One of the fifty-odd trained pizzaiolos, at his craft at Frank Pepe’s “The Spot” in New Haven, Connecticut.

Frank Pepe’s “The Spot”

You’ve heard the clamor: the line, The Guardian’s declaration that it’s the best place in the world to eat pizza, and claims about them having the world’s best clam pie. The following recent five-pizza pie-by-pie meal is to honor the scheduled November 2nd opening in Yonkers (1955 Central Avenue) of New York’s first Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana.

If you have been to Pepe’s in New Haven, Connecticut, you know how to make a visit go smoothly (let someone else wait on line while you visit Libby’s Italian Pastry Shop nearby for cannoli cake). If you’re a pizza-lover and you haven’t been — the commotion, the huge ovens, the slicing methods, and the 10-foot long pizza peels are truly sites to behold.

If you don’t get there by 11:30 am (noon the latest) it’s doubtful that you’ll be eating during the first seating, in which case you may as well wait for the 4 pm (2 pm Sunday) opening of the adjacent original 1925 Frank Pepe’s location, now called “The Spot.” You may have to wait for someone to pull out of the guarded parking lot for a space but hey, you’ll be there for the first seating.

A large clam pie (never with mozzarella), $25.30. World’s. Best. Clam. Pie.
A large clam pie (never with mozzarella), $25.30. World’s. Best. Clam. Pie.

What’s so great about Pepe’s? Basically, the crust (and we’re talking mainly about the clam pie whose crust is slightly thinner than the sauced pies) is light and thin, the salty-sweet tomato sauce, the proper amount of cheese. Regarding the clam pie, it’s almost a mortal sin to do it, but you can freeze it, reheat it in a crappy toaster oven and it still tastes amazing and fresh. Now that’s something.

A large "Original Tomato Pie" with mozzarella ($15.10).
A large “Original Tomato Pie” with mozzarella ($15.10).

One off-the-menu item that’s not as well known at Pepe’s is the “chai” pie, a cheese-first pie that has the sauce ladled on top, “so you taste the sauce first,” explained the pizzaiolo above. Of all the pizzas in this pie-by-pie, it’s hard to argue against the clam with bacon, and the chai pie being the best.

On a side note, you can rent The Spot. Mondays through Fridays during lunch, 50 people can do three hours, all you can eat pizza and all you can drink wine and beer for $750, plus tax and tip. For dinner, Monday through Thursday, it’s $1,500 (plus tax and tip). If I ever get married I’m having my reception there.

Frank Pepe’s “The Spot”
157 Wooster Street,
New Haven, CT 06511
 (203) 776-5306

This post was originally published October 2nd, 2009, on the now-defunct, James-Beard Award-nominated blog

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