New Haven Register: Craving iconic New Haven food? Online business ships local favorites to doors across U.S.

TNEW HAVEN —  You don't have to look too far to find a former New Havener who desperately misses the comfort foods they grew up with — and would do anything for a Hummel Bros. hot dog, some Foxon Park soda, Lamberti's sausage, Liuzzi cheese or a box of Lucibello's Italian pastries.


Dominic Liuzzi

Full Story Everybody knows one — and if you live here, you may even have been asked at some point to ship an emergency care package of New Haven apizzas, some Blackie's relish or an Apicella ciccola bread ring. 

Now you don't have to.Steve Thomas, a New Haven native and Cheshire resident who used to work in marketing for Edible Arrangements, Subway and Cheshire's Lights of Hope, has started an online business that will ship many of your favorite Greater New Haven foods, all from one easy-to-find website. 

It's called New Haven Direct Connect — and you can find it at

"I've had the idea for like five years," and "just got it off the ground" a few months ago, said Thomas. "I've got some friends down in Florida who served as my guinea pigs" to see how long things took to arrive and how cold things stayed, he said. 

In addition to being a marketing maven — he used to be Edible's marketing chief — Thomas has long been a foodie who is a member of the various Wooster Street and New Haven apizza Facebook pages.

He recalls seeing people post in those groups about stuffing their favorite New Haven products in their luggage to take them home to other parts of the country after a visit. He's seen people bemoan that they can't get the treats they crave wherever they are now. 

"I can help bring these products to them," he said.

All this is music to the ears of guys like East Haven native Marty "Paisan" Asprelli — of "Sunday Sauce Pot" video fame — who currently is living and teaching people how to lay tile way out "literally in the middle of three cornfields in Schleswig, Iowa."

When New Haven Direct Connect adds New Haven apizza, "that will make my life complete — you have no idea," said Asprelli. The nearest half-decent pizza for him is "an hour and a half away in Omaha, Nebraska," he said.

Anything closer is in a gas station, Asprelli said.

"When you're in Connecticut," it's easy to get spoiled, said Asprelli, who left East Haven a decade or so ago and lived in Kansas City, the Chicago area and then Kansas City again before moving to Iowa.

"When I was growing up in East Haven, I would go out to eat. Friday night would be for pizza ... You wouldn't think nothing of it," he said. "Now that it's taken away from me, you really learn to appreciate it" when you can get it.

"We all had the idea to do this, but he followed through with it," said Asprelli, who likes the idea so much that he recently did a Sunday Sauce Pot video segment on New Haven Direct Connect. It's posted on both Facebook and YouTube.

"I'm going to make my first order here soon," said Asprelli, who would love to get some Hummel hot dogs and maybe some Apicella's ciccola bread.

"I'm looking forward to getting some home food," he said.

He also would love to see Thomas add Lyman Orchard apple pie and Ferraro's Meat Market prepared meals to the mix.

"If I could order all those, I wouldn't go shopping," Asprelli said.

In addition to Hummel Bros., Lamberti's, Lucibello's and Apicella's in New Haven proper, Liuzzi in Hamden and North Haven and Foxon Park in East Haven — which is just in the process of being added — Thomas is partners with Durante's Pasta in West Haven and Blackie's and Napoli Foods in Cheshire. 

And "I'm about to expand," Thomas said.

If you noticed that there's no famous New Haven apizza joint on that list, you can expect to see that change soon, said Thomas. He knows he's got to be able to ship New Haveners — wherever they are — the pizza that they love.

That part of it is a little complicated because some logical partners, such as Sally's Apizza and Zuppardi's Apizza, are already hooked up with competitors such as Goldbelly, he said.

But you can expect an apizza announcement before too long, Thomas said.

"We're getting a lot of calls for pizza and that will be coming at some point," he said. "But for now, we're doing a New Haven apizza kit," featuring Apicella dough — made with genuine New Haven water — San Marzano tomatoes and Liuzzi mozzarella and parmesan.

Several of Thomas' partners said they're pleased with New Haven Direct Connect so far.

"Just to be a part of it is an honor," said Domenic Liuzzi, one of the owners of Liuzzi Cheese who is the one who runs the Liuzzi Gourmet Food Market at 322 State St. in North Haven. 

"What he's doing is, he's taking our cheeses that we make plus some other products that we don't make" and getting them to people who can no longer come in and buy them themselves, Liuzzi said.

"They miss home!" he said. "What do you miss about home? The food — and the people!"

Eric Hummel, part of the family that has owned Hummel Bros. for three generations and 90 years, said that in New Haven, with all the good stuff made locally, "we're spoiled."

"I ship all over the country — literally all over the country," he said. "We shipped to Alaska."

But "the way he's doing it is different" because he's shipping two-day air, with products packed in dry ice, which makes it much cheaper than priority overnight. 

"With his system, I think he's gone with some dry ice system, so his shipping is less expensive," Hummel said. "That gives more people the ability to buy our hot dogs around the country.

"I think it's great!" said Hummel, who lives in Cheshire. "I think we all feel that if our product can get to people who won't buy it otherwise," that's a plus. "We've been around for 90 years, so generations have grown up our hot dogs."

So far, "his orders, they've been coming in," Hummel said. "He's not buying truckloads yet. But you can see the orders coming in. He's really just starting out."

Steve Galluba, son-in-law of Apicella's owner Alphonse Cimino, said that so far, New Haven Direct Connect "seems to be off on the right foot. He's been building it week by week. It's been off to a pretty good start."

This is the first time Apicella has really done much with shipping its products, other than sending them to elderly people who have retired to places like Florida, Galluba said.

So far, "he's been selling a lot of pizza (kits) and the stuffed breads," he said. 

Before this, Apicella's — as old school as it gets — didn't even have a website, Galluba said.

"He actually approached us," he said. "It kind of came out of nowhere."

Shipping favorite foods across the country has become a big thing in recent years.

"People from all around the country have passions," Thomas said. 

What's special about New Haven foods is that "we've got this well-established Italian-American population," and over many years, "they set up these brands that are out here," which are "really high quality," Thomas said.

"They're the perfect partners for me," he said — although Hummel Brothers and Blackie's are evidence that what he offers is not limited just to Italian-American treats.

What you can get shipped from a particular New Haven purveyor depends.

From Hummel's, it's "all the hot dogs, all the brats, the red hots," Thomas said.

From Lamberti, it's the sausage, of course.

From Durante's, its fresh pastas and sauces.

From Napoli, it's both the meats and "all their antipasto items — marinated mushrooms and artichoke hearts," he said.

"I'm a big believer in going right to the source," Thomas said. 


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