03 January, 2009

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, Manchester CT

Back in October 2008, I wrote about the famous Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana on Wooster Street in New Haven CT. It's an iconic pizza restaurant and a genuine "destination dining spot" for people all over the Northeast. And now I can get their great New Haven pizza a lot closer to home, at the new Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in Manchester CT.

The outside bears little resemblance to the brick storefront original, and the surroundings are certainly different, plopped upon a retail pad site in the Buckland Hills shopping development that includes dozens of stand-alone commercial buildings clustered around the mammoth Shoppes At Buckland Hill mall. Inside the door, though, the Pepe aura is strong.

Just as in New Haven, prospective diners wait in a small foyer until a booth becomes available inside, and when the foyer fills up (as it did the day we were there) one is required to wait outside. This caused a good deal of grumbling among the Northern Connecticut people who were unaccustomed to the way Pepe's does things, and who were left standing in the cold December air outside. But wait times here are short and no one had to spend very much time outdoors after all.

Inside, we found that they've replicated the New Haven coal-fired pizza oven, virtually brick by brick, right down to the cast iron doors and hinges. Spaghetti-board menus, roomy booths, white walls, and black tin ceilings all evoke the 1920's charm of the original restaurant. No one would ever be able to completely duplicate the original Pepe's with its patina of age and comfort, but the owners of the Manchester branch have done a very good job of capturing the atmosphere and ambiance of the original, right down to the old-fashioned six-ounce beverage glasses and Foxon Park birch beer.

But let's face it: Who cares about atmosphere when you're there to get a great pizza? And I am happy to relate that the pizzas from the the Manchester brick oven are every bit as delicious as the ones from New Haven. We had a pepperoni pie and a spinach and bacon pie, and they were perfect. Unfortunately, I was unable to get my favorite, the fresh clam pie, because a breaking winter storm that day had prevented that day's clam delivery. Maybe next time!

Frank Pepe's Manchester location is at 221 Buckland Hills Drive, Manchester CT, to the left of the La-Z-Boy showroom (they share a parking lot.) They're open every day from 11:30 am to 10:00 pm, and their phone number is 860-644-7333. Click here for directions.



Mr. Dave said...

Just a question about regional pizza styles here. I have noticed the references to the clam pizza you Connecticut boys seem to have, you don't see that here in Upstate New York. Do you guys ever put hot sauce on your pizza? Do you have "Hot Wing" or "Buffalo Wing" pizza wherein the tomato sauce is replaced with Frank's red hot and topped with spicy chicken?

Dave said...

Most of the pizzas we have down here are fairly traditional, though other kinds of toppings are starting to find some acceptance. A few places around me (Northern CT/Western Mass area) have buffalo chicken pizzas and other, even stranger stuff.

I have to admit that I'm more of a purist, but since my daughter likes all sorts of different non-traditional toppings, I'm less likely to turn my nose up at them nowadays than I used to be.