Roadtrip: Frank Pepe's Pizza
Frank Pepe's white clam pie
Interstate 95-South on the Monday of a holiday weekend is like the ninth circle of hell. But amid the miles and miles of backed-up traffic creeping towards New York, there is, at least, something great to eat. Frank Pepe's Pizza Napoletana has two locations that are right off 95, so you can call in an order, pick it up quicker than it takes to go through the McDonald's drive-through, and continue on your way with one of the region's best pizzas, hot out of the coal oven, in your lap.
We stopped at the Frank Pepe's location in Fairfield, CT. I've never been to the original, so I can't say how they compare. But if the original produces pizzas that are even a little bit better than the Fairfield version...those would be insanely delicious pies.
We had the white clam pie—freshly shucked whole clams (with their liquor), olive oil, garlic, parsley and breadcrumbs—and the fresh tomato pie, a summer special featuring chopped tomatoes, mozzarella, garlic, basil and olive oil.
Frank Pepe's pizzas are cooked in a gigantic coal oven, as big as some Manhattan apartments. A cache of big, rough chunks of coal spills out of a storage alcove, and is shoveled into the glowing fire with a big shovel. The high-heat coal fire gives the pizzas a smoky aroma and crisp, brown-spotted crust.
The clam pie, Frank Pepe's specialty, is justifiably famous— briny, buttery clams, heaps of fresh garlic on a chewy, crispy crust. The tomato pie was also pretty spectacular, but the tomatoes give off a lot of moisture, making the crust less crisp.
Frank Pepe's has been around since 1925, and has three locations. The first two listed are just a block or two off I-95.
157 Wooster Street
New Haven, CT
238 Commerce Drive
221 Buckland Hills Drive
Fresh tomato pie