Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana is a legend in the Northeast. People drive hours from all directions just to just to find comfort and warmth in the consistent goodness of the shops’ famous pizzas. Pepe’s New England popularity is what prompted the New Haven institution to share the love with its surrounding states and expand to places like Warwick, Rhode Island. As the Frank Pepe brand grows, co-owner Gary Bimonte has taken the time to ensure that his customers are still getting a quality experience.
The story of Frank Pepe’s is one of the classic American dream. Gary’s grandfather Frank Pepe was an Italian immigrant from a little town just outside of Naples who came to the United States in the early 20th century. Outfitted with a hard work ethic and determination to succeed, Frank settled in New Haven in 1920 working in bakeries and making pizza. As time went on, Frank and his wife Filomena began making pies at his own bakery on Wooster Street, eventually expanding into a full pizzeria in 1937. This is the original New Haven joint that customers frequent today. “The rest,” Gary says, “is history.”
Consistency and tradition is what has kept this family franchise alive and growing. According to Gary, each of Frank Pepe’s locations uses the same recipes and original toppings that his grandfather used back in the ‘20s. “They made one [pizza] with tomatoes, topped with grated cheese, garlic, oregano, and olive oil, and another with anchovies. We still make the original tomato pie today, and we still serve anchovies as toppings!” says Gary.
The restaurants – now in New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island – each have a similar aesthetic as well. Every Frank Pepe’s is designed to give visitors a taste of the original spot, connecting them to the past. In the Warwick location, the antique-style tin ceiling is painted a “historic green” hue, wooden booths, and old-fashioned wallpaper pay homage to the New Haven locale.
However, the secret to success lies beyond the restaurants’ physical attributes. Gary says that what keeps people coming back is his family’s adherence to carry out Frank Pepe’s legacy and maintain the hard work, loyalty, and community feeling that has pervaded every store since 1925. Customers recognize this effort and continue their patronage.
“My grandfather founded Pepe’s on the principles of hard work and loyalty, and he himself was even known as ‘Old Reliable’ for being so involved in community and family life...We’ve worked hard to carry out the legacy of my grandfather’s pizzeria, and I think that has made it stay so special.”
The Frank Pepe legacy continues at the family’s shop on Universal Boulevard in Warwick. This particular location has made a splash in the Ocean State with its Neapolitan fare inciting locals and out-of-state visitors to line up the night before its opening. Every customer that comes into the Warwick shop makes a memory eating the family’s pizza. “Whether it’s a New Haven transplant in Rhode Island or a newcomer, we’re always happy to listen to their ‘Pepe’s story’,” shares Gary.
There’s no doubt that as food memories are made at Frank Pepe’s, the founder’s legacy will live on.
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana
21 Universal Blvd, Warwick • 825-7776