Not one customer has ordered a slice at South Florida’s new Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, but the beloved New Haven icon has already fired up hundreds of char-blistered pies ahead of its Oct. 24 debut at Plantation Walk.
The reason? The owners of Frank Pepe want its apizza (pronounced “ah-beets”) in Plantation to taste exactly like the original pies on New Haven’s Wooster Street, where its Connecticut stronghold has been open since 1925.
For the past two months, crews in Plantation have been seasoning Frank Pepe’s new custom-built, 104,000-pound oven by burning through thousands of dollars’ worth of sausage, pepperoni and mozzarella in the coal-fired chamber, all to seal those classic flavors into the bricks.
“We don’t just put in a coal-fired oven, clap our hands and go, ‘OK, we’re done,’” says Jennifer Bimonte-Kelly, granddaughter of Frank Pepe and co-owner of the family-owned pizza chain. “The taste of the crust, the chew, the delicious char — it all comes from seasoning the oven over and over until the flavors are locked in.”
Employees are the quality-control testers, so no pizza is wasted, of course. But consistency is key in a region like South Florida, home to a bastion of snowbirds, transplants and discerning pizza-heads from the Northeast, says Bimonte-Kelly.
By Phillip Valys.
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