Like most of the families I know in Westchester, pizza is a staple in our house. We have our favorites for frozen pizza (Fresh Direct), local delivery (Italian Village), pick-up (Sal's, no surprise) and homemade (individual pies assembled inside and then charcoal grilled on the Big Green Egg in our yard). They are all delicious options and, depending on the level of activity in our house, one of these choices works for any occasion. When I heard Frank Pepe's had opened in Yonkers, I was eager to try it. Frank’s was rumored to be the home of the greatest Neapolitan (think thin, crunchy crust) pizzas on the planet. More importantly, I found myself on Central Avenue on a cold, rainy day with two hungry kids, ages 4 and 7 in the car.
When I asked, "Who wants to try a new pizza place?" The chorus of "ME" from the backseat was music to my ears. We pulled into the parking lot at about 11:45, were quickly greeted, and told to sit wherever we liked. My kids chose a booth that easily could have seated ten and we began to peruse the menu. It only took 15 seconds. They have pizza and that's pretty much it. No pasta. No hero sandwiches. No milk, which, I must admit, I worried would be a deal breaker for my little guy. No dessert. Just pizza.
Of course, there are also toppings, including their fresh clams and tomatoes. I have a theory that if a store or restaurant basically sells only one thing, it is likely that they do it very well, and Frank Pepe's proved me right.
The pizza was extraordinary. It was cooked in a coal-fired brick oven that is an exact replica of the oven in the original New Haven, CT shop and it is unlike any pizza I have tasted in Westchester. It has a thin, slightly charred crust, an irregular shape, and is served on a hotel sheet pan, cut into pieces of all sizes. We ordered a medium with pepperoni and when I first saw it I was worried that we should have gone with the small (full disclosure: my little guy has been known to eat one grape and state, "I'm full" and really mean it). I should not have worried. He totally held his own drinking water no less, as we devoured that pizza, talking only enough to say things like, "wow" and "please pass another piece" and then finally, "do you think there will be any left to take home so dad can try it?" There was just enough left over, thankfully, and the friendly waitress brought us a box for the leftovers for dad, who, later that afternoon, sampled the reheated pieces with a huge smile on his face.
I recommend going early or at an off-peak time if you have hungry kids since as we left I noticed that the parking lot was completely full and there was a wait for a table. Frank Pepe’s was a welcome surprise on that dreary day and I certainly wouldn’t wait for another cold, rainy day to return.
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana
1955 Central Avenue Yonkers, New York
Sarah White is a mother of two living in Quaker Ridge. Prior to that, she completed a doctoral degree in psychology and worked as an academic advisor.