Monday, September 19, 2011

Review: Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, New Haven CT

If you know pizza, you know the legends. Brooklyn's DiFara, Trenton's DeLorenzo's, Philly's Tacconelli's, Manhattan's Lombardi's. For some time now, I've been aware that New Haven CT is another hub for heirloom pizza, and most notably Sally's "apizza" and Frank Pepe. So when I had a road trip from Brooklyn to Boston, it was the perfect opportunity to get to New Haven and see how their pies stacks up against the titans of Trenton, Philly, and New York.

Frank Pepe and Sally's are just blocks apart on Wooster Street in New Haven's Little Italy. I wanted to try both, but I was passing through on a Saturday afternoon and Sally's was not open for the lunch crowd. Hence, Frank Pepe was my destination.

I found street parking in the pleasant neighborhood and walked a block to Frank Pepe on a sunny day. To my dismay, I saw a line outside. I joined the back of the line and learned that I was facing a 30 minute wait. To my delight, however, I was inside and seated in the fairly large dining area within 15 minutes.

Neon sign says "Tomato Pies"

There is an open area where you can see pies being made; it's an attractive indoor space. Most of the dining area is spacious booths that would be comfortable for a party of four, a tad snug for any larger group.

I chose a traditional pizza, with mozzarella and sausage. For $1 I got a glass of coke. In this age of SuperSize and The Big Gulp, it was odd to be served an 8 or 10 ounce glass of soda in a cafeteria style glass. I needed one more to wash down the pie later.

The pie was BIG and came out on white paper on a big square tray. The cut reminded me of DeLorenzo's in Trenton -- lots of long narrow slices with blunt ends instead of the typical triangles.

Lovely char on the underside

I did use knife and fork for the first bite or two, but the sturdy crust held the toppings nicely. The crust, rightly so, was the star here. This is not the puffy Neapolitan crust you get at Forcella or Motorino. Instead, it was more like the stiffer crust from Totonno's, DeLorenzo's, or John's. I call this "Trenton style." No matter what you call it, is is delicious and substantial bread on which to base a great pie. It was interesting to note the interior neon sign proclaiming "tomato pies" which in Conshohocken PA means a "square slice with little or no cheese," but in Trenton means "pizza."

The sauce had a great flavor that complemented the wonderful base. The sausage was in thick slices, not rough chunks as found on a DeLorenzo's pie. The cheese and sausage were both quite good, but not standouts. They don't need to be -- they just need to play nice with the crust and sauce. Much like the best Trenton style pies, the ingredients melded perfectly. This was pizza harmony.

I love it when a place lives up to the hype. Frank Pepe gets the love and deserves it. A big friendly place, serving outstanding pizza at fair prices. It does not knock DeLorenzo's and DiFara from my #1 and #2 spots, but it's a contender to be Top Five. Destination pizza? Absolutely. Route 95 is not the ideal path from Brooklyn to Boston, but with New Haven at the half-way point, it's a detour I'd make every time.

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Next time you're in New Haven try Bar. Great apizza --it's my go to when I'm traveling through. If you're feeling less traditional, get the mashed potato pizza. They also make a heck of a bloody mary with a locally made tomato mix.