Frank Pepe's Disappointing
We were in New Haven Sunday night and stopped at Pepe's for a pie. Since this was supposed to be the best pizza on the planet, we were ready. There was a line out the door and down the block. At "The Spot" also. I knew there was a branch in Fairfield, and since it was on our way home, i went in to ask directions.
I was immediately confronted, both in The Spot (an annex at back of their car park) and the Original with an almost palpable wall of what i can only call bad vibe. Everyone on staff looked like they would rather be elsewhere doing anything else but waiting on you. Nobody was much interested in directing us to the other restaurant. I got either ignored, a blank stare, or "I dunno". I finally spotted a couple walking out with a takeout box. Thereon, i'm not kidding, was the location and phone of the other branches. I copied the phone, called, got (automated) directions and we were off.
We got seated (a wordless over-the-shoulder "follow me" nod from the matré-punk.) (Why do they make you wait outside? What if it was winter?) An anomaly: our waitress was nice. The pizza was all right. Certainly nothing to get excited about. I had white clam with half bacon, no cheese. The clams were fresh. Overall, though, it was very salty. Mrs. S. had spinach. Beer and wine came in thimbles. Should have got a pitcher.
I can't understand why, with a world full of restaurants, customers keep returning to places that treat their customers like crap. It's not cute. It's not part of the funky ambiance. It stinks.
I lived in New Haven for 10 years and was never a fan of Pepe's. The pizza was good, but I hated the service. I much preferred both the pizza and the atmosphere at Modern. Plus, much as I love pizza, I'm unwilling to stand in a long line for it.
However, pizza in New Haven is the subject of much spirited debate and everyone is prepared to defend their favorite to the end.
Don't feel bad...I've lived in New Haven all of my short 34 years and never saw the reasoning behind it. Pepe's is just the "it" place for pizza for those who don't know any better. What's the term...Lemmings? You see the lines, you get a wiff of the burnt crust in the air...must be good stuff cooking inside? The last time I went there was about 7 years ago and I ordered a nice burnt white clam with yes a jelly jar glass of shitty wine, probably Carlo Rossi. Service sucked beyond belief and that was 7 years ago. Not surprised to see that it hasn't changed. I don't think there is an Italian person anywhere in the kitchen anymore, but besides that...you would think that as they franchised out, they would have some consistency in the recipe and the way the dang thing is cooked. But instead they choose to duplicate the "great" service. If I gotta wait more than an hour for a pizza then it's not worht it. Agreeing with "Shawn"...New Haveners will defend their pizza place to the end. I am not a huge fan of Modern either. I think Grand Apizza does a great job, but I also think that Romas on Main St. in the Annex makes great pie. When I was very young, my family used to go to Bemonte's in Hamden every Saturday. And i can remember his tomatoe pie, no cheese with a huge pitcher of Pepsi to wash it down. Those were the days. There used to be a pizza shack on Ferry years, I mean years, ago who made a fresh white clam that was the best I have ever had. No one to this day has even come close. You could write a Seinfeld episode about Pepe's.
I've been to both the original and the Fairfield location quite a few times. I've always enjoyed the pizza. The service is probably more friendly at the Ffld. location, but I've never felt like I was treated like crap at either. We usually order the bottle of birch beer to avoid the small glasses.
I was just there on July 5th and the service that I received was pretty good. We had a nice waitress who was very friendly and on top of things and nobody seemed to be giving off a bad vibe. The pizza was better the last time I was there (2 months ago) it was a little too greasy this time around.
Overall, I like this pizza joint and I never have had a problem with the service.
The one thing that I do agree with is that they do need to do something about those "thimbles" they call glasses. Ridiculously small. An infant could down 10 of those and still be thirsty.
I haven't been to the Fairfield one for a couple of months, but generally find polite & plesant service - tho wkday lunch is less harried overall. Our waitress specifically told us to order a pitcher for drinks (even tho we were only 2 people). Still dreaming about the clam pizza with bacon - oh my!