BRANFORD — Considering we’re in the midst of a once-in-a century pandemic, in the grips of the coldest, snowiest winter in recent memory, and at an all-time high for restaurant casualties in decades, it defies comprehension that Doma on Main, the new trattoria in Branford, is seemingly thriving.
Branford’s Leighton Davis, who’s been a regular since the Main Street eatery across from Branford Jewelers opened in late December, had a ready answer.
“It’s the brick oven pizza,” he said. “I keep telling my friends that once you get a taste, you’re never gonna cross the bridge again.”
The high cooking temperature of the brick ovens—approximately 700 degrees F —in combination with the wood-burning fire produces a rich, smoky flavor in the slightly charred crust, as Doma’s pizza chef Fabio Gallo explained.
“It cooks very well and very fast, seven minutes, so also the toppings stay fresh and crisp,” he said, sprinkling kosher salt on a broccoli rabe and sausage pie as Frank Sinatra crooned amid the mellow lighting in the sleek New York-style decor of the space.
Other wood-fired pizzas include spicy honey pepperoni, mortadella pistachio, and smoked bacon. For those who prefer to skip to dessert, there’s Nutella pie and cannoli pie.
Gallo is, it seems, a true pizzaioli. Along with assistant pizza chef Paola Spera, whom he called his “right hand,” he spent 25 years slinging pies at the legendary Koronet Pizza on Broadway and 110th Street in Manhattan; in 2015, Business Insider recognized the Upper West Side institution as among the “best late-night food joints” in America.
At Koronet, Gallo perfected his distinctive sauce from a recipe handed down from his Neapolitan grandmother Maria Belardinelli. The dough comes from her too.
“It’s homemade recipes for a family place,” he said, sliding another pie from the oven, a heady aroma escaping into the air. “Everyone here is like family.”
For Lucy Camarda of Branford, it’s the Italian-style cuisine that sets apart Doma on Main. The Puglianello, Italy native said she’s particularly enjoyed the Chicken Milanese with the Balsamic Glaze and the Capellini Pomodoro with roasted garlic and basil-infused olive oil, as well as the fried calamari on the lunch menu.
“It tastes like home,” she said.
That’s thanks to executive chef Edgar Jara, who distinguished himself for the culinary artistry he practiced at Elizabeth’s Cafe & Perfect Parties in Madison for the last 15 years. The Zagat-rated bistro, known for its upscale American cuisine, was in business for over two decades before closing last fall.
Count Elizabeth’s Cafe owner Elizabeth Parri Butler among Jara’s admirers.
“I’ve known a lot of executive chefs and many of them have been very good, but Edgar is a star,” she said. “He combines an attention to detail with an ability to stay unruffled, and a willingness to work hard and never stop learning.
“He deserves all the credit for my success.”
From his years at Elizabeth’s Cafe, Jara said he brings an emphasis on simplicity and elegance, as well as on locally grown products.
“We use a lot of fresh ingredients, fresh meats, fresh seafood, it comes every day, nothing frozen,” Jara said. “We try to use as much local as we can.”
As for opening during the pandemic, he said it’s been a blessing in disguise. “Before we started to get busy, the staff got a chance to get used to working with each other, and used to the pace,” he said. “And we all really enjoy each other.”
With that, he looked across the kitchen to Gallo and Spera toiling at the brick oven. “I love this place,” he said. “I call it home.”
Doma on Main, 576 Main Street, Branford. 203-208-0828. https://domaonmain.com/