to Red Sox Opening Day," said Leslie Lavallee, a UCONN alum and small business owner from Thompson, CT.
Willington Pizza House is a destination restaurant, multiple award winner and most popular pizza hangout with UCONN students. Located on Route 32, it features rooms of antiques and memorabilia. Willington Pizza Too on Route 74 is a sports bar.
1. UCONN alum and chef Hannah Chloe will appear March 11 at 9 pm on The Cooking Channel's "Best Thing I Ever Ate" Back to School episode, showing her favorite: Willington Pizza's Red Potato Pizza.
2. Willington Pizza House's Red Potato Pizza is shown by (left) owner Jeff Kelly and (right) inventor and chef Richard Rogers. Photo by Carol Davidge.
3. "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" video crew spent six hours taping as Chef Richard Rogers prepared and served Willington Pizza House's Red Potato Pizza. Photo by Nick Lupacchino.
4. Closeup. Willington Pizza House's Red Potato Pizza features red potatoes, sour cream, broccoli and bacon on a crispy crust that is hand-thrown from dough made the same day. Photo by Carol Davidge.
5. Everybody's Irish during March at Willington Pizza House where you'll find Pat and Mike and Roger and Jeff with the special St. Patrick's Pizza made of corned beef, potatoes, cabbage and other ingredients. (Left to right: Chef Richard Rogers, Pat Delnicki, Mike Ignatowicz, and owner Jeff Kelly. WPH is a happy place to visit or to work, with evidence because Rich, Pat and Mike and others have worked for WPH for 30 of the 40 years that Jeff Kelly has owned it. Photo by Carol Davidge.
6. In April, Willington Pizza House makes its "Ball Park Opening Day" with hot dogs, bacon, baked beans, onions, potatoes. Shown here counting the days is Leslie Lavallee of Thompson, UCONN alum and Red Sox fan. Photo by Carol Davidge