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Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, known locally as Pepe's, is a popular pizza restaurant in the Wooster Square neighborhood of New Haven, Connecticutmarker at 163 Wooster Street. It is one of the oldest and best known pizzerias in the United Statesmarker.

History

Pepe's was founded in 1925 by Frank Pepe, an Italianmarker immigrant. Pepe was born in Maiori, Italymarker on April 15, 1893, and later immigrated to New Haven in 1909 at the young age of 17. The quintessential Wooster Square Italian immigrant (poor, uneducated, enthusiastic), he took a job at a New Haven factory, but he hated it.

During World War I, Pepe went back to Italy to fight for his beloved native country. Upon returning, he soon landed a job working at a bakery on Wooster Street, which was a much better fit for him. Pepe began walking through the Wooster Square market and sold his "tomato pies" off of a special headdress that he wore on his head. After saving up enough money, he was able to buy a wagon to sell his pizzas off of. He did so well with his pizzas 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.

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 newer restaurant.

Frank Pepe died on September 6, 1969, but his family still owns the restaurants. Pepe's is currently expanding outside of New Haven as a small family owned chain. Nine relatives are co-owners of the chain, including grandsons Gary Bimonte and Francis Rosselli.

Pizza

Pepe's originated the New Haven-style thin-crust apizza (closely related to Neapolitan-style Italian pizza) which he baked in a coal-fired brick oven. Originally, Frank Pepe only made two varieties of pizza: the "plain" (oregano, chopped garlic, tomato sauce, and grated pecorino romano cheese) and the "marinara" (tomato sauce, grated cheese, and anchovies).

Today Pepe's is particularly known for its innovation of the white pizza topped with freshly shucked littleneck clams. This type of pizza pie became one of the restaurant's famous specialties - the by-product of Frank Pepe's allergies to tomatoes and cheese.

In the alleyway between The Spot and Pepe's, Boccamiello's nephew Bear would open clams and sell them on the half shell to passersby. 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. The restaurant will serve the pizza with or without mozzarella, 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 as opposed to canned clams; if fresh clams are not available then 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 among the New Haven pizzerias.

Competition

White clam pie from Pepe's
Another Wooster Street pizza restaurant, Sally's Apizzamarker, 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. Frank Sinatra, for example, was a fan of Sally's, while President Ronald Reagan preferred Pepe's.

Success

Pepe's is a busy establishment, and New Havenites will cheerfully wait in line outside the restaurant for hours in all kinds of weather. Having to wait to be seated is almost as much of a New Haven tradition as the pizza itself. Pepe's is also a major tourist attraction in New Haven. In 1999, Pepe's was named to the James Beard Foundation's list of "America's Classics".

Locations



References

  1. Ed Levine (2005). Pizza: A Slice of Heaven. Universe Publishing
  2. Penny Pollack & Jeff Ruby (2005). Everybody Loves Pizza. Clerisy Press
  3. Anthony Riccio (2006). The Italian-American Experience in New Haven. State University of New York Press
  4. Reinhart, Peter (2003). American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza. ISBN 1-58008-422-2
  5. American Eats Offers the True American Pizza Pie - New York Times
  6. Hot slice of history to be served up in Fairfield | Food & Beverage > Food Industry from AllBusiness.com
  7. Shelton, Jim. You say Sally's, I say Pepe's New Haven Register,2002-07-21
  8. Frommer's Exploring America by RV, 4th Edition. ISBN 0-470-03885-3
  9. http://www.pepespizzeria.com/directions.php#yonkers


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