The other night I found myself staying in Danbury, CT across the street from Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana. This is one of several branches of the home store in New Haven, which at least one blogger as well as Frank himself believes makes the best pizza in the world.
The branches apparently vary in quality, but all bake in a coal-fired oven whose intense heat produces a blistered, chewy crust. When I entered the restaurant and observed the cooks using a peel whose handle extended across the room (maybe a gimmick, or maybe because the fire was too hot to get any closer) I knew I was in good hands.
The quandary was what to order as a solo diner. Yelp recommendation are pretty much divided between the original tomato pie with mozzarella (currently $9 for a small 12-inch pie) and white clam pizza ($11). There was also a fresh tomato pie ($12.50) which is only available July through September. It was impossible to choose. So I bought them all, with a total bill including tax of $37.75.
This is the strategy I would advise whenever you are in a location where you are sorely tempted by the food and unlikely to return. The opportunity cost of not trying everything appropriate far outweighs any expense or personal discomfort. Just be sure that all that food goes to good use.
None of my pizza from Frank Pepe’s went to waste. I ate a little more than a pie’s worth that night, finished the clam the next day for lunch (since it was made from fresh clams, it would not travel well), shared some at an afternoon meeting and took the remaining slices home to be reheated a couple of days later.
By the way, if I were to go back I’d confidently head for the original tomato pie with mozz, maybe adding a topping or two. The fresh tomato pie is a nice concept, but the liquid of the fresh tomatoes fought with the chewy crackery crust. And the clam is entirely dependent on how generous the prep cook is with the clams and garlic in that instant when they’re topping the pizza. I didn’t get enough, waah, but now I know the technique and can do this at home.