Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana

Italian | Pizza
legendary
Worth driving from anywhere!
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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 in the 1920s: 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. (Pepperoni is especially wonderful, as are freshly-roasted peppers.) 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.

Note: Several other Pepe’s have opened in the Connecticut area, and they are very, very good, even if they don’t have the burnished character of this original.

What to Eat
Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana, White Clam Pizza
White Clam Pizza
Must-Try
When the warden asks us what we want for our last meal, this is it: Pepe's white clam pizza.
Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana, Pepperoni Pizza
Pepperoni Pizza
Must-Try
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.
Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana, Original tomato pie
Original tomato pie
Must-Try
This incredibly simple tomato pie should be ordered as often as possible, just to enjoy the sauce-and-crust combination.
Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana, Original Tomato Pie with Mozzarella
Original Tomato Pie with Mozzarella
Must-Try
Pepe's original tomato pie with mozzarella - large - right out of the oven.
Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana, Fresh Tomato Pie
Fresh Tomato Pie
Must-Try
A fruit of summer: fresh tomato pie
Directions and Hours
closed now
Sunday10am - 10pm
Monday10am - 10pm
Tuesday10am - 10pm
Wednesday10am - 10pm
Thursday10am - 10pm
Friday10:30am - 11pm
Saturday10:30am - 11pm
Roadtrips
This restaurant is featured in the following eating tours.
6 stops | 205 MILES | 4 hr 34 min

East Coast Pizza Showdown

Connecticut, New York and New Jersey all can lay claim to the best pizza in America, maybe in the world. We want you to be the judge. Take this 224 mile long tri-state tour of cream of the crop pizzerias in each state and decide for yourself which location has the…

5 stops | 18 MILES | 48 min

Connecticut did not invent pizza, but a good argument can be made that it was in Connecticut that pizza was perfected. The evidence is in New Haven, on Wooster Street, home of Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana and Sally's and, a few blocks up on State Street, Modern Apizza. What makes these pizzas special is crust.…

Information
Price
$$
Seasons
Open Year Round
Meals Served
Lunch, Dinner
Credit Cards Accepted
Yes
Alcohol Served
Yes
Outdoor Seating
No
Website

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