New Haven Pizza: The History and the Secrets

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — For nearly 100 years folks have been flocking to New Haven to chow down on the delicious pizza.  Now, some of the experts are releasing the secrets to each slice.

“This year’s our 90th anniversary,” said co-owner of Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria, Greg Bimonte.  He’s the grandson of Frank Pepe who is kind of known as the grandfather of New Haven style pizza.  Pepe came to Connecticut from Italy with only a 6th grade education and sold slices from a pushcart.

“So he would forget who he gave the pizza to. He wouldn’t get the money,” said Bimonte. “So my grandmother, who was very smart, said let the people come to us.”

They broke ground in 1925.  Bimonte said, “He had his nephews working for him and one of them was Sal Consiglio, Sally’s Appizza.”

Bob Consiglio is Sal’s son. He runs the pizzeria now with his siblings.  His parents opened down the street from Pepe’s in 1938.

“My father would not make one ’til the day he died with more than three ingredients on them. He used to call them garbage pies. Today most of the pies we sell are garbage pies,” said Bob.

On the other side of Pepe’s is Abate’s.   Lou Abate worked for Pepe’s son in law in the 1970’s and opened up his own shop in 1992.

“We didn’t invent the wheel. We just followed Pepe’s recipe. That’s all we did,” said Abate.More Italian in Connecticut:

Off Wooster Street. but just as popular William Pustari bought Modern Pizza in 1988.

Pustari said, “We just had to tweak the recipe and get the place running correctly.”

Each of the pizza pros let us in on a little secret to their pies.

“I can tell you they’re an Italian plum tomato, but I can’t tell you where they’re from,” said Bimonte about Pepe’s tomato sauce. He couldn’t give specifics, but said most of their ingredients are proprietary including the flour, oil, and sausage.

“It’s private labeled for us. It’s all proprietary,” said Bimonte.  “This oven has been here since 1936. So it’s been seasoned for all these years.”

Sally’s oven is just as old, but Bob wouldn’t dish on what they use.  “No I’m not going to tell you,” said Bob through laughter.

Pustari says Modern uses a fresh natural yeast, plus, “I use probably the best cheese you can buy. It’s the most expensive. A lot of guys don’t like using it.”

Luckily, Abate is talking.

He said first they use Italian imported San Marzano tomatoes. Secondly, Italian imported Pecorino Romano.

Abate said, “Nobody does that but Wooster Street.”

He said everyone uses oregano too.  When it comes to whether or not it’s the water, the owners stand conflicted.

Bimonte said, “In Florida, they can’t make a pizza a dough because of the water.”

“It’s kind of an old wives tale. ‘It was the water you got to ship the water’ but I don’t know as much about that,” said Pustari.

When it comes to the rivalry amongst all of them, the owners say it’s the customers who are divided not them.

Pustari said, “We all like each other more than anything else. We talk about it all the time. We complain about customers together.”

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