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Frank Pepe's, New Haven -- a gob-smacked disappointment


Restaurants & Bars 31

Frank Pepe's, New Haven -- a gob-smacked disappointment

Bill Strzempek | Dec 14, 2005 01:35 PM

I have to post my reaction to this much-lauded place just because after going out of my way from New York and sitting there late Monday night and eating the mediocre pizza I was amazed that so many people praise it and that it has lasted all these years. Based on the pie I had there is no way this place should even make a list of good pizza parlors, let alone great pizza parlors, where I often find it listed.

Pros: The staff is absolutely terrific, genuinely friendly, upbeat, caring. The room is spotless, booths comfortable, oven area impressive. Prices are appropriate and there is no gouging due to their reputation. The size of the pies is generous, as is the amount of ingredients evenly spread over the pie.

Cons: The pizza was pretty dismal.

I wanted the clam pie but there were no clams so I opted for a medium pie with sausage, mushrooms, onions, mozzarella. It was huge for a medium pie and I loved the haphazardly shaped slices.

I could not believe my eyes when I saw what looked like CANNED mushrooms on it! They had that grey slimey waterlogged tell-tale look and taste, it put me right off the pie from the getgo. Any place that puts canned ingredients on a pie does not deserve to be on any "best" list, case closed.

The sausage also did not fare well. It appeared to have been pre-boiled or steamed before being sliced and spread on the pie. It had no natural juices left to it and was bland in taste, leaning more toward a bratwurst than sweet Italian sausage. The sausage seriously needed spices and fennel. One or two slices had a nice perk of fennel seed which immediately elevated the entire experience for that mouthful, but on the whole a sorry excuse for Italian sausage. The onions, on the positive note, had been nicely caramalized and were glistening from olive oil, they were sweet and the best thing on the pie.

It was hard to judge the sauce as there was so little of it on the pie, but the bits I scraped to taste separately were not particulary packed in tomato flavor, I'd have to call the sauce insipid.

The crust was a disaster. It was absolutely flat, little texture or variation, dense, cardboard-like in look and texture. It reminded me of the frozen pizzas that were served in school cafeterias. I was actually stunned when I bit into it and realized how rock-hard it was -- this crust snapped in the way that peanut brittle snaps and it had the same crunch and same difficulty in chewing as peanut brittle. There were
no small puffy pockets of steamy, yeasty dough to be found to relieve the hard work of getting through this crust. Bad bad bad. Another parallel that came to mind was pita bread left in the oven to harden. There was no sign that this dough/crust had yeast in it all.

Surely this can't be what New Haven folks have been lining up for over the years. Or is it?

I'm going to have to go back one day to see if it's always that bad...

Is Sally's the same?

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