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Pepes Pizza coming to Boston

Saw an article on Boston.com this morning that New Haven's Pepes Pizza is expanding to Boston. White clam pizza anyone!

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    1. That would be amazing...

      1. A bit surprising, invading Regina's territory, but there's room. The white clam is my fave.

          1. Coal fired oven in Boston proper?

            Color me skeptical.

              1. I really enjoy the original Pepe's. I tried the one at Mohegan Sun and I don't think it's as good. I think you need to go to New Haven to get the real deal.

                1. I read that to My Love and he responded, "They better bring their oven with them"!

                  24 Replies
                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                    hard to believe that new ovens cannot be constructed that will do the job; that is the least of their problems.

                    Look at Jean-Georges; he has problems cloning his restaurants whereas Nobu and Brasserie Jo have done the job. Oh, well, I need to take a trip down to NYC and get some smoked fish from Barney's and have dinner at J-G.

                    1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                      Not sure, look at Santarpio's or Regina's as examples of how pizza varies from location to location. I hope they can do it, we'll have to wait and see.

                      1. re: treb

                        The Serious Eats Slice pizza blog liked the suburban NYC Pepe's, (Yonkers?) and they are serious about pizza. They did a taste test a short time apart and have a bunch of photos.

                        That said, and I've heard others say good things about other locations, the CT casino location is just not as good as the original in New Haven.

                        1. re: CportJ

                          Based on 1 visit, the Manchester, CT location was on a par with the New Haven original.

                          I haven't tried any others.

                          1. re: 9lives

                            The Bridgeport/Fairfield location is also great-- one of the best pizzas I've had anywhere. I don't like clam pies, though-- chewy clams on chewy dough, chewy-on-chewy, it just doesn't work for me: the clams end up seeming doughy and the dough... clammy. Or something.

                            1. re: 9lives

                              We've found the Manchester CT pizza to be variable: sometimes it's -ok, and sometimes they barely cook the crust. But, we heated some slices side by side and there was a big difference in the character of the dough between New Haven and Manchester.
                              But the bacon was great on both versions!

                              1. re: cocoabrioche

                                I agree about the Manchester Pepe's. The pizza there can be very good, but in my experience it has never matched the greatness of the New Haven original. And the one time I tried the white clam pizza in Manchester it was horrible: clams were slightly off -- and slightly off clams are disgusting.

                                1. re: katzzz

                                  there is no such thing as a slightly off clam, in my opinion, like you, if there off, they are OFF. blech, sorry you had to endure that

                                  1. re: devilham

                                    FULLY AGREE.

                                    Sort of pregnant.

                                    Military Intelligence.

                                    Very unique.

                                    "Slightly" off clams.

                                      1. re: hyde

                                        Don't agree (without shouting)

                                        Sometimes clams have a "farmy" taste without being unedible. Experienced many times at chowhound exalted clam box in ipswich with their big bellies.

                                    1. re: katzzz

                                      We've stopped at Manchester many times, and found it to be the best pizza NE of New Haven. Other than Regina's original location.

                                      But we do rank the original Pepe's in NH as better than Manchester

                                      1. re: katzzz

                                        When I was at the Manchester location, they were unloading clams from a refrigerated truck from Ipswich Shellfish; 1 of the top suppliers in NE.

                                        That doesn't excuse you getting a bad clam but I've got to guess that bad clams on Frank Pepes clam pizza are the exception rather than the rule.

                                        Somewhere I've got a photo set with Manchester and NH clam pizza next to each other well done,

                                        They look very similar.

                                  2. re: CportJ

                                    I've been to the one in Manchester, CT ("Frank Pepe's" - don't get it confused with "Pepe's," also in Manchester as we did one sad Friday evening).

                                    I've never been to the NH shop, but the white clam pie there was pretty damned good. I think it can be replicated, based on my n = 1.

                                    1. re: digga

                                      My first trip I went to 'Pepe's" too. Looked around and googled some more until I found 'FRANK Pepe's'! Wonder how much business that sad bar pizza place gets from similar mistakes...

                                    2. re: CportJ

                                      The yonkers location is very close to me and the best thing about it is I have no desire to go constantly,as i would in the New Haven location.New Haven (years ago) was truly amazing,but the last few times (not recently) were not even close,however I have been to fairfield a few times and thought it was excellent.I keeper-trying Yonkers but it consistently fails to deliver.

                                    3. re: treb

                                      yes, hopefully it will be as good as the Regina outposts!

                                      ah, sarcasm.

                                      Its not that the ovens CANT be built, my understanding is that Boston fire laws will preclude the building of a coal oven inside the city limits proper.

                                      If I am wrong about this , I apologize.

                                      That said, Angela's on rt. 1 is coal fired, i believe. so outside the city, say Waltham or Quincy, would be possible,

                                      but Downtown?

                                      I remain skeptical.

                                      1. re: hyde

                                        Ooooh, Waltham would be awesome in my book!

                                        1. re: hyde

                                          Aside from fire code restrictions, restaurants adjacent to mixed use buildings become problematic. E.G. a coffee roaster in Cherry Creek, Denver, adjacent to a high end ladies store.
                                          Remember Genji on Newbury Street? HUGE problems with tenants above. How lawyers get rich.

                                          1. re: Veggo

                                            Or barbeque smokers in Brookline.

                                            1. re: Veggo

                                              but veggo, Sonsie is bound to be louder than Genji. Did Genji win vs the tenants?

                                              p.s. that is a mini yoga mat, right? is that a yoga position i maybe haven't learned yet? :-}

                                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                The building owner installed vapor barriers, but ultimately Genji's lease was not renewed. It was a fun restaurant, very formal and not nearly as loud as Sonsie. Very quiet, actually.
                                                little veggo's workout and meditative sessions are very personal to him, so I can't comment....:)

                                            2. re: hyde

                                              I would totally be okay with Quincy!

                                            3. re: treb

                                              Pizza should be easier to do than a French bistro or sushi, but the proof is in the pizza. I like the clam pizza at Coppa by the way though it is not cheap.

                                              there are lots of strip malls not far from downtown Boston, ie Cambridge which might fit the bill.

                                        2. Hope it's good. The Pepe's expansion in Danbury, CT is just so-so. Went a couple times, and not particularly memorable, not as good as New Haven. In Ridgefield, CT two pizza places have recently opened which serve wood-fired oven pies. Prefer both of them to the Danbury Pepe's.

                                          1. Ok 'Hounds, here's the skinny. Yes, the ingredients have to be good, but its the oven, not the person making them that make them taste great. Regina's Thatcher St. oven is sooooo saturated with the many years of tasty ingredients that you could almost throw a work boot in there and it will come out tasting like a mushroom and pepperoni pizza. An oven with experience.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: CocoDan

                                              Couldn't agree more, I often tell people that that oven is magic.

                                              1. re: devilham

                                                At Pepe's and Reginas, the ovens have been seasoning for 75 years or more. Some things take time.

                                              2. re: CocoDan

                                                I am not a pizza expert but I love great pizza. I imagine it is great to have a well seasoned oven that's 100+ years old. That said, one of the best pizzas I have had in my life was at Tony's Napoletana in San Francisco. The owner is an 11 time World Pizza champion (according to his website), USA Today named his pizzeria the "best" in the US and I can't imagine that the ovens are that old (he has built 7 different ovens for the restaurant for the various styles and temperatures that the pizza cook at).

                                                1. re: bakerboyz

                                                  Great pizza is not always about the ovens. A place here in Connecticut has great pizza, and uses a standard gas oven.

                                                  Pizza is the whole package — the crust, sauce and cheese.

                                                  Pizza made in coal-fired ovens (Pepe's, Patsy's in East Harlem, for example) is quite special.

                                                  1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                    Agreed. Max & Leo's in Newton has a coal fired oven that is no more than a few years old and for my money they are turning out some of the best pizzas in Greater Boston. The oven could be a factor, but great pizza is available from ovens that aren't decades old if it is made properly with quality ingredients.

                                              3. Most of the better pizza places in NYC are less than five years old. I think this "old oven" thing is a red herring.

                                                8 Replies
                                                1. re: Blumie

                                                  You are, no doubt, correct. Then I hope beyond hope, the management trains staff and maintains standards in the new places.

                                                  I once had a pizza in one of the Pizzeria Regina outposts that made me sit there and wonder how they could not be actually embarrassed to link it to the downtown site. When I brought the unfinished pizza back to the counter and expressed my incredulity the manager shrugged and said "most people like it" and dumped it in the trash in front of me.

                                                  One of the few times in my life I was actually speechless.

                                                  1. re: Blumie

                                                    Old oven = better pizza = red herring...

                                                    I agree.

                                                        1. re: StriperGuy

                                                          All that being said, I wouldn't put herring on a pizza. Especially red herring! I'll still opt for the old ovens. I know they produce the best pizzas.
                                                          I'll Enjoy Mine, You Enjoy Yours,

                                                          1. re: CocoDan

                                                            I had smoked trout on a pizza last summer and it was amazing

                                                            1. re: CocoDan

                                                              Anchovies are pretty closely related to herring ;-)

                                                        2. re: StriperGuy

                                                          Great Lake in chicago (which closed) was about 5 years old but was generally numbered among the best in the country.
                                                          Sure, practice makes perfect. If a place has lasted 100 years, they must be doing something right.

                                                      1. Bottom line is.........you haven't lived until you've had a white clam pizza from Frank Pepe's.

                                                        1. Eater is reporting that Pepe's will take over the Fireplace space in Brookline. Very interesting. Parking can be tough over there especially for all the expected take out business.

                                                          32 Replies
                                                          1. re: Gordough

                                                            Great News! But not happening till next year.....

                                                            1. re: Gordough

                                                              It's an extremely walkable area and the T stop is at the door.

                                                              1. re: lergnom

                                                                walkable or not, I am sure Pepe's is planning on doing a brisk take out business with many take out patrons expected to pick up their order by car. It should be interesting to see how that works out given how scarce parking can be at peak times.

                                                                  1. re: Gordough

                                                                    My point was not that people won't try to pick up orders but that Pepe's is likely not basing its business model on carryout because that won't work very well for much of the week. The Town will not grant special dispensation to double parkers, etc. and they are responsive to local complaints about that kind of thing. Those people will need to cope or go elsewhere. It's the way things work.

                                                                    1. re: lergnom

                                                                      The town won't grant dispensation to double parkers? The town gives all those Washington Sq. restaurants carte blanche to use the streets as their own private valet lots!

                                                                      1. re: galleygirl

                                                                        Yep. I've been part of that process. They require valet parking arrangements for some places and have set aside certain (rented) spaces for valet use. You have to present a contract that shows where your valet will park if it's not with the town itself. I doubt carryout people will valet, but you never know. The Town enforces against double parking, parking at hydrants and parking on some neighborhood streets, etc. Just the way it is.

                                                                        1. re: lergnom

                                                                          The town of Brookline enforces its parking policies _at the officer's discretion_....And that's how THAT is...I lived across from a church for 27 years in Brookline Village; they can opt to ticket, or not....

                                                                          1. re: galleygirl

                                                                            How is this something to make small points about? This is silliness.

                                                                            To do this in "chowhound style", I'd have to point out I never said "ticket". The usual enforcement mechanism is to make people move. But I'm done with silliness.

                                                                            1. re: lergnom

                                                                              I think we just each have different points of view about the way Brookline police handle parking dispensation; YMMV.

                                                                              1. re: galleygirl

                                                                                Do I recall correctly that the Fireplace has some parking spots in the lot behind the building? If so an operator might consider designating one or more them for pick up customers....that might square the circle.

                                                                    2. re: Gordough

                                                                      They should hook up with Foodler or something similar to take care of a lot of the would-be takeout biz.

                                                                  2. re: Gordough

                                                                    This is interesting as my wife and I were walking around the reservoir in Brookline a few years ago, and we were talking about Pepe's. This guy walking in front of us heard us, and was saying how he grew up in New Haven, and while he loved Pepe's, he was a Sally's guy. He was also the owner of The Fireplace! I wonder if he owns the space, and is renting to Pepe's, or just lost his lease.

                                                                    1. re: kimfair1

                                                                      That's a funny coincidence! Eater Boston quoted Jim Solomon, chef/owner of The Fireplace, thus: "As a resident of Washington Square, there are not many restaurants that I would be comfortable turning our space over to," says Solomon (a New Haven native), via the press release, "but it is a dream to transfer our lease to Pepe's to let them build a new tradition here, and for them to introduce their outstanding product to Bostonians. I will be a frequent customer."

                                                                      So, a voluntary winding-down of the business, I'd say. Lots of tough competition in the neighborhood these days, and Solomon's catering business is purportedly doing really well.


                                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                        Voluntary? They were always looking (read: never not looking) for FOH and BOH staff. I only dropped in a few times for drinks over the past 5-6yrs and it was never full, the bar concept was weak and the staff was never happy. I was told stories about a mngr (I was given the impression she was an owner) who always argued with staff and patrons. I'm not surprised.

                                                                        Where is their license going?

                                                                        1. re: Unfoodie

                                                                          I have no idea of how well they were doing; I haven't been back in years.

                                                                          High staff turnover doesn't necessarily obviate profitability. Empty seats are a worse sign, but not necessarily fatal, either: for just one example of many, the Red Fez hung on for ten years that way. Also, places that are struggling financially don't usually announce an orderly transition like this five months ahead of time; the end is usually unheralded and abrupt.

                                                                          Maybe it was marginal and the recent flood of competitors made Solomon say, "Screw this, I'll stick to catering." I have no inside info.

                                                                          No news on the license, either, but I'll speculate that it will be transferred to Pepe's.


                                                                          1. re: Unfoodie

                                                                            The press release said it would go to Pepe's...

                                                                            "THE FIREPLACE TO SHIFT FOCUS TO CATERING BUSINESS
                                                                            New Haven’s Pepe’s Pizzeria Will Assume Lease and Liquor License
                                                                            Brookline – The Fireplace chef/owner Jim Solomon today announced that his restaurant will close at the end of the year as he seeks to focus full time on his growing catering business, The Fireplace Catering. He has reached an agreement to transfer the restaurant’s lease and liquor license to New Haven’s iconic Pepe’s Pizzeria, which will open its first location in the region.
                                                                            “It has been 13 great years and the support from this community has been outstanding, as has been the loyalty and dedication of our staff,” said Solomon. “Our catering business has been growing steadily and it gives us the ability to take the best we have to offer at our restaurant and bring that to diverse audiences across the region.”
                                                                            Born in New Haven, Solomon is a lifelong devotee of Pepe's Pizzeria. “As a resident of Washington Square, there are not many restaurants that I would be comfortable turning our space over to, but it is a dream to transfer our lease to Pepe’s to let them build a new tradition here, and for them to introduce their outstanding product to Bostonians. I will be a frequent customer.”
                                                                            The Fireplace Catering currently caters at museums, hospital functions, weddings, house parties, and other special events across the state, including the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, The Endicott Estate, and Courageous Sailing. A location in the Boston area is currently being sought for the catering business.
                                                                            Customers will have until December 31st to dine at The Fireplace."

                                                                            1. re: galleygirl

                                                                              I adore New Haven pizza, both Pepe's and Sally's. So I'm happy that Pepe's is coming to Brookline, but not as excited as I might be after dining several times at the Pepe's location in Manchester, CT. I wanted to love it, but the pizza there is just not as good as it is in New Haven, not even close (much like the Regina situation, where the pizza is not that special unless you go to the North End original). At my last visit to the Manchester Pepe's – which is easily accessible from I-84 and well-positioned at the halfway point when you're driving from Boston to NYC (finally, an alternative to Rhein's deli!) – I ordered the white clam pie and it was nasty. Clams were iffy. I should have complained, but didn't. Hope my experience was an aberration and that the Brookline branch lives up to Pepe's rep.

                                                                              1. re: katzzz

                                                                                Never had the clam pizza at Manchester. But I've been to that location a couple times and would say the non-clam pizzas are easily 95% as good as the New Haven original. Maybe I was lucky or you were not.

                                                                                1. re: Alcachofa

                                                                                  I've been to that Manchester location twice recently and both times the pizza was equal to what I had at the New Haven original. I didn't have the clam pie - iffy clams are definitely a Bad Thing so I understand how that experience wouldn't instill confidence, but my experiences have been great.

                                                                                  I'm pretty excited that they're opening here - I love Regina's but it'll be great to have a New Haven style pie available.

                                                                                  1. re: MichaelB

                                                                                    That's good to hear. If Pepe's Brookline is 95% as good as Pepe's New Haven, there will be a lot of happy pizza lovers around here, including me.

                                                                                    1. re: katzzz

                                                                                      Just to set expectations with high-quality pizza ovens: it takes a few months for them to get properly "seasoned", to folks should not expect pizzas in a new oven to taste quite like those in a well-used oven.

                                                                                      1. re: Karl S

                                                                                        They are confirming that it will indeed be a coal fired oven. While it will never have the seasoning of the NH original oven, they should be able to get pretty close in quality fairly quickly. Pepe's Yonkers location was pretty darn good when I tried it. They clearly put a lot of care into making the expansion locations high quality. MUCH better than the Regina's outposts, though I have had one meh experience at the Manchester location.

                                                                                        1. re: black_lab

                                                                                          My coal fired oven geek family/friends advise it usually take at least 6 months of heavy use to season it up right. FWIW. (The point is NOT the it won't be good pizza until then; rather, that comparisons to the mother/father ship will be premature.)

                                                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                                                            While they certainly won't have 6 months of oven use under their belt before opening, I would imagine they would cook hundreds if not thousands of pizzas in the weeks and months leading up to their opening a year from now. If they really do intend on opening other Boston locations in the future, it is crucial for them that they get the first one right. Otherwise, the word will get out quickly around town once that novelty wears off that the pizza is nothing special especially compared to Otto, original Regina', Santarpio's etc.

                                                                                            1. re: Karl S

                                                                                              Karl, I know a lot of the experts on this site won't agree with you, but I whole heartedly do. It certainly could take six months to season an oven, maybe longer. Like I've always said, you could throw a briefcase in Regina's Thatcher St. oven and it will come out tasting like a pepperoni pizza.
                                                                                              We'll See How Fast We Enjoy,

                                                                                              1. re: CocoDan

                                                                                                It would be interesting to actually test this theory. Not with a briefcase of course, but with a pre-made fresh Costco pizza, or a pizza assembled by Pini's, or any one of the other middle-of-the-road pizzas. Would baking these other pies in Regina's Thatcher Street oven produce something dramatically better? I have no idea. In the name of science, I would be willing to do a blind taste test.

                                                                                                1. re: smtucker

                                                                                                  Unfortunately, after going to pepe's for many years and finding that for the most part,they are not nearly as good as they once were.The ovens have not changed and I believe for the most part the ingredients have not changed, that only leaves the baker,and i think it is a "lost art" that for the most part cannot be replicated.Pepe's tries to train their bakers as if it is a science- each step merely repeated, but years ago, would watch the bakers(mostly old-timers) and they would poke and probe and adjust as needed and although at the time i thought that was of less importance,I now believe it is critical

                                                                                                  1. re: 51rich

                                                                                                    I agree. Technique is very important. However, product quality does change and probably has something to do with it as well. Ingredients may be close to original, but it ain't a strike if it ain't over the plate (well, in most umpire's eyes).
                                                                                                    Hope to Enjoy,

                                                                                                    1. re: CocoDan

                                                                                                      Put me in the skeptical category when it comes to seasoning a coal fired oven. Max and Leo's in Newton was producing superb pies right after it opened a couple of years ago. No coal fired oven 6 month+ seasoning needed. And their pizza does not taste any different to me now than it did when they opened.

                                                                        2. re: Gordough

                                                                          There is parking behind the building and most of the businesses associated with the lot are closed in the evenings.

                                                                        3. How about a little quid pro quo? Boston (Brookline) is getting a Pepes from CT, how about sending some outposts to my neck of the woods, Fairfield County, CT?

                                                                          We could really use a Ribelle's/Strip T's, O Ya, and Highland Kitchen.

                                                                          Thank you.

                                                                          9 Replies
                                                                          1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                                            FEH! You can take a quick train to NYC any time you want. No sympathy for you.

                                                                            1. re: Alcachofa

                                                                              Ha! Seriously though, having to train (or drive) 70 minutes to go to NYC for a good meal (and then back again) is a waste of time, energy and is expensive. If I'm going to be "the grumpy old lady" I'd also like to to see some NYC chefs open spots in Fairfield County. (Forget Mario's spot in Westport, no interest.) Come on up David Chang, Wylie Dufresne, Danny Meyer, Marcus Samuelsson.

                                                                              1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                                                I'm with Trish, 70 minutes is NOT short

                                                                                1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                                                  sure, but NYC is probably the best city for food in the world. worth the trip IMHO.

                                                                                    1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                                                      weekly, but how about living closer; why live in a food dessert?

                                                                                      If the mountain will not come to Mohammed, the Mohammed needs to go to the mountain.

                                                                                      If possible.

                                                                                        1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                                                                          Yum. I'd live in a food dessert!! Especially if it was coconut cream pie! :-)

                                                                                1. re: smtucker

                                                                                  I'm guessing that Pepe will find another location in the Boston area, despite The Fireplace deal falling through.


                                                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                    I have a hard time believing the Fireplace owner backed out of the deal because, as he suggested in his statement, so many of his customers were devastated that the restaurant was closing. The restaurant, in my 4 or 5 visits over the years, isn't that memorable. My hunch is Pepe's backed out for some reason (anticipated neighborhood opposition/issues? Or just pure economics) and he is trying to save face by making it appear as though he is saving the restaurant based on popular demand. Just my .02.

                                                                                      1. re: Gordough

                                                                                        I've forgotten the name, but there was a BBQ place near there a few years back that had terrible problems with local authorities and/or community and ended up abandoning their smoking operation. (In the space that because American Craft, RIP.) I wonder whether a coal burning oven would present similar difficulties.

                                                                                        1. re: jajjguy

                                                                                          That was because of smoking pig next door to Brookline's Chabad community.

                                                                                          1. re: chuck s

                                                                                            Beautiful, absolutely beautiful!

                                                                                            1. re: chuck s

                                                                                              The neighbors also complained. My SIL lives a block away and it stunk !

                                                                                                  1. re: soylent_greens

                                                                                                    No mention of the Chabad community in that or any other article I could find. Isn't the Brookline Chabad on St. Paul closer to Coolidge Corner?

                                                                                                    1. re: Gordough

                                                                                                      Theres a chassidic center right across from Star Market extremely close to where the BBQ joint was.

                                                                                                    2. re: justbeingpolite

                                                                                                      Nah the Village doesn't smoke anything. It was BBQ from the Publick House folks.

                                                                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                  There was earlier talk of Pepe's going into the Beacon St. Tavern space. That space is still empty and there is no other pizza in that neighborhood.

                                                                                              1. This is a dream come true for me, I hope they get on with it already !