Finally, a Pepe’s in Massachusetts. Frank Pepe popularized ultra-thin pizza, or “New Haven” style, in the Northeast, and it has been a staple in New England ever since its creation in 1925. Located in the Chestnut Hill Mall, Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria offers both take-out and in-house dining.
Pepe’s is known for having lines out the door at its original location in New Haven, Connecticut, and is anticipating the new location to be quite busy, as many Pepe’s loyalists are in Boston, having moved to the city from elsewhere in New England. Pepe’s has never expanded to Massachusetts until now. Perhaps trying to build their brand with college-age students and millennials, their first location here is in close proximity to many campuses.
Strategically stationed next to a gelato store within the mall, Pepe’s Pizzeria offers an authentically Italian experience. The custom brick oven, both an aesthetic and a cultural focal point for the restaurant, is visible from the moment you step into the pizzeria. Each Frank Pepe’s location is modeled after the original so that the taste of the pizza is not compromised based on where one chooses to dine. This is the consistency in quality and tradition that is central to the mission of Pepe’s.
The oven is based on the classic brick ovens of Italy, and when the chefs swing the door to the furnace open, countless burning orange coals and cooking pizzas are visible. When the pizzas come out they appear charred, though the wait staff quickly explains that this is intentional and just a byproduct of the cooking method. Pepe’s takes pride in their product, and each pizza is handmade to order. In the restaurant, pizza is served fresh from the oven on trays, contributing to the authentic atmosphere.
Just above the entrance to the kitchen lies a red, neon sign with simply the words “Tomato Pies” written in script. The old-fashioned pizza is mainly tomato sauce with minimal cheese, something that may seem foreign to the pizza lovers of today.
Frank Pepe’s signature forest-green, wood-paneled booths were clearly continued in this location. Tall and private, they offer an element of seclusion for diners. Outside the doors of the pizzeria lay tables for those who might opt to people-watch within the mall, or perhaps to house overflow on particularly busy nights. And there are plenty of busy nights, but most patrons feel that it is worth the wait.
Pepe’s is famous for their white clam pizza, which consists of fresh clams, cheese, olive oil, fresh garlic, and oregano. While pizza is the signature meal of the restaurant, there are also Italian salads available for those who cannot or opt not to indulge in the signature dishes.
Foxon Park Soda, another staple, has been served at Pepe’s since the restaurant’s inception. The soda is similar to colas that most college students would recognize under more common brand names. The restaurant also offers Gassosa, a classic Italian lemon soda, white birch beer, root beer, cream soda, orange soda, and ginger ale. The restaurant stays true to its Italian roots in offering San Pellegrino as well. The sodas are all served in glass bottles, reminiscent of an older time.
Pepe’s paints itself as a proponent of the American Dream, with Pepe himself coming from Italy and making a lasting name for himself. His legacy lives on the walls of his restaurants. Lining the walls are pieces that display the original Frank Pepe himself and the history of the restaurants. Pepe’s has the registered trademark phrase “Old Reliable” just underneath their logo, along with a cartoon of the original Frank Pepe. This logo speaks to the mission of the brand, as Pepe committed himself to providing a quality experience and product.
Featured Image by Joanna Yuelys / Heights Staff