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Frank Pepe Clam Pie: with/without Mozzarella?

sbp May 22, 2008 01:09 PM

Planning on a pilgrimage. So, white sauce, with or without Mozzarella? And how about Bacon with the clams?

  1. c
    ctpiz Jun 2, 2008 11:03 AM

    Does anybody know what they are using for sauce? What type of tomatoes? I am assuming they buy canned whole tomatoes, but which brand?

    16 Replies
    1. re: ctpiz
      Veggo Jun 4, 2008 04:51 PM

      I'm curious, also. If nobody responds because the restaurant is fiercely proprietary about their recipes, I will bring grubbies on my next visit and do a dumpster dive and report back.

      1. re: Veggo
        ctpiz Jun 5, 2008 01:33 PM

        I just found some reliable sources that claim they use canned Sclafani Genuine San Marzano Tomatoes - Italian Peeled Tomatoes. I think you should still go dumpster diving and let me know for sure.

        1. re: ctpiz
          Veggo Jun 5, 2008 02:23 PM

          And I think you would encourage me to do a swan dive from the cliffs of Dover, to know if it hurts for sure. I'm wise to you first time posters, but if you have a scintilla of sincerity, welcome :)

          1. re: Veggo
            vvvindaloo Jun 6, 2008 09:44 PM


            1. re: vvvindaloo
              sodagirl Jun 9, 2008 06:42 AM

              Pizza sauce 101 for what it is worth

              The pizza sauce is made from a combination of San Marzano and regular plum...1/2 and 1/2...the "saucyness" of the San Marzano adds body to the sauce. The regular plums usually are from Peru and are in a thinner liquid.

              They are bought through a Italian distibutor...we'll leave them nameless so there is a scintilla of secretness left...but you would recognize them immediatly...they sell the same things at Stop and Shop.

              Biggest surprise to most pizza eaters is that the sauce is just ground through a traditional meat grinder with a 1/4 inch die and is never cooked. Sometimes, depending on the season a small amount of sugar...usually about a cup for each five gallons is added to soften the acidity...but it is not done lightly and without several people tasting to be sure it is needed.

              The high heat drives moisture out of the sauce and it is absolutely critical that the oven temp be correct and that the dough be the right thickness for the heat to do it's work. The cheese also cannot be too thick because it will trap the steam being driven out of the sauce...leaving a gummy layer of dough. Just like a steamed dumpling.

              If you get a pizza with an undercooked crust...it may be the result of the pizza baker dropping a pie onto a spot in the oven that was just used and they didn;t allow the brick to come back up to temp...which takes a few minutes.

              The use of the old, no longer made, Blodgett 1000 oven is common because the heat comes from the bottom as opposed to the newer more popular wood stoves which can result on a charred top.

              The coal ovens work from the bottom as well...but the small door of the 1000 makes it more efficicent. Bakers Pride also made a small door and those are more popular down in NY and NJ for some reason...probably tradition.

              The reason broccoli and spinach are considered poor choices at some of the more popular places is that they use frozen products which is just like squeezing a sponge of water on the pie...mushrooms are also difficult to use...

              Try thy them at a place that makes them fresh...the spinach blanched and the broccoli blanched and cut small and they work just fine.

              1. re: sodagirl
                sbp Jun 9, 2008 08:53 AM

                Great post -- I love the virtually scientific approach to creating perfection. I'm the same way with Buffalo Chicken Wings. It's the details that make the difference.

                1. re: sodagirl
                  ctpiz Jun 10, 2008 08:37 AM

                  So, it is half San Marzano from Italy and half plum from Peru and some sugar? Are spices ever added to the sauce (basil, salt, garlic)?

                  Do they use the whole can in the mix, including the liquid, or do they drain the whole tomatoes from the can?

                  1. re: sodagirl
                    thos Jun 13, 2008 06:02 PM

                    sodagirl you rule!

          2. re: ctpiz
            danieljdwyer Jun 10, 2008 08:13 PM

            Probably about once a week the Sclafani truck blocks my access to parking while it delivers to one of the Downtown or Wooster Street places, and I get to sit and watch them ever so slowly wheel the cans in on a hand truck, impatiently waiting for them to get out of the way.
            Pepe's and Sally's both use whole peeled tomatoes (I thought San Marzano and Pomodori, but it has been a few weeks). I'm not sure about Modern as I'm never on State Street at that time of day. BAR differs in using cans of already pureed tomatoes, which the Sclafani site says are from California. If you're ever waiting for a slice at BAR (they only serve slices after midnight) you can see them preparing the pizzas assembly line style, with one guy ladeling out the sauce and adding the cheese.
            The liquid in the cans with the whole tomatoes is a puree of the same tomatoes, and there is salt and basil in the puree. Not sure if Sally's or Pepe's adds any further seasoning in addition to this. BAR does not, but they do heavily season some of the toppings. BAR also uses fresh, not frozen, vegetables for toppings.

            1. re: danieljdwyer
              sodagirl Jun 12, 2008 02:21 PM

              cans are not drained,,,the basil in the cans is one leaf...I guess it adds a little flavor and there is some salt...but no other seasonings...at least at the classic places.

              I can do wings 101 if you want...flour or no flour?

              1. re: sodagirl
                ctpiz Jun 13, 2008 09:39 AM

                I need to know the brand of tomatoes. I can't find these Peru tomatoes. I think we all agree they are using Sclafani, but sodagirl says its a mix.

                Don't even go into hot wings. We all know it is a sin to bread wings.

                1. re: ctpiz
                  sbp Jun 13, 2008 10:57 AM

                  If they're breaded, they're not Buffalo Chicken Wings. And they soak up grease and sauce and lose all crispiness. Yuck.

                  1. re: sbp
                    sodagirl Jun 13, 2008 12:53 PM

                    not breaded just a dusting of flour and some ground pepper...alot of places do it...and don;t tell you

                  2. re: ctpiz
                    sodagirl Jun 13, 2008 12:52 PM

                    It is Asclafani...the first is San Marzano and the other is the straight peeled plums...

                    Not bread...just flour...and most of the popular places do it because it soaks up the moisture...just a lkight dusting with ground pepper...

                    1. re: ctpiz
                      danieljdwyer Jun 13, 2008 02:19 PM

                      Got stuck waiting on the delivery truck on Wooster Street today (seriously, if they're not going to pull up to the curb anyway, do they have to park in front of the only two open spots on the street every time!) They were trucking in cans of San Marzano and Pomodori.
                      Wings need a little flour (preferably a very fine flour a la Korean chicken wings). The wing situation in New Haven is lamentable, however. I'm almost looking forward to BW3 opening just to be able to get wings that aren't completely horrible when it's too hot to make my own.

                      1. re: danieljdwyer
                        sodagirl Jun 15, 2008 06:40 AM

                        word has reached me that the chilean tomatoes have been pulled and Sclafani is not buying from Spain...not sure if this is just a rioutine thing or a change in long term activity

              2. sbp May 28, 2008 09:45 AM

                OK, I'm back. Great experience. Got the White Clam - no bacon, no cheese. It was amazing. Crust was chewy, crispy, charred - perfect. The topping was seriously garlicky and herby, and the clams were tender, fresh and perfect. Like a Buffalo chicken wing, it's a perfect combination of flavors, textures. I wouldn't mess with it.

                Also had pepperoni pie and sausage pie -- for the non-clam eaters with me. Both were excellent, though much more familiar as a well made variant of the traditional New York slice. By that I mean the cheese was not the "pure" very white mozzarella you see "spotted" on a lot of artisanal Pizza's nowadays. It was clearly that slightly creamy/orangey pizza cheese that was liberally scattered all over the pie. However, the crust, sauce and pepperoni were clearly superior to most of what you get in NY. The pepperoni was particularly interesting. Randomly thick and thin slices of pretty spicy stuff -- it also benefitted from the intense heat in that some slices were barely heated through, others were very well caramelized, and some were burnt. Made for some tasty contrasts.

                The sausage was similar in concept to the pepperoni, but was very homemade tasting sausage; heavy on the fennel. Also delicious.

                17 Replies
                1. re: sbp
                  FoodieJim May 28, 2008 12:02 PM

                  Glad to hear that you enjoyed it. This thread started a craving I couldn't resist, so I took my 10 year-old to the Manchester branch for her first ever White Clam pie. She is now a convert.

                  1. re: sbp
                    Jimmy Cantiello May 28, 2008 12:14 PM

                    Just for the record, the moots on Pepe's pies is not your normal shredded cheese. They use slices.

                    1. re: Jimmy Cantiello
                      ElizabethHenton May 28, 2008 12:44 PM

                      without for sure

                      if you are going for the 'with sauce' get your keyster to Modern in NH and get the clam pie/bacon and make sure you get the world's best rootbeer with it

                      1. re: Jimmy Cantiello
                        sbp May 28, 2008 07:50 PM

                        I had the clam without, so I can only speak for the pepperoni and sausage. It was definitely better quality than your typical pizza cheese, but clearly not slices of fresh mozzarella. The fresh stuff doesn't melt into a goo that coats the whole surface of the pie evenly -- it sort of just softens so that if it was sliced, you can still make out the rounds. Fresh mozzarella also is very white on the surface of the pie. The Pepe's was not bright white, very evenly melted over the whole pie, and very melted. For a pepperoni/sausage pie, that's preferable to the whole milk fresh mozzarella -- which has a delicate milky flavor that can't stand up well to so much spice.

                        1. re: sbp
                          Jimmy Cantiello May 29, 2008 03:14 AM

                          You are correct. Pepe's does not use fresh mozzarella on their pies. I didn't mean to imply that at all. All I was saying is, unlike other pizza joints that use the shredded variety of moots, Pepe's moots is placed on the pizza in slices. And yes, it does end up melted evenly over the whole pie. Next time you're there watch how they put the pies together and you'll see what I mean.

                          1. re: Jimmy Cantiello
                            fourunder May 29, 2008 09:50 AM


                            You are correct. Frank Pepe's uses slices of low moisture mozzarella to cover their pies, not shredded mozzarella . I do not recall if they even offer fresh mozzarella for a Margherita Pizza Pie. I would defer to others for that answer.

                            1. re: fourunder
                              Jimmy Cantiello May 29, 2008 11:13 AM

                              Never saw fresh mozzarella at Pepe's.

                              1. re: Jimmy Cantiello
                                zoe p. May 29, 2008 11:48 AM

                                Thanks Jimmy. I've often wondered about Pepe's cheese. It doesn't turn out tasting like basic shredded mozzarella, but it's clearly not fresh either. I never thought to get up and watch . . .

                                For the record, Modern offers a Margherita with fresh mozzarella, but it's not. At least, not when I ordered it!!

                                And sbp, I really love that fennel taste in the sausage too - none of the other NH places have a sausage that compares.

                                1. re: zoe p.
                                  sbp May 29, 2008 07:49 PM

                                  Very interesting stuff about the cheese. I suppose it's the low moisture which accounts for the meltability compared to fresh. And you are right about the sausage -- I can't recall ever having a pizza (until now) with a really good, rustic, sausage. They all tend toward bland, or come either crumbled like salad bar bacos (which seems to be a West Coast style) or sliced in ultra thin rounds where it's hard to distinguish from meatball pizza.

                                  1. re: zoe p.
                                    Cheese Boy May 29, 2008 08:05 PM

                                    Zoe, click on this link and you'll see that the cheese is in slices (at 2:37). Definitely a lo-moisture cheese otherwise the pizza would be a drippy mess.

                                    Link ---> http://link.brightcove.com/services/p...

                                    1. re: Cheese Boy
                                      FoodieJim May 30, 2008 06:16 AM

                                      Great video. Thanks for the link.

                                      1. re: Cheese Boy
                                        zoe p. May 30, 2008 07:28 AM

                                        Thanks for the video!! You do get a few nice glimpses at the cheese slices. And Cindy, I'm sorry I never got to try a pie with Calabro cheese.

                                        And I'm also sorry I have to disagree with Mr.Bimante. Pepe's Pizza is (not to be crass) actually like sex, anyway you do it is pretty damn good and the possibilities are endless. Including clam + cheese.

                                        I also feel like Sally's would be the better pizza to have "tomato only" - something about the crust - but the service there is *almost* unforgivable.

                                2. re: Jimmy Cantiello
                                  buonformai Dec 26, 2008 12:20 PM

                                  my "moots" you are really refering to american style pizza cheese which is a 6lb. loaf of low moisture mozzarella also known as american style pizza cheese. This stuff is priced on the block market so it is actually a commodity cheese - companies like calabro that produce a high quality product are forced to price based on a commodity market not by the actual quality. If you price off the block market you instantly reduce the market by at least 95 % -- Very few pizza makers want to spend the money for a quality cheese - they want cheap cheap cheap. I work at calabro so i know how this works first hand. Personally i would like to see good pizza makers move back to scamorza instead of the american stlye pizza cheese.

                            2. re: sbp
                              CindysFarmStand May 29, 2008 05:03 PM

                              Pepe's used to use Calabro cheese http://www.calabrocheese.com/ but stopped due to price. They use a cheaper cheese now, probably Grande, which would account for the drop in quality over the last 10 years or so.
                              I am happy to hear you went without cheese on the clam pie. Too bad you missed out on the bacon pie. It's by far my favorite there. Next time make sure you try one and a pie with just sauce.

                              1. re: CindysFarmStand
                                sbp May 29, 2008 07:46 PM

                                I did want to "go naked" the first time, though I do love the combo of clams and bacon. And yes, an old-school crust and sauce only pizza would probably be amazing from Pepe's. Their dough is amazing.

                                1. re: sbp
                                  CindysFarmStand May 30, 2008 06:59 PM

                                  That's great sbp. I am glad you made the trek! I agree their crust is great. I am still trying to figure out if they use a starter. Most people would automatically assume they do, but recently I found out Patsy's doesn't so who knows?

                                2. re: CindysFarmStand
                                  buonformai Dec 26, 2008 12:11 PM

                                  check bar for calabro cheese, they use it exclusively.

                              2. l
                                luci May 27, 2008 04:10 AM

                                we did it recently no bacon no cheese..one slice was enough..this is very rich pizza..I did not love it..the others had pepperoni. VERY greasy...

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: luci
                                  lsnhc May 27, 2008 05:53 AM

                                  Late to post here...but....mozz on a white clam pie can only be described in one word - blasphemous!!!!!
                                  Veggo has it right -clams, oil, garlic....and maybe a dusting of parmegiano..
                                  ...finish it off by a squeeze of lemon!

                                2. zoe p. May 26, 2008 09:41 PM

                                  I was skeptical about clams and cheese but it actually works, in this case, to abandon all reason and pair seafood and cheese. Without cheese is also delicious and (am I the only one??) with tomato and cheese is great too . . .

                                  A small is about 2 slices of NY style pizza, a medium feeds two and leaves them aching for a bit more . . . Take-out smalls are smaller, and, of course, the sizes vary.

                                  1. ntuitive1 May 26, 2008 06:54 PM

                                    Definitely get it without cheese - Traditional Italian cooking does not pair seafood with cheese. Besides, you don't need it anyway, the Pepe's clam pie is that good!

                                    1. sbp May 23, 2008 10:01 AM

                                      OK, now to the followup: Small, Medium, Large -- what is the equivalent of each in standard NYC pizza slices? That is, will a small feed 2, or is it like one or two slices of regular pizza?

                                      9 Replies
                                      1. re: sbp
                                        Jimmy Cantiello May 23, 2008 10:23 AM

                                        Always go with at least a medium. The large would be even better.

                                        1. re: sbp
                                          CindysFarmStand May 29, 2008 04:59 PM

                                          Never order anything but smalls. Large pies get soggy and are more difficult to handle.

                                          1. re: CindysFarmStand
                                            Veggo May 30, 2008 08:59 AM

                                            But the large ones have a more favorable ratio of "stuff"- to -crust. And getting the saddle-shaped "bend" to a 12 inch radius slice in order to support it's weight is an art form that pizza connoisseurs take years to perfect. Plus when you're really hungry and that large one is delivered to your table ansd even though it may be twice what you will eat, it looks so pretty...

                                            1. re: Veggo
                                              zoe p. May 30, 2008 10:28 AM

                                              Yeah. I'm with you. I love them soggy in the center and difficult to handle. That's the "pie" part, as far as I'm concerned.

                                              1. re: Veggo
                                                CindysFarmStand May 30, 2008 06:55 PM

                                                We average about 4 pies for 2 people so there's plenty to eat! Not into soggy pies and New Haven pies aren't cooked hot, only about 650-700. Large pies are reserved for places that bake 900+ degrees(New York).

                                                1. re: CindysFarmStand
                                                  Veggo May 30, 2008 07:31 PM

                                                  900 degrees??!! That's 38% higher than the melting point of lead, and more than half the melting point of bronze. No wonder I burn the roof of my mouth so often eating pizza!

                                                  1. re: Veggo
                                                    CindysFarmStand May 31, 2008 05:53 PM

                                                    This is on my list of things I need to make pies right:

                                                    1. re: Veggo
                                                      hyde Jun 4, 2008 04:26 PM

                                                      yeah, but those lead pies are terrible

                                                      1. re: hyde
                                                        Veggo Jun 4, 2008 05:00 PM

                                                        A little bland and heavy, true, but anchovies really make them sing.

                                            2. Jimmy Cantiello May 23, 2008 03:27 AM

                                              Bacon makes everything better. Having said that, I would recommend that you order your white clam pie au naturel, sans moots or bacon. That's the way the Gods intended it to be.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: Jimmy Cantiello
                                                sodagirl May 23, 2008 06:30 AM

                                                If you want to try the Pepe's in Manchester I suggest you do it sooner rather than later.

                                                1. re: sodagirl
                                                  kneerobber May 23, 2008 07:03 AM

                                                  Sodagirl, your posts are generally right on the money. Please elaborate on "sooner rather than later". I visited this place once and found the pizzas quite delicious and I would definitely return. However, in the back of my mind I kept thinking that there are far too many restaurants around the Manchester mall already competing for shrinking disposable income and wondered myself (not knowing the type of rent these establishments pay) if Pepe's could survive here.

                                                  1. re: kneerobber
                                                    mmalmad May 23, 2008 07:33 AM

                                                    No to the cheese, bacon makes everything better, but I like it as it comes, clams, garlic, oil...

                                                    1. re: kneerobber
                                                      sodagirl May 30, 2008 11:23 AM

                                                      sorry for the dealy...travelling

                                                      I never judge business by a Friday or Saturday night...at the mall if you are not full for lunch and dinner...at least one turn 7 days a week...it will not cover overhead.

                                                      For a chain...the Frank Pepee's product quality is still pretty good. They did cut using Calabro...which is not fresh Mozz.

                                                      (Frankly, to be completely accurate... fresh Mozz in this country is just plain, white cheese curd...go to Wisconsin and have a bowl)

                                                      Rent, overhead plus volume are not adding up...staff is itchy and some are overworked. It gets out.

                                                      (Ate hot dogs and fries last week at Essies Original in Pittsburgh...look it up)

                                                2. b
                                                  BenjaminL May 23, 2008 12:53 AM

                                                  On a related note, I believe that squeezing lemon over the white clam pie makes all the difference -- it changes the dish from an interesting acquired taste to a plainly transcendent experience.

                                                  1. vvvindaloo May 22, 2008 08:55 PM

                                                    I couldn't agree more heartily with those who recommend the bacon pie. I actually really like the clam pie both ways: with mozzarella and without.
                                                    I'll never forget the time that Mrs. Pepe (as I knew her then) came down to visit my grandmother and all of their cousins...
                                                    She brought 14 pies with her.
                                                    Don't hate me.

                                                    1. f
                                                      fourunder May 22, 2008 04:16 PM

                                                      Never any cheese....bacon on a second pie......and remember to take two clam pies home.

                                                      1. Veggo May 22, 2008 04:15 PM

                                                        No cheese, no bacon; let the clams and garlic serenade you. I only get back to New Haven for weddings and funerals, which gives me conflicting hopes for my next clam pie!

                                                        1. Cheese Boy May 22, 2008 03:51 PM

                                                          Hate to say it, but NO cheese. It pains me.

                                                          Gary Bimonte says so here too. Great guy. Years ago on the way back from Lowell,
                                                          I stopped in New Haven, and he and I got into a conversation where he revealed to me their intentions that Pepe's was going to become somewhat of a franchise. At first I thought this would surely compromise Pepe's pizza as we presently know it, but fortunately for us, the quality still remains the same as always. I still enjoy the New Haven locations most, and hopefully the Pepe Pizza legacy will carry on and continue to produce quality pizzas for many years to come.

                                                          Gary discourages cheese (I still respect the guy).
                                                          Look --> http://link.brightcove.com/services/p...

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: Cheese Boy
                                                            thos May 22, 2008 07:02 PM

                                                            Yes I must concur Cheese Boy - no cheese! But having several locations is not the same as franchising. May Pepe's never sink to that unfortunate level.

                                                            1. re: thos
                                                              Cheese Boy May 22, 2008 08:18 PM

                                                              Thos, that's what I found most unsettling during our whole conversation. He used the word 'franchise'. If Pepe's becomes a *true* franchise, I hope it doesn't prove detrimental to their "flagship" stores.

                                                            2. re: Cheese Boy
                                                              vvvindaloo May 22, 2008 10:29 PM

                                                              Cheese boy, do you have any idea where these so-called franchises will be? I am not sure whether to be happy, anxious, or horrified.
                                                              I do hope that he meant "franchise" as in, "off-shoot".

                                                              1. re: vvvindaloo
                                                                Cheese Boy May 23, 2008 06:26 AM

                                                                I don't know, but I would guess that eventually Pepe's would be willing to try their luck and expand nationally. When I heard "franchise", to me it implied that people would be buying into the company. I suppose Pepe's stands to make a lot of money going this route and I can completely understand why they would even consider doing so [offering franchises]. Pepe's is fairly well known, (national acclaim) and I would say that this is true thanks in part to the many graduates of Yale. Many grads return home and wish they had a Pepe's back in their home state or in close proximity. Reminiscent of *their* days at Yale, surely the Clinton's wouldn't mind having a Pepe's Pizza somewhere in Westchester, Manhattan, Arkansas, or DC.

                                                                Hey, perhaps one day it will happen, and right now only time will tell.

                                                            3. c
                                                              CindysFarmStand May 22, 2008 03:50 PM

                                                              Never cheese, always bacon.
                                                              Get a cheese and bacon pie also, and never larges, always smalls and lots of them!

                                                              1. c
                                                                cheshirecat May 22, 2008 03:49 PM

                                                                I totally agree with FoodieJim's post. No scamotz. Try it once without bacon, it really needs no adornment.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: cheshirecat
                                                                  buonformai Dec 26, 2008 12:29 PM

                                                                  scamotz is actually scamorza, precurser to mozzarella, america pizza cheese. lots of pizza makers used to use it - especially in bridgeport

                                                                2. f
                                                                  FoodieJim May 22, 2008 01:41 PM

                                                                  When ordering the White Clam, you should do so without the Mozzarella. Bacon is a decent add-on, but if you have never had the Clam Pie before, trying a small one without additional adornment would be the way to go, IMHO. Maybe half with bacon and half without if you don't think you will be able to visit again anytime soon for comparisons sake.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: FoodieJim
                                                                    sbp May 22, 2008 02:02 PM

                                                                    Thanks. I was leaning to no Mozzarella, but wanted to hear from the experts.

                                                                  2. MMRuth May 22, 2008 01:11 PM

                                                                    I've been wanting to make the pilgrimage too - do report back!! Just have to convince my husband it's worth the gas.

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