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pepe's "sorry no clams" question

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  • piney Dec 29, 2011 12:28 AM
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after trying pepe's white clam pie, i must go to pepe's if i'm in new haven. i've been to pepe's a total of five times (all in the last five years), but the last two times, a "sorry no clams" sign was on the door.

the first time pepe's was out of clams, it was ~9:30pm. being near the end of day, it was disappointing but didn't seem unusual.

on tues (dec 27), though, i arrived at pepe's just before 4pm. everything seemed great. there were still a few empty parking spots in the official lot. it was starting to rain, but the line ended at the end of the canopy. after waiting a few minutes of the promised twenty minute wait, i noticed the "sorry no clams" sign on the door. pepe's basic tomato pie is a nice pie, but, i feel like you're wasting your time if you go to pepe's and don't get the white clam pie (i'm lucky that denino's of staten island is my go to pizza - sausage pie to be exact).

so, i was curious if i just had bad luck, or, if i had stayed, would a truck with a picture of a lobster and a swordfish on the side have pulled up and dropped off a few hundred pounds of clams ? do persons call in advance to get a prediction on when the clams will run out ?

thanks in advance for any insight.

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  1. Love Pepe's sausage -- have you tried that? Clam issue was just bad luck and does not happen very often unless the weather or some other event intervenes.

    1. It could be a run on clams, or as howaboutthat pointed out, it could be weather-related. After heavy rains, shellfishing is sometimes suspended for a few days, maybe a week. It's a health issue, and the ban is put in place and lifted by local health departments. I don't recall massive storms in the last week, though. I buy direct from fishermen, and sometimes they just take time off. So close to Christmas, I wonder if that might be the case.

      1. HELLO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        It's got nothing to do with Pepe's. You were unrealistically expecting fresh shucked clams on the day after the legal holiday for Christmas,

        Monday, there were virtually no food deliveries, Sunday was Christmas Day, Saturday night was the Feast of the seven fishes and fresh seafood (of decent quality) would have been sold out in the area.

        Fishing would resume on Tuesday and deliveries on Wednesday.

        BTW>>>>I go to Wooster Street regularly to eat Apizza and never order a white clam pie. I don't like white pies of any type.

        And, this is not my holiday, but having grown up in New Haven, I am in tune with holiday disruptions of the food supply

        8 Replies
        1. re: bagelman01

          Well, they were out today, on Thursday!

          1. re: howaboutthat

            Today, I would have expected the item to be in stock. Fish suppliers were making deliveries yesterday and today and the weather was not bad enough (cold, not rain and ice) to stop clamming in the northeast.

            Perhaps they just sold out early. BTW, I'm not defending Pepe's, I'm a Sally's loyalist.

            1. re: howaboutthat

              The clams are fresh! I at least appreciate that they only keep as many as they think they need on hand and don't try to pass off old clams because they are afraid to run out. Gee, life is tough!

            2. re: bagelman01

              They were also out at opening time on a Sunday in late October, beautiful sunny day, the weekend before the Halloween surprise. A disappointment to our family who had hoped to try them.

              1. re: bagelman01

                Fussy, fussy, fussy. I'll eat pizza of any kind and color. I don't care whether it's red, white or chartruse. If it's pizza, and it's a decent pie, I'll eat it and be very happy. Bad pizza is an inexcusable crime against humanity. Good pizza, whatever the color, is cause for celebration.

                1. re: stukin

                  I don't need to eat and kind...
                  I am a New Haven Native, born to Sally's and Pepe's. I eat Apizza willingly and pizza occasionally. I don't like white pies, I like sauce on my apizza. That said, in true New Haven fashion Mozzarella is an option. One that I usually choose to do wiothout. Today, at Pepe's I had a traditional New Haven Pie-sauce and grated Romano cheese. I was very happy. My lunch companion had a white clam pie, he was also very happy.
                  To quote a childhood friend in the New Haven pork processing business :Sauseech his own...............

                  1. re: bagelman01

                    Glad to hear of another fellow "tomato pie" customer. We ordered a small one with anchovies in NH last weekend (along with a white clam - my younger son's absolute favorite - and a mozzarella pie with peppers, onions and garlic), and wondered how many other people actually order the old-school tomato pies. We didn't see any others on that visit, but almost every other customer that day was reading from a tourist guide while on line. That being said we don't order them in the branches because because they are unlikely to make enough to practice doing it properly.

                    I had always assumed that the tomato pie was unique to New Haven, until we visited the excellent El Cuartito in Buenos Aires in December. The shop is of a similar style and age to Pepe's, and they also consider mozzarella to be optional. Our guess was that the families must have emigrated from a similar region of Italy, and each independently kept that tradition alive.

                    (Way outside the scope of this CH board, but we discovered that BA is one of the few places that rival, if not surpass NH as a pizza destination. Pizza is ubiquitous there, and most of it is lousy (the big chain is "Kentucky Pizza"), but there are a number of outstanding places that have been soldiering on since the '30s or earlier)

                    1. re: SteveSCT

                      Steve,
                      I'm a New Haven native and an apizza aficionado. Until this week, when we moved mo to a nursing home in Derby, I got to New Haven at least twice a week and had a New Haven tomato pie (not to be confused with the seasonal fresh tomato pie-which I don't eat) at least once a week.
                      Closer to home, i can gat a very good New Haven tomato pie at Julian's Brick Oven Apizza in Monroe, but the oven is wood fed, not coal as on Woosetr Street.

                      You are correct about Pepe's branches not doing thie apizza as well as in New Haven, lack of demand and experience by the pie makers.

                      I have also been in BA many tomes over the years and tomato pies are common. There are many immigrants and descendants from Almalfi in BA (as in New Haven). Afterall, Argentina was eager to accept refugees from the Axis powers during and after WWII-Peron was pro-Nazi.

              2. It could be due to the price. Some places may choose not to sell them when they would have to charge what customers would perceive as a ridiculous price.

                1 Reply
                1. re: calliope_nh

                  with Pepe's charging more than $25 for a large white clam apizza a small fluctuation in mareket price shouldn't matter. Pizza is one of the highest food cost margin items sold in America (excluding beverages).

                2. i've had the same problem in manchester. im a restaurant person and i dont get it. you could order clams a week in advance and they would be ok iced.either there is a problem with whoever orders or they want to sell their other pizzas. either way,,,when you do get one they are delicious!!

                  1. Went to Fairfield Pepe's last night to celebrate New Years Eve birthday and we had a great clam pie as always. Did get there at 4pm and got seated immediately so hope those who arrived later in the evening had clams for their pies! Yum!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: jvaum

                      I think the proliferation of Pepe's locations in the last 10 years has disrupted the ebb and flow of their clam rakers in Rhode Island that was so steady in the preceding decades.

                    2. Once, when I called to order a clam pie, they were all out of clams, so they suggested I substitute shrimp for clams and I fell in complete and total love. Now, I prefer THAT version any and every time I order Pepe's. So delicious!!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: saturngrrl

                        I called this afternoon - Friday - at 3:00pm to order a clam pie to go - no clams. The tastiness of their sausage & shrimp notwithstanding, this is their signature pie.

                      2. Maybe they're all in Danbury... We had lunch at the Danbury Pepe's today and there were plenty of clam's. My pie had a boatload of large, fresh, briny clams. Mmmm-mmmm delicious!

                        1. I live in Stamford and learned a long time ago never to make a special trip to New Haven too have a Pepe's clam pie. The possibility that they'll be out of clams is just too great to chance it. If I'm in the area, I'll sometimes give them a try. The first 4 or 5 times I went there for clam pie they had them. The next 3 times in a row, they were out. Since then, it runs about 50-50. They might have them at 7:00 PM and be out by 7:30 PM. It's the luck of the draw.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: stukin

                            I have a question for Pepe's clam lovers. The first time we had the clam pie, many years ago, the clams were cleariy right out of the shell, briny and fresh, there was even a piece of shell. The garlic was fresh, too. and there was a good balance overall of cheese, herb and clam. Last Saturday we ordered the pie, which I was really looking forward to and was very disappointed. Lots of clam pieces, more than we remembered, but no fresh briny flavor- they could have been out of a jar-. and the garlic tasted like it was out of a jar or even dried.. It was shocking - neither we nor our guests enjoyed this pie which was truly a one note garlic flavor. At this stage, I would not order the clam pie again and would stick to the other types at Pepes.

                            Do any of the other places in New Haven offer a truly good, fresh clam pie?,

                            1. re: jen kalb

                              I don't want to restart another discussion over the merits of Pepe's, Sally, et al., but everyone in the NH area does clam pies. I've been disappointed by Pepe's, don't have the secret number for Sally's so I do what rosieg suggested nearly a year ago, I go to Modern. Its got the right balance of clams and garlic to my taste.

                              Jen, don't you wonder why clam pie isn't part of the NY pizza vernacular? Hardly ever see it.

                              1. re: jen kalb

                                Zuppardi's in West Haven. Hands down.

                            2. Modern has never failed us in the this. : )

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: rosieg

                                Agreed. Modern, though just as crowded, has comparable or better pies and plenty of clams.

                                1. re: ThomShap

                                  are they whole clams at Modern? the more I think about the Pepe's clam pie we had, the more disgusted I am - both the clams and the overwhelming possibly out of a jar garlic flavor of the whole thing

                                  1. re: jen kalb

                                    I have never in my many years of eating Pepe's clam pie in New Haven ever had one that didn't have freshly shucked clams. The last time i was there was in December. Had an awful canned clam pie at Sally's a long time ago and that was it for me. Back to Pepe's in New Haven only. We always call first to make sure they have clams. The Best!

                                    1. re: chervil9

                                      well I hate to say it but that sounds like a description of my pie on Dec 22 at Pepes. dont know what else to say. we actually left some there on the table.

                                      We first went to pepes in 1976 - have to say that the only thing thats still as good as it was is the crust - the sausage and mozz are also not on a par with those earlier days - but they still make a good pie.

                                      1. re: jen kalb

                                        Jen - The clams at Pepe's are not canned. Fresh but chopped but I doubt they shuck them right before they go on the pizza. The garlic on the other hand was overwhelming to my taste. Based on LorenV's comment above, I tried Zuppardi's for the first time and ordered the clam pie. Oh my goodness! Freshly shucked whole little necks on the pie. Not chopped - whole clams. Tasted briny with just a light amount of garlic. Awesome. No cheese either. Just tasted like clams.

                                        Modern has chopped clams and I prefer it to Pepe's.

                                        1. re: Bkeats

                                          thank you bkeats. We will not have clam pie at Pepes again. I was frankly ashamed of recommending it to our guests on our recent visit We will give zuppardi's a try.

                                          I first remember clam pie from an occasion when pepes was closed - we tried a place down the street (E) which has since disappeared , and the pie had the fresh shucked clams, light garlic,a dusting of cheese (it was basically a white pie with clams a littleolive oil, herbs and fresh parsley. It was served with lemon! and it was wonderful. Even the next day the leftovers rewarmed fresh and delicious. Im not even sure pepes offered clam pie when we first visited in the 70s - but after the other place closed we did have acceptable clam pie at Pepes, but it has gone downhill.

                                          1. re: Bkeats

                                            What was the cost of the large clam pie with whole littlenecks, may I ask? I'm wondering, as most restaurants here get between $1-$2 for a raw little neck on the halfshell. I'd expect one would need at least a dozen to barely top a large pie, and more likely a dozen and a half.

                                      2. re: jen kalb

                                        We, also, have never had canned clams on a Pepe's pizza.

                                  2. I was at Pepe's for lunch today (along with Veggo who was up from Florida). We arrived just before noon, as as Yale is off-session (YEAH!!!!) there was plenty of parking in the lot and tables available for lunch. The first thing Veggo asked was if clams were available for a white clam pie and was told yes.
                                    He ordered one and it smelled and looked great. He also confimed it tasted great. I don't eat white pies and had a traditional New Haven Apizza-sauce and grated Romano cheese. It was quite good, but I'm still a Sally's person. But as it was lunchtime, I think I'll be forgiven for patronizing Pape's.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: bagelman01

                                      We had a good lunch, bagelman! Also, Glenwood was excellent - lobster rolls, whole belly clams, Hummel dogs, rings. I went 3 times. Reins Deli in Vernon was excellent. I had pastrami and chopped liver on seeded rye. A big one.