Di Stefano’s floor-to-ceiling windows frame a particularly cozy picture of diners savoring bites of warm bruschetta, twirling linguine, and sopping up lemon white-wine sauce with veal scaloppini. Guests tear into penne-vodka or chicken-marsala pizzas at the round wooden tables in the dining room, or head outside to the umbrella-covered patio to taunt chipmunks with their people food. The family-friendly restaurant offers catering, takeout, and free delivery, and it now serves liquor.
In 1909, Frank Pepe immigrated to the United States from his native town of Maiori, Italy. He was poor, illiterate, and just 16 years old—but he had a strong work ethic. After a stint in a New Haven factory and service as an Italian solider in World War I, he settled down for good in New Haven with his wife, Filomena, and started a bakery delivery service. But because he couldn’t read, he had trouble deciphering the orders. So he started having his customers come to him, and in 1925, he and Filomena added a simple item to the menu: Neapolitan-style pizzas.
To this day, the staff still heats up coal-fired ovens to bake the original tomato pies that Frank and Filomena first made famous. They can also add toppings such as bacon, Italian-imported anchovies, and house-roasted red peppers to their pizzas, or create specialty pies such as their signature white clam with olive oil, fresh garlic, and oregano. Diners can pair their pies with Pepe’s salad, tossed in balsamic vinaigrette, or have the server tap draft brews such as Sam Adams Boston Lager and Peroni. They’ve served Foxon Park soda since 1925, so diners can request bottles of cream soda or diet white-birch beer made from only the sveltest birch trees.
The menu at Frankie & Fanucci's Wood Oven Pizzeria is dominated by the offerings from the authentic 800-degree wood-burning oven, which chars the tasty toppings melting against thin crust dough and crispy panini rolls. The simple margherita pizza consists of fresh mozzarella from Brooklyn, imported italian plum tomatoes, and fresh basil (16", $16.95). Personal pizzas measuring 10 inches entice eaters with a smaller-sized saucer, a whole-wheat crust option, and more table room to build napkin skyscrapers reinforced with forks ($9.95-$12.95). The wood oven also blisters hot-pressed chicken provolone panini and its mix of provolone cheese, tomatoes, caramelized onions, and sweet roasted-garlic dressing ($8.95). Opposing cool textures of the pear and gorgonzola salad allot a small forest of mixed greens topped with roasted walnuts and pear dressing to prepizza palettes ($8.50). Pasta, available at the Mamaroneck location, teams with the scratch-made Grandma's Sunday Sauce to create flavor-saturated entrees such as cheese ravioli ($13.95). The Hartsdale Village location, mentioned in a New York Times article, imparts passionate discussions of sweets through the nutella pizzetta, where the delicious chocolate-hazelnut spread smoothes over pizza crust before being struck with a vanilla ice-cream meteor ($7.50).
The Rocco boys' love for pizza started in the Bronx, where they worked at their father’s pizzerias from a young age. Now, brothers Joe, Mike, and Frank are continuing their family's tradition at 10 locations of their own invention—all flaunting the Planet Pizza name tag.
A man can't build such a pizza universe without some serious pies. But inspiration isn't a problem for the Planet Pizza culinary team, who've molded more than 30 toppings into about 25 specialty circles, all available on gluten-free and whole-wheat crusts. In addition to specialty pizzas, the cooks concoct other menu choices such the compo salad with baby field greens, grape tomatoes, candied walnuts, gorgonzola, and dried cranberries or the buffalo chicken wrap loaded with strips of crispy chicken, lettuce, tomato, spicy wing sauce, and chunky blue cheese dressing are more convincing than Pluto as a mature planet.