OK New Englanders: you may have heard of Frank Pepe’s legendary pizza in New Haven, CT, but A-Tooch had not. Until this past weekend, that is. Why would a New Yorker need to know anything about “famous” pizza outside of the city?
On our way back from snowboarding in Vermont, the bf suggested we check out Frank Pepe’s, right off the highway in New Haven and very well known, apparently. I had never heard of the place but did some research and it appeared I was way behind the curve on this one. So we went. My friend warned me there may be a 1-2 hour wait. (For pizza?! I don’t even wait that long for Lombardi’s.) Lucky for us (and lucky for the extremely rude bus boy/host) we were seated in under 30 minutes.
The famous pie at Frank Pepe’s is the White Clam Pizza – fresh clams with grated cheese, olive oil, fresh garlic and oregano. We ordered a small pie plus a small Original Tomato Pie w/ mozzarella, bacon and onions. Made up this combo on the fly and it was pre-t-ty tasty if I say so myself. Then again, it’s bacon. How can you go wrong?
After a full day of skiing/snowboarding, we proceeded to each house an entire pie. The verdict — not bad. There was no skimping on the clams and for $12.50, it’s a fair price for what you’re eating (at least by NYC standards). I may have an Italian bias, but when I saw fresh garlic in the description I expected some heavy garlic. That was absent. With all of the seasoning, clams and cheese the pie was pretty salty. MAN was it salty. Top it off with that bacon pie and we were chugging water for the rest of the night.
A slice of the famous White Claim Pizza
We actually preferred the original pie with red sauce better. It really is difficult to give a fair assessment since pizza is such a matter of personal preference. In true Neapolitan style the pizza was very thin crust, slightly burnt around the edges. The original pies at Frank Pepe’s are served without mozzarella — you must request this as a topping if you’d like it included on anything.
Would I go back? Only if in the New Haven area. While the pizza was tasty, it is not so unique that I would find myself craving it and making a New Haven road trip. I call it one of my “Been there, done that” spots — like the Empire State Building or Famous Ray’s Pizza. These are staple spots that you go to say you’ve been, then quickly forget about.
*Editor’s note: On its site, Frank Pepe’s notes it “is one of the oldest and best-known pizzerias in the United States.” It may be one of the oldest but it is not the oldest, apparently. Lombardi’s in NYC cites it is “America’s First Pizzeria.” You be the judge!