Cultural Heritage Tours

A project of the ETHNIC HERITAGE CENTER

Wooster Square Tour

Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana

157 Wooster Street

Frank and Filomena Pepe, c. 1930–1940s. Courtesy Pepe's.

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana is one of the oldest and best known pizzerias in the United States. The pizzeria was founded in 1925 by Frank Pepe (b. April 15, 1893 d. September 6, 1969). Born in the town of Maiori, on the Amalfi coast, southwest of Naples, Frank Pepe was the typical Italian immigrant. He emigrated to the United States in 1909 at age 16 with little more than his health and a strong work ethic. He married Filomena Volpi, also from Maiori, in 1919. After working for a local Wooster Street macaroni manufacturer, Generoso Muro, Pepe worked for Tony Apicella at his bread bakery, also on Wooster Street.

Pepe established his own bakery at 163 Wooster Street baking his bread and delivering to the local community with a cart. In 1925, Frank and Filomena, started making a simple product from their homeland, pizza or as they said in their Neapolitan dialect, “apizza” (ah-beets). They offered two types, tomatoes with grated cheese, garlic, oregano and olive oil and the other with anchovy. These are still offered today along with mozzarella and additional ingredients.

In 1937, Pepe bought the building next door at 157 Wooster Street where the pizzeria is located today. Like many business owners of the day, Frank Pepe lived above the pizzeria with his family. Everyone worked in the pizzeria. A lot has happened since Frank Pepe starting baking “ah-beets” in his coal fired ovens 90 plus years ago. Pizza has gone from an obscure ethnic dish to become a mainstay of the American dining scene.


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