Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana

Coordinates: 41°18′10″N 72°55′01″W / 41.302907°N 72.916933°W / 41.302907; -72.916933
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Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana
The Frank Pepe sign on Wooster Street
Map
Restaurant information
Established1925; 99 years ago (1925)
Owner(s)Frank Pepe's Grandchildren
Food typeNew Haven-style pizza
Dress codeCasual
Street address157 & 163 Wooster Street
CityNew Haven
StateConnecticut
Postal/ZIP Code06511-5709
CountryUnited States
Coordinates41°18′10″N 72°55′01″W / 41.302907°N 72.916933°W / 41.302907; -72.916933
ReservationsNot taken
Other informationEstablished in 1925
WebsitePepesPizzeria.com

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, commonly known as Frank Pepe's or simply Pepe's (/ˈpɛpiz/), is a popular pizza restaurant in the Wooster Square neighborhood of New Haven, Connecticut, at 163 Wooster Street. Opened in 1925, it is one of the oldest and best known pizzerias in the United States.[1][2]

Frank Pepe[edit]

Pepe's was founded in 1925 by Frank Pepe (April 15, 1893 – September 6, 1969), an Italian immigrant. Pepe was born in Maiori, Italy, and immigrated to New Haven in 1909 when he was a teenager. The quintessential Wooster Square Italian immigrant took a job at a New Haven factory, but wasn't fond of continuing there.

During World War I, Pepe went back to Italy to fight for his native country.[3] After his honorable discharge, he married Filomena Volpi who is also from Maiori, Italy. They left Italy for New York in 1919.

Upon returning to the United States, he soon landed a job at a Wooster Street bakery.[4] Pepe began walking through the Wooster Square market and sold his "tomato pies" off of a special headdress.[clarification needed] After saving enough money, he was able to buy a wagon from which he sold his pizzas.[5] He was so successful that he was eventually able to take over his employer's business and turn it into the first "Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana" on June 16, 1925. Frank Pepe died on September 6, 1969.

Restaurant history[edit]

Pepe's originated the New Haven-style thin-crust apizza[6][7][8] (closely related to Neapolitan-style Italian pizza) which he baked in a coal-fired brick pizza oven. Originally, Frank Pepe only made two varieties of pizza: the "tomato pie" (tomatoes with grated pecorino romano cheese, garlic, oregano, and olive oil) and the other with the addition of anchovy.[9]

The piece of land which Pepe's restaurant sat on was owned by the Boccamiello family. They later made Frank Pepe leave so that they could start their own pizzeria at the establishment, which they renamed The Spot. Pepe moved his restaurant to its current location next door to The Spot in 1936. The Pepe family later bought back The Spot from the Boccamiello family in 1981 and it now serves the same menu as the older restaurant.[3]

Boccamiello's nephew Bear would open clams and sell them on the half shell to passersby in the alleyway between The Spot and Pepe's.[3] Pepe's restaurant began serving littleneck clams on the half shell at the bar. It was only a matter of time before he decided to put the clams on the pizza. The white clam pie is just crust, olive oil, oregano, grated cheese, chopped garlic, and fresh littleneck clams.[4] The restaurant will serve the pizza with or without mozzarella cheese, but they try to discourage customers from ordering it with mozzarella because they feel that it makes the pizza too heavy and rich. They are also adamant on using freshly shucked clams instead of canned clams; if fresh clams are not available, they will not serve the white clam pie. Three men are employed by Pepe's just for shucking the clams on location. Since its invention, the white clam pie has become the signature pizza of pizzerias in New Haven.

Since opening a Fairfield, Connecticut location in 2006, Pepe's has expanded to sixteen locations in Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia, and Florida.[10]

Menu[edit]

A white clam pie from Pepe's
A red pie with bacon and spinach

All of Pepe's locations feature the same menu.[11] Salads and desserts are offered on the menu. Since 1925, Pepe's has exclusively served Foxon Park bottled sodas from East Haven, Connecticut. The restaurant offers soda, beer, wine, and several varieties of pizzas and toppings.

Ovens[edit]

All Pepe's ovens are coal-fired and built in exactly the same manner from brick, based on the original. They measure 14 feet (4.3 m) by 14 feet (4.3 m) and cook pizzas in approximately 8 to 10 minutes.[12] The oven cooks at 650 °F (343 °C).[13]

Locations[edit]

Pepe's has expanded outside of New Haven as a small family-owned chain. Frank Pepe's grandchildren are co-owners of the chain, including Gary Bimonte (1959–2021)[14][15] and Francis Rosselli.

All locations feature the same green and white design of their building and fixtures, a replica of the coal-fired oven, serve on the square pizza pans, and use the same suppliers for their ingredients.

  • Fairfield, CT (Opened March 2006)
  • Manchester, CT (Opened September 2007)
  • Uncasville, CT (Opened June 2009) inside Mohegan Sun
  • Yonkers, NY (Opened in November 2009)
  • Danbury, CT (Opened January 2011)
  • West Hartford, CT (Opened September 2013)
  • Chestnut Hill, MA (Opened December 2015)
  • Waterbury, CT (Opened April 2017)
  • Warwick, RI (Opened April 2018)
  • Burlington, MA (Opened June 2019) at Burlington Mall
  • Watertown, MA (Opened August 2020) at Arsenal Yards
  • Bethesda, MD (Opened March 2022) at Westfield Montgomery
  • Alexandria, VA (Opened July 2022)
  • Plantation, FL (Opened October 2022)
  • Delray Beach, FL (Opened June 2023)
  • Stamford, CT (Coming in 2024)

Additionally, Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana serves slices out of the Mohegan Sun Arena when there are events.

Competition[edit]

Another Wooster Street pizza restaurant, Sally's Apizza, was founded by Pepe's nephew Sal Consiglio in 1938. Sally's and Pepe's have a long friendly rivalry and pizza fans are divided over which serves the better pizza.[16][17] Frank Sinatra, for example, was a fan of Sally's, while Ronald Reagan preferred Pepe's.[18]

Business[edit]

Pepe's is also a major tourist attraction in New Haven.[19]

  • 1999: Pepe's was named to the James Beard Foundation's list of "America's Classics".[20]
  • 2006: Pepe's is acknowledged on the History Channel's American Eats show as the originator of New Haven-style pizza in 1925.[21]
  • 2009: Pepe's was named the "Best Pizza on Earth" by The Guardian.[22]
  • 2009: Alan Richman, food correspondent for GQ magazine, names the tomato pizza at Pepe's the twelfth best pizza in the country in the May issue.[23]
  • 2009: Connecticut Magazine named Pepe's the best in the state.[24]
  • 2010: Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana was inducted into that Connecticut Hospitality Hall of Fame on December 7, 2010.[25]
  • 2013: Zagat said that the white clam pizza at Pepe's was the best pizza in the state, in an article naming the best pizza in each state.[26]
  • 2013: The website The Daily Meal named the white clam pizza at Pepe's the best pizza in the country.[27]
  • 2014: The Daily Meal named the white clam pizza at Pepe's the best pizza in the country for the second year in a row.[28]

Documentary[edit]

Pepe's is one of three pizza restaurants featured in the documentary film Pizza A Love Story, directed by Gorman Bechard. The film had its world premiere at IFFBoston in April 2019.[29] The film was released on DVD and pay-per-view on September 29, 2020.[30]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Levine, Ed. (2006-02-16) A Slice of Heaven: American Pizza Timeline | Slice Pizza Blog. Slice.seriouseats.com. Retrieved on 2010-12-13.
  2. ^ Mariani, John (2010-11-24). "America's Great Historic Restaurants". Forbes.
  3. ^ a b c Ed Levine (2005). Pizza: A Slice of Heaven. Universe Publishing, ISBN 0-7893-1205-0
  4. ^ a b Penny Pollack & Jeff Ruby (2005). Everybody Loves Pizza. Clerisy Press
  5. ^ Anthony Riccio (2006). The Italian-American Experience in New Haven. State University of New York Press
  6. ^ Welcome to The Original Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana – Home Archived 2010-07-26 at the Wayback Machine. Pepespizzeria.com (1969-09-06). Retrieved on 2010-12-13.
  7. ^ Jane Stern, Michael Stern Roadfood: the coast-to-coast guide to 600 of the best barbecue joints, lobster shacks, ice cream parlors, highway diners, and much, much more, Broadway Books, 2005 ISBN 0-7679-2264-6 p. 19
  8. ^ You say Sally's, I say Pepe'sWooster street legends deliver to die-hard crowds- The New Haven Register – Serving New Haven, Connecticut Archived 2012-08-19 at the Wayback Machine. Nhregister.com (2002-07-21). Retrieved on 2010-12-13.
  9. ^ "The Original Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana History". www.pepespizzeria.com. Retrieved 2016-03-15.
  10. ^ "New Restaurants to Try This Week: Bocadoro, Frank Pepe Pizzeria, and Sipsip". Miami New Times.
  11. ^ Welcome to The Original Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana – Menus Archived 2009-07-01 at the Wayback Machine. Pepespizzeria.com. Retrieved on 2010-12-13.
  12. ^ Frank Pepe's pizza comes to Yonkers | Metromix Hudson Valley. Hudsonvalley.metromix.com (2009-11-24). Retrieved on 2010-12-13.
  13. ^ Fox, Geoff (21 November 2010). "Pizza With A Side Of Guilt".
  14. ^ Arnott, Christopher (April 8, 2021). "Gary Bimonte, the face of Pepe's Pizza for a generation, dies". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 2021-04-19.
  15. ^ "Gary Joseph Bimonte Obituary – Visitation & Funeral Information". www.iovanne.com. Retrieved 2021-04-19.
  16. ^ Reinhart, Peter (2003). American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza. ISBN 1-58008-422-2
  17. ^ Shelton, Jim. You say Sally's, I say Pepe's Archived 2006-06-22 at the Wayback Machine New Haven Register,2002-07-21
  18. ^ "Hot slice of history to be served up in Fairfield – Food & Beverage". AllBusiness.com.
  19. ^ Frommer's Exploring America by RV, 4th Edition. ISBN 0-470-03885-3
  20. ^ Welcome to the James Beard Foundation Archived June 1, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. Jamesbeard.org (2010-07-04). Retrieved on 2010-12-13.
  21. ^ American Eats: Pizza, The History Channel, 29 June 2006
  22. ^ Fox, Killian (September 13, 2009). "The 50 best things to eat in the world, and where to eat them". The Guardian. London. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
  23. ^ American Pie: Alan Richman. GQ (2009-10-13). Retrieved on 2010-12-13.
  24. ^ "Welcome to the City of New Haven Economic Development". Archived from the original on 2009-11-10. Retrieved 2010-12-20.
  25. ^ (no headline)- The New Haven Register – Serving New Haven, Connecticut Archived 2012-09-13 at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ "50 States, 50 Pizzas". Zagat. September 24, 2013. Archived from the original on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  27. ^ Bovino, Arthur. "101 Best Pizzas in America". The Daily Meal. Spanfeller Media Group, Inc. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  28. ^ "101 Best Pizzas in America". The Daily Meal. Retrieved 4 September 2014.
  29. ^ "Pizza, A Love Story". IFFBoston. Retrieved 2020-10-07.
  30. ^ ""Pizza" Party Planned For Parking Lot | New Haven Independent". www.newhavenindependent.org. 2020-09-24. Retrieved 2020-10-07.

External links[edit]