As far as we're concerned, the high point of a Roadfood Tour of Connecticut filled with high points, was the visit to The Spot, a branch of Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana that sits next door to the New Haven Pepe's (see the Roadfood.com review). Does this have anything to do with the fact that our favorite food on the planet is Pepe's white clam pie? Probably. But it's a lot more than that.
Chris: Indeed it is — mainly because Francis Rosselli, grandson of Frank Pepe himself, hosted us at a private party in The Spot:
The manager took us on a tour of the kitchen and the original coal-fired oven:
the 10-foot-long pizza peels:
and as much apizza as we could eat. I can’t speak for anyone else, but here is where I threw to the wind caution, restraint, and all other characteristics of civility that would prevent me from stuffing my face:
And I quickly fell in love with this little number—mutz and fresh heirloom tomatoes that a neighbor had given Francis that morning:
Now don’t get me wrong, I love the famous white clam pie just as much as anyone:
But this heirloom tomato pie was one of the best Pepe's pies I’ve ever had, hands down:
Bruce: The pizzas were superb that day, especially the white clam. I missed the heirloom tomato pie. I think some glutton from Massachusetts ate half of it.
The Spot is a weekend-only annex to Pepe's, serving equally good pies. Many casual fans are unaware that they are the same, which gives those in the know an opportunity to shorten their waiting time for a table. But what we learned from Francis, and what I suspect most fans of The-Spot-as-Pepe's don't realize, is that for most of its history, The Spot was not a branch of Pepe's, but a competitor.
True, The Spot is the original location of Pepe's, but it wasn't long before Pepe's was kicked out. They moved to the building next door. The landlord of The Spot operated it as a competing pizzeria. It was only in the 1970s that The Spot was brought back into the Pepe's fold. Francis noted that, while the ovens in all the other Pepe's are built to be identical to the original Spot oven, the pizza makers love The Spot's oven for its uniquely perfect pizza-baking properties.
There's one other thing about The Spot that makes it noteworthy in Roadfood history, something Francis neglected to mention. Didn't a certain male half of a popular Roadfood couple propose marriage to the female half of said couple, in this very Spot?
Chris: Amy didn't think that anyone noticed her hogging that heirloom tomato pie! She forced me to eat it, I swear! But seriously, I did indeed propose to Amy there but in Pepe's main building. I heard on the bus that Jane & Michael also got engaged at Pepe's, which I didn't know beforehand. If that's true, then we're copycats only by coincidence!
Oh, and I couldn't resist a quick run over to Libby's Italian Pastries before getting back on the bus for a bag of raspberry thumbprint cookies to share with those who didn't get any of that phenomenal tomato pie...
Bruce: Michael can correct me if I'm wrong (and it's probably a subject they'd rather not dwell upon anyway, though they have to realize that their fans are interested in this stuff) but I believe Jane and Michael have written that they had their first date, or maybe it was that they first met, at Pepe's, not got engaged. I believe they have also written (and I seem to remember Jane has said) that if they had one last food to eat in life, it would be a Pepe's white clam pie. Which I wholeheartedly agree with, whether they still feel that way or not.
I think this is a feeling that many Roadfooders can identify with: Pepe's white clam pie has ruined it for me everywhere else. I rarely enjoy clam pies anymore in other pizzerias (except in Zuppardi's). Same thing has happened to me with BBQ. Since the Roadfood tour of Texas BBQ I've found that I no longer enjoy smoked brisket from anywhere else.
Next up... more dogs!