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Pepe's Pizzeria Napoletana

157 Wooster St, New Haven, CT - (203) 865-5762
Posted By Mike Iacoucci on 10/19/2010 10:39:00 PM
My father-in-law has been raving about this place for years. Being a New Yorker right outside of NYC, I was always extremely satisfied with the pizza I've had around me, so I did not see the need to trek to New Haven. Plus my NY pizza arrogance refused me the ability to believe that excellent pizza can be found outside of my area. Having been in CT on business and driving past New Haven, and the fact that I completely respect my father-in-law's opinions on food, I owed it to myself to stop in.

Once you walk in the door, you would swear you were in a small pizzeria in the heart of lower Manhattan. The place is screaming with old world charm. Right in front of you as you walk in is the infamous coal-burning brick oven, which is one of the most important ingredients in a pizza's crust. Wood burning does a good job, but the flavor and texture are nowhere near the same.

All I've heard about is the clam pizza, but being a simple eater and one who does not eat seafood, I opted for the simple standard - tomato pie with mozzarella. I am a firm believer that substandard pizzerias with inferior food tend to mask their shortcomings with layers of toppings. I always judge pizza quality in its simplest form: crust, sauce, cheese.

After about twenty minutes, the oblong pizza arrives on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper, slices irregularly cut. Maybe it was an off-day, but the center half of the pizza was soggy and limp. I had to eat the first bite or two of each slice with a knife and fork, then pick up and eat the rest, which was top notch! The crust was wonderful. Nothing beats a blackened, charred, outer edge - crispy on the outside, soft and moist inside.

The sauce is the perfect balance of sweetness, and not overly seasoned - very simple flavor, which goes well with the crust. The cheese, I think, was the low point of the three main ingredients. It was unevenly distributed, which caused some slices to be overly cheesy and very soggy. Despite this, the pizza was excellent. I ordered a large for myself, got through about half of it and took the rest home. Even though it was soggy, it was definitely good enough to warrant another visit.

Bottom line - I know their crowning achievement is the clam pie. The tomato pie with mozzarella is very good, but can't compete with NYC.

Rating on the pie I got:
Crust: A- (only due to the center being soggy - the rest was excellent)
Sauce: A+
Cheese: B+
Overall: A-

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Scorecard

4 - Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
Original tomato pie
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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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