Frank Pepe's Pizza, Manchester, CT
Frank Pepe's is one of the most noted pizza joints in New Haven, CT, established in 1925. Frank may be departed from this Earth, but his family is carrying on the preaching of his pizza gospel by opening new outlets in Connecticut and Yonkers, NY.
Mrs PG and I stopped at the Manchester, CT this afternoon to see if we could get a taste of their signature magic and weren't dissapointed. We've never been to the original but this was some seriously good pie. The store is almost hidden away but had no problem attracting a good business on a Sunday afternoon. There's a lot of seating for families. The coal fired oven is in plain view as you walk in and it has volume, far bigger than any old Blodgett from the corner pizza joint. They really do use peels of about 14 ft or so in length. It's impressive in every way. The staff are all happy, enjoying their jobs and ready to convert you into a fan.
The pizza is as has been described before; a thin crust with a handsome cornicione and blackened spots on the bottom giving both character and flavor. There area fair number of toppings available and you can order a white pizza as well. A 12" pie will fed two adults who are hungry but they also offer 14" and 18' pies for families with teenagers. Beer on tap and bottled, wine, soft drinks, and bottled waters are available to drink. They also offer a small salad for anyone who wants to pretend that they didn't go there for the pizza.
As you may have gathered, we enjoyed our stop at Frank Pepe's Manchester. Use your GPS to find it the first time but your tastebuds will get you back there the next. Their story is a classic American immigrant family success story and really good news for hungry pizza lovers.
If you are a brick oven lover, you must head to the original Frank's. The open, coal-fired oven takes up the back wall of the place. It's so big, the peels have handles that make them taller than the men who wield them. The pizza comes out all misshapen and wonderful with black specks on the bottom. There are very few menu choices. (You can choose between pizza and pizza.) I think there was only one size, too. And only a few topping choices. This is a place you go for the pie. And then, when you are totally besotted with pizza, you'll toddle on down the block to Lillian's to get fresh sfogliotelli so you can crunch away in the car and spend the rest of the afternoon brushing shards of wonderful pastry off your shirt.
(Can you tell we sometimes get off the highway in New Haven on our way to see relatives "up north?")
I haven't been to New Haven in many years, but if I recall correctly, I thought Sally's had the greatest pizza on the planet. On one occasion I gave up a chance at a tomato pie (unbelievably good) to try the white clam pizza which turned out to be earth shattering. There are very few meals I can remember clearly after the fact and this is one of them. Actually I have never been to Pepe's -- the people I used to visit in New Haven always picked Sally's if it was open, and went to Pepe's if it wasn't. Have you tried Sally's? Has it gone downhill in the 35 years since I last visited? -Varda
I live outside of Kansas City so getting to New Haven for pizza is somewhat difficult. We went to Pepe's in Manchester,CT because we saw a sign on the interstate in Hartford while traveling to Gardner, MA to visit my parents. A quick click or three on my GPS and we were heading in the right direction. I admit that I know next to nothing of Sally's or the other pizza temples in New Haven. The magazine type publication put out by Jane and Michael Stern speaks highly of New Haven for a good pie and that was what made me aware of Pepe's.
However, now that you've put in the good word for Sally's, I'll program the address in my GPS for the next time we pass through New Haven and have pizza on our minds..