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Pepe's Pizzeria Napoletana

157 Wooster St, New Haven, CT - (203) 865-5762
Posted By Michael Stern on 6/29/2010 9:05:00 AM
At Pepe's, the greatest (and original) of the pizzerias on New Haven’s Wooster Street, you walk into a room with an open kitchen in back where white-aproned pizza men enact a ritual originated by Frank Pepe more than seventy years ago: bombs of dough are flattened on a marble table, clouds of spice are strewn in an instant, and long wooden bakers' peels are used to inject pizzas deep into the coal-fired oven. It is a hypnotic scene, untouched by time or fashion.

Crust is what makes a Pepe’s pizza outstanding. It is Neapolitan style -- thin but not brittle, with a real bready flavor. Cooked at high temperature on the brick floor of the ancient oven, it is dark around its burnished gold edge, and there is a good chew to every bite. The pizza men aren’t too fussy about scraping the oven floor, so it is likely the pizza’s underside will be speckled with burnt grains of semolina and maybe even blotched by an oil spill where another pizza leaked, all of which give the mottled oval a kind of reckless sex appeal that no tidy pie could ever match.

Frank Pepe, New Haven pizza's Zeus, started very simply, selling pies that were nothing more than tomato with a few pinches of anchovy. To this day, Pepe's premier pizza is made without mozzarella. It is called a white clam pie, and it is nothing but crust strewn with freshly-shucked littleneck clams, olive oil, garlic, oregano, and a dash of grated cheese. Without a mozzarella mantle, the dough develops wicked resilience, its mottled surface frosted gold. Mozzarella with onion (but no tomatoes, and perhaps a bit of garlic added) is another long-time favorite, as are the more traditional configurations with tomato sauce, cheese, pepperoni, and sausage. Broccoli and spinach are more recent additions to the kitchen’s repertoire; they are well suited to a white pie with mozzarella and garlic. But if you are coming to Pepe's for the first time, try the white clam pie. It's roadfood heaven.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
white clam pizza
Original tomato pie
Pepperoni Pizza
Fresh Tomato Pie
Sausage Pizza
Original Tomato Pie with Mozzarella
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

When the warden asks us what we want for our last meal, this is it: Pepe's white clam pizza.
"When the warden asks us what we want for our last meal, this is it: Pepe's white clam pizza."
Michael Stern





One of Pepe's great combos: roasted red peppers and pepperoni. The peppers, roasted in house, are fresh and full-flavored; the thick disks of pepperoni pack spicy wallop.
"One of Pepe's great combos: roasted red peppers and pepperoni. The peppers, roasted in house, are fresh and full-flavored; the thick disks of pepperoni pack spicy wallop."
Michael Stern


This incredibly simple tomato pie should be ordered as often as possible, just to enjoy the sauce-and-crust combination.
"This incredibly simple tomato pie should be ordered as often as possible, just to enjoy the sauce-and-crust combination."
Chris & Amy Ayers


I've heard much praise over the years for this particular pizza (white clam) and it far exceeded my expectations.  I walked away trying to understand why more pizzerias don't make them this good.  That crust still haunts me three months later.
"I've heard much praise over the years for this particular pizza (white clam) and it far exceeded my expectations. I walked away trying to understand why more pizzerias don't make them this good. That crust still haunts me three months later."
Bill Homan


The texture of a white clam pizza is almost as wonderful as the taste. Note the tender clams, the soft-cooked bits of garlic, the chewy crust .... ah, heaven!
"The texture of a white clam pizza is almost as wonderful as the taste. Note the tender clams, the soft-cooked bits of garlic, the chewy crust .... ah, heaven!"
Michael Stern


Pepe's original tomato pie with mozzarella - large - right out of the oven.
"Pepe's original tomato pie with mozzarella - large - right out of the oven."
Mike Iacoucci


A very dry, crisp, and refreshing lemon soda, my favorite thus far of the Foxon Park line of drinks.
"A very dry, crisp, and refreshing lemon soda, my favorite thus far of the Foxon Park line of drinks."
Bill Homan


A fruit of summer: fresh tomato pie
"A fruit of summer: fresh tomato pie"
Michael Stern


Every time I order the famous white clam pie, I realize that I really don’t want to have to do without it—ever.
"Every time I order the famous white clam pie, I realize that I really don’t want to have to do without it—ever."
Chris & Amy Ayers


Doing the same thing for over 85 years and the commitment to doing it right show in each pie.
"Doing the same thing for over 85 years and the commitment to doing it right show in each pie."
Bill Homan


The famous coal-burning Frank Pepe's oven from 1925.
"The famous coal-burning Frank Pepe's oven from 1925."
Mike Iacoucci


My friend Doug and I finally made it here in July of 2011.  Pepe's has been on my short list of must-try places for quite a few years.
"My friend Doug and I finally made it here in July of 2011. Pepe's has been on my short list of must-try places for quite a few years."
Bill Homan


Part of the experience of a meal at Pepe's is waiting -- first out in the street for a table, then at the table for the pizza to arrive.  By the time you get it, your tastebuds are screaming in desperation.
"Part of the experience of a meal at Pepe's is waiting -- first out in the street for a table, then at the table for the pizza to arrive. By the time you get it, your tastebuds are screaming in desperation."
Michael Stern


This metal arch over Wooster Street welcomes visitors to New Haven's Little Italy:  home of the best pizza on earth.
"This metal arch over Wooster Street welcomes visitors to New Haven's Little Italy: home of the best pizza on earth."
Michael Stern



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