Pepe’s: Dispelling the Myths

Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana is nationally renowned for its Exceptional Neapolitan Pizza baked in Coal-fired Brick Ovens.  Pepe’s, as it’s known, was recently rated the #1 Pizza in the US by the Daily Meal, which said, “You have to make a pilgrimage to this legendary  . . . pizzeria.”  One of the oldest and best-know pizzerias in the country, Pepe’s excellence has also been recognized by numerous other publications and culinary authorities:

  • 2006: Pepe’s is acknowledged on the History Channel‘s “American Eats’ show as the originator of New Haven-style pizza in 1925.[19]
  • 2009: Pepe’s was named the “Best Pizza on Earth” by The Guardian.[20]
  • 2009: Alan Richman, food correspondent for GQ magazine, names the tomato pizza at Pepe’s the twelfth best pizza in the country in the May issue.[21]
  • 2009: Connecticut Magazine named Pepe’s the best in the state.[22]
  • 2010: Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana was inducted into that Connecticut Hospitality Hall of Fame.
  •  2013: Zagat said that the white clam pizza at Pepe’s was the best pizza in the state, in an article naming the best pizza in each state.[24]
  • 2013: The website   named the white clam pizza at Pepe’s the best pizza in the country.[25]

Pepe’s patrons include two US Presidents and numerous well-known artists and public figures: Robert De Niro, Henry Winkler, Kelly Clarkson, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Ernest Borgnine, John Turturro, Kevin James, Vince Vaughn, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.

Frank Pepe Pizzeria was founded in 1925 by Frank Pepe and his wife Filomena. Born in the town of Maiori, on the Amalfi coast, near Naples, Frank Pepe was the quintessential Italian immigrant. Poor and illiterate, he immigrated to the United States in 1909 at age 16 with little more than his health and a strong work ethic.  He and Filomena lived above the restaurant, where their children, Elizabeth and Serafina were born.  Today, their children carry on the legacy begun by their grandparents, the tradition of unsurpassed food quality and commitment to the community.  There are now 7 Pepe’s Pizzerias in New York and Connecticut, with more in development.  What unites them all is a dedication to the vision and standards conceived and perfected 89 years ago by Frank Pepe.

Through the years we have heard many myths about Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana. This is the place where family members will give you the straight scoop, dispelling the myths .

The story: Does Pepe’s use canned clams?

FALSE. Pepe’s Pizza uses only fresh clams. When the clams run out? We stop offering clam pies.

The Story: Is Pepe’s a chain?

False. Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napolatana is still run by Frank Pepe’s Family

The Story heard by Frak Pepe’s Grandson Francis Rosselli:

“The one myth that I’ve heard that is now embedded in the virtual space is that my grandfather was allergic to cheese.
False. Loved his cheese, black pepper and red pepper on top of his pasta!”

Francis Rosselli

The Myth:  Carolyn Belenardo-baledes  “they sold raw clams outside. It was run by the Boccamaiello family; Fred, Buck. Joe, Mike, Ferdinand.”


Answer from Francis Rosselli Grandson of Frank Pepe.

“True, there was a raw bar of clams (and pigs feet, a coastal (Amalfi) delicacy (!?) on the sidewalk at 163 Wooster Street, the address of the Spot. There was a three story house in front of the Spot until 1997/98 when it was torn down as Wooster street was undergoing a street renovation. Confirmed by my mother was that Fred was the pizza man, Buck was a nephew (nicknamed Max Bear) who shucked the clams usually. I do remember both as a child and teenager. Unconfirmed is Joe or Mike as being related, she couldn’t recall their names. Confirmed is that Ferdinand slaughtered chickens in the building next to the Spot, which existed in between what is now the Spot’s Dining room and Pepe’s garage, the area of the back parking lot. Also, I’m pretty certain that the name is spelt, BOCCAMIELLO, trans. ‘Mouth of Honey’ “


Shannon Charette Is it true Frank Pepe was allergic to tomatoes, which lead to the invention of the white clam pizza?

Answer: We had a conversation with Francis Rosselli, Frank Pepe’s grandson today and we can say that both of those claims are false. Frank Pepe was not allergic to tomatoes and that was not the precipitating factor in the development of our now famous clam pies.