A Pizza Tradition Put to a New Test

According to the New York Times, “One of the shrines for pizza aficionados in Connecticut, Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, has had the audacity to open its fifth outpost smack in the middle of Central Park Avenue in Yonkers, where Ricky’s Clam House once stood. “Central Av,” as it is affectionately called by people who are particular about the tenderness of their mozzarella, is the source spring for Italian-Americans in Westchester, and the folks at Frank Pepe — the original owner’s grandchildren, to be exact — have taken a calculated risk in putting their thin-crusted, coal-fired pies right under the noses of a distinctly discerning audience.”

“This is pizza with a pedigree. Baked in a hot, hot oven (650 degrees Fahrenheit) for only a few minutes, the pies at Frank Pepe emerge bubbling like lava, their crusts puffed, charred and blistered. The brick oven is a faithful replica of the original, built in 1925 in New Haven; air circulates over fiercely glowing coals, which you can glimpse when a worker opens a little hinged fire door to check on them. The kitchen is open to view, and it’s fun to watch the pie makers pat down the dough and maneuver the long-handled wooden paddles and copper brooms (the farina that dusts the bottom of the pies turns to ash and must be swept away periodically). One worker, his white paper hat askew, his hands in constant motion, was dusted from head to foot with flour. The prices at Frank Pepe are nothing if not reasonable — a small tomato pie is $6.30, $7.70 with mozzarella — and eating there has added value: It’s part historical re-enactment, part dinner theater.”

“The pizza is very good — although you have to be careful what you order. The original tomato pie, a Spartan exercise in dough topped only with crushed tomatoes and a sprinkling of Romano cheese, tasted of good-quality canned tomatoes and little else. That same pie with mozzarella was better, and one with mozzarella and spicy, fennel-spiked pepperoni was downright delicious. A version with plump marinated shrimp was also surprisingly good. And super-strong anchovies on another made the anchovy lover in our group very happy indeed,” the story said.