Friday, October 24, 2008
New Haven: Frank Pepe's
The Bacon and Mootz Pizza.
From what I can gather, Frank Pepe's is the ORIGINAL place for pizza in New Haven. Even at 4pm it's pretty busy. There isn't really a line but the tables are all pretty much full. Originally, I didn't think I was going to get the change to eat here because American Pie said it was only open for dinner. Don't know when it changed but Frank Pepe's now opens before lunch. Good thing I decided to take a drive down to Wooster Street anyway.
Located in the heart of New Haven's Little Italy, Frank Pepe's is a pretty big place with two dining rooms and an absolutely huge brick oven. It doesn't look like much at first, until you peer into the lit oven through the door. That's when you notice that it looks kinda deep. Real fricken' deep. Like fifteen feet deep. The oven is bigger than a New York apartment.
Since I'm dining solo, I find it relatively easy to secure a two top from the friendly waitress who seats me. Pepe's has the usual assortment of pizzas but since I've already set the tone at Modern, I just go for a small bacon pizza to make an easy comparison.
While waiting, things are bustling. Like I said, the place is full and there's a steady stream of take out orders being picked up. Since it's only about 4pm, I can imagine what it must be like during the dinner rush. And it is a Friday night tonight - must be sheer pandemonium in here.
I was told the oven is 15' deep.
But for now, I'm okay. In a few minutes, my pizza arrives. Like Modern, it comes on a half sheet pan - does everyone in New Haven do this? I actually like this approach than the round metal pans pizzas normally come in. It's just kinda classy looking. Again, this is high-temperature pizza and it has the uneven colored marks of the classic pizza.
I take a bite. And it's just heaven. It's not as sweet as Modern's but definitely more complex. More depth, more juicy, a sheen of oil coats the cheese. God, this is good. Is this better than Modern? It's different. The flavors come together in a symphony. It's luscious and elegant. It's like a mosaic of flavors. The tomato sauce is sublime. Combine it with the cheese and the dough and it's almost unbelievable. This may very well be the best pizza in the United States.
I can't eat it all. I refuse to. I must reserve myself and see what it tastes like later, when it's cold (I've got the Modern leftovers in the truck). I ask for a box. I think that I should have ordered the large pizza instead - or at least an additional one for the road.
A Frank Pepe photo shoot.
Frank Pepe's is famous for its' pizza and now I know why. Yes, there's good pizza in New York City. There's good pizza in Washington, D.C.. But Frank Pepe's has a combination that I haven't tasted anywhere else. It really might be the best pizza in America. I must explore further. And I will report back later.
The Original Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana
157 Wooster Street
New Haven, CT 06511