Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Restaurants: Two Boots-Bridgeport vs Frank Pepe's-Fairfield

I love pizza, but I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to the perfect pie. Spare me the Hawaiian Pizza, the BBQ Chicken Pizza, and the Cheeseburger Pizza, please. I prefer a good ol' plain cheese pie. Every now and then I'll take a walk on the wild side and get sausage (crumbled, not sliced), but by and large, I like to keep it simple. This works for my kids too, who don't care for "stuff" on their pizza, particularly if it is "green stuff".

While living in New York City, it took me years to find my favorite neighborhood take-out pizza. As irony would have it, as soon as I found it, we were packing our belongings to move to Connecticut, and the search resumed. I'm happy to report that I found a few new favorites relatively quickly in my new hometown of Fairfield (Nauti Dolphin and Southport Pizza House). These are both strictly for take-out pizza, so when it came to actually going out for pizza, for some time we were out of luck. But in the past couple years, two venerated pizzerias have come to this area and I couldn't be happier. Frank Pepe's Pizzeria Napolitana of New Haven opened its first outpost in Fairfield in 2006, and earlier this year, the famed Two Boots Pizzeria of New York City opened in Bridgeport.

Frank Pepe's has been in operation on Wooster Street in New Haven since 1925. It is famous for its long lines, no-frills atmosphere, curt service, and most importantly, amazing pizza. The menu is very basic---pizza, soda, beer, and wine. The Fairfield location nearly caused a revolt when they began offering side salads, which had never been on the menu in New Haven. The pizza is served on big metal baking sheets which are placed right on your table (get a big booth if you can---you'll need the extra room). The haphazardly cut pies are made in the open kitchen and are always piping hot. If you aren't fussy about atmosphere and don't mind eating off tiny glass plates, you are in for a treat. We always order a large cheese pie with sauce (you need to specify everything you want on the pizza, from sauce, to the type of cheese), and a small white clam pie, which is one of Pepe's specialties (and one of the few non-traditional pizzas I'll eat). We always have leftovers, but that's how we like it. My youngest daughter, who eats like a bird, enters Pepe's and suddenly becomes capable of eating four or five pieces of pizza in one sitting. Now that's a good pie!

Two Boots is a more recent newcomer to the Fairfield County restaurant scene, and is located in an area of downtown Bridgeport that is in the process of being rejuvenated and re-gentrified. The large, colorfully decorated space has a long narrow bar and plenty of seating both in front of the bar and in the back, where there is also a stage for live music. The menu offers both regular pizzas with your choice of toppings and specialty pizzas named for various people and characters. We ordered a house salad (which was surprisingly good for a pizzeria), a large cheese pie, plus a small pie named after Newman, of Seinfeld fame, which was a white pie with ricotta, crumbed sweet sausage, and sopressata (all ingredients that do have a place on pizza, unlike pineapple). Both pizzas were delicious, but my kids felt the sauce on the cheese pie was too spicy. The menu does have a kids' section, so I asked how the kid-sized pizza differed from the regular version. I was told that they use a milder sauce and make a smiley face out of veggies. So, if you are going with kids and want to share a regular pie, it is worth asking for the milder sauce if you're kids are adverse to some heat. Overall, it is a great, kid-friendly restaurant destination with some seriously good pizza.
Who ever said the best pizza is in New York?

Frank Pepe's
238 Commerce Drive, Fairfield, CT
203-333-PEPE (7373)

Two Boots
281 Fairfield Avenue, Bridgeport, CT


Gini said...

Thanks for the reviews. Want to check out Two Boots today.

Bobby said...

for the latest on Two Boots of Bridgeport, please visit www.twobootsbridgeport.com