An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Jul 30, 2014
12:31 PMThe Connecticut Table
Pepe's Pizza Makes Boston Opening Official; Lines Up Brookline Site
Remember the childhood game King of the Mountain? The object was for the "king" to stay on top for as long as possible—as all the other players put their best efforts into dethroning the monarch of the moment and taking his or her place.
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, the New Haven legend whose pies were declared by The Daily Meal to be the best pizza in America and praised by TIME magazine in The 13 Most Influential Pizzas of All Time, knows that king-of-the-mountain dynamic well by now. (Below, the white clam pizza.)
Pepe's is the king, but, apparently, it's reign is not undisputed, especially as the brand expands, not just to other parts of Connecticut but now to Boston.
The buzz about Pepe's foray into good-food-blessed Beantown has been going on for some time, and today (July 30) the third generation family-owned and operated Pepe's formally announced in a release that it has entered into an agreement to acquire space that is currently operating as The Fireplace in Brookline, Mass., which borders Boston proper.
"Fireplace Chef / Owner Jim Solomon, who hails from New Haven and is a fan of Frank Pepe’s pizza, released a statement on July 29, 2014 announcing his departure from the 1634 Beacon Street restaurant and his plans to focus on his thriving catering business," the release says.
While Pepe's legions of fans within Connecticut and beyond in New England will cheer, not everyone in Boston is feeling welcoming.
In an opinion column in The Boston Globe, "Frank Pepe’s pizza rides into town, but will it survive?", Tom Keane refects Boston's hometown pizza pride and culinary confidence. (Below, another Pepe's pizza.)
"Boston has its share of pizza stalwarts: Regina and Santarpio’s, of course, as well as a number of more recent offerings, such as Picco and the Salty Pig," he writes. "Can a pie originally from New Haven really best all of them?"
Keane even traveled to New Haven to taste first-hand Pepe's world-famous white claim pizza, and the standard cheese pizza.
His judgment is a "very good" but ... . After comparing Pepe's pies to those of Regina's, Keane says, "Still there's a kind of coals-to-Newcastle problem with your expansion," and warns Pepe's that in Boston "you’ll be just another face in the crowd."
There's nothing impeachable about Keane taking a hard line on a pizza "interloper" arriving on his local scene. And calling any pizza the best in America only invites attempts to topple the king behind the superlative; we get that. After all, once you reach a certain benchmark standard for ingredients, authenticity and quality and taste in pizza, the rest is entirely personal. The best is whichever one you like the best.
But to Boston, we'd simply say "enjoy another great option; more is more in this case"—that and we'd point out that the family members passionately growing the Pepe's brand in classic Amercian dream fashion aren't the ones making the best-in-the-world declarations.
No matter. The pizza is great, the family is passionate about pizza and family, and the bullies trying to topple the folks at the top of the mountain come and go; the white claim pie abides. (Right, making pizzas at Pepe's in New Haven in 2008. Photo by Christopher Capozziello/Getty Images.)
Here's the rest of the release on Pepe's Boston plans: