Ask any New Englander where to get the best pizza, and they’ll tell you Pepe’s. Pepe’s isn’t just a local institution, serving New Haven, Conn., thin-crust Napolitano-style pizza for 90 years — it is where to find America’s best pizza. The Daily Meal rated Pepe’s White Clam pizza the best in America two years running.
Not much else can be said about the briny, wood-fired pizza, so after the obligatory 30-minute wait for a table, I ordered a tomato pie and a margherita. The tomato pie, which Pepe’s bills as the original pizza from 1925, is a simple creation of crushed tomatoes, olive oil and grated cheese. The crust was thin and pleasantly browned with a heavy wood-smoke flavor. The cheese was a little heavy, which caused the pizza to be greasy and overwhelmed the other flavors.
The margherita pizza was a better balance, and the light mozzarella complemented the basil, tomatoes and thin crust without overwhelming any of them. The crust was crisp all the way through.
Pepe’s has made New Haven pizza world-famous, but I wonder how much of that fame is built on reputation over quality. The entire restaurant has a slightly pretentious vibe; they know they are one of the world’s best pizzerias. It is mandatory to wait on the street at least 30 minutes for a seat. It all seems a bit much for what is, after all, a pizzeria.
Sally’s is another world-famous pizzeria (and opened by Pepe’s nephew), and it is located just down the street. The two pizzerias have a long-standing rivalry, each backed by a former U.S. president.
Pepe’s has opened seven other locations, all of which serve equal quality pizza. Though if you go, only the original is truly “Pepe’s.”
157 Wooster Street
New Haven, Connecticut 06511
203 865 5762
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