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.
"I grew up around restaurants. I came from hospitality," Angie explains, looking around at Luna's newly painted taupe and gold walls. Luna Pizza has indeed traced her family tree; Angie and her son took over the business from her brother.
In the eatery itself, marble-top tables shine in their wrought-iron bases. "West Hartford??it's an old town with a small-town character,? Angie says. ?Many of our customers can walk from their homes." The impetus for that walk is the shop?s distinctive thin crust and adventurous palette of toppings, including breaded chicken, pesto, and cherry peppers, which are prepared as needed. "We won't do a batch," Angie explains. "All the veggies are roasted fresh." The sauces are also homemade, and the ingredients sourced locally when possible. The resulting pies can hold a powerful draw, Angie says. "There are many customers who have been coming to Luna Pizza for well over 20 years. They order the same pizza, the same toppings. That's loyalty, and that matters."