We know what you’re thinking. White clam pizza? Yuck!
But this regional favorite might surprise you. Unless you’re allergic to shellfish, the specialty slice just might be worth a try.
We’ve gathered everything you need to know about this New England favorite, from its creation to where the best pies can be found today.
Let’s dig in!
What Is White Clam Pizza?
If you like New England clam chowder, you’ll probably like white clam pizza too. This thin-crust pizza got its start in Connecticut. It comes with the usual dressings like garlic, oregano, and Romano cheese. The creamy sauce pairs delightfully with its most unique topping, clams.
Those interested in trying this specialty pizza should look for a pizzeria that serves their pie with fresh shellfish rather than canned. New England locals swear it brings an already delicious slice to the next level. Luckily, fresh clams are abundant in this region, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding the perfect pizza.
Who Invented White Clam Pizza?
The original idea for this northeastern delicacy came from Frank Pepe in the 1960s. He owned a pizzeria in New Haven, Connecticut that served freshly shucked Rhode Island clams as an appetizer. This dish became so popular that Pepe decided to design a pie around it.
He knew he wanted to make a pizza with fresh clams, but the tomato sauce had to go. Instead, he paired a creamy garlic sauce with fresh cheese and topped it with freshly-shucked shellfish. The pizza topping may seem like an odd choice, but it quickly became a sensation. Today, almost every New England eatery has a version of Pepe’s white clam pizza.
Pro Tip: Enjoy a slice of white clam pizza while relaxing on one of these 7 Best Beaches in New England.
Where Is The Original Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana?
Today this famous pizzeria has 16 locations along the eastern seaboard. You can still visit the original Frank Pepe’s in New Haven, Connecticut, at 157 Wooster Street. It opened nearly 100 years ago in 1925 and continued serving through the Great Depression, earning it the nickname Old Reliable.
In the 1930s, two other shops opened selling New Haven-style pizza. It started something akin to a feud. Everyone had an opinion about which place served the best slice. Ronald Reagan preferred Pepe’s, while Frank Sinatra preferred a pizzeria called Sal’s. Since then, many restaurants have served these unique pies throughout New England.
What Is The Difference Between White Pizza and Regular Pizza?
When we think of pizza, we usually think of a hunk of dough smothered in tomato sauce and topped with stretchy cheese. We consider this a regular red pizza. This favorite food originated in Naples in the 1500s. Napoli people canned tomatoes to prevent spoiling and then used them atop fresh bread with olive oil.
White pizza can also be considered a classic. This pie features alfredo sauce, garlic sauce, or sometimes no sauce at all. Without the robust tomato sauce, toppings get a chance to shine. If you want to get experimental with toppings for your slice, you’ll probably want a white pizza.
What Toppings Are Good On A White Pizza?
On a red pizza, you need to worry about whether or not your toppings will pair well with tomato. But almost everything pairs well with garlic, so you can get pretty adventurous with garnishes. If you live in New Haven, an obvious choice to sprinkle on a white pizza might be clams, but we have some other ideas too.
Meat eaters might consider topping their slice with chicken or salami. Mushrooms and spinach have been popular vegetable selections for white pizza, and some chefs even suggest thinly sliced potatoes as a garnish. We don’t want to start any arguments, but we also think pineapples taste great with an alfredo-based pie.
How to Make Frank Pepe’s White Clam Pizza
If you can’t get to New Haven, Connecticut, anytime soon, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. You can make an authentic white clam pizza in your own home.
It might not turn out as good as Pepe’s, which has been deemed the number-one pizza in the nation, but we think it could come out pretty close especially if you have a pizza stone or a fancy brick oven.
To make this pie at home, you’ll first want to gather the ingredients like extra virgin olive oil and shellfish. Freshly shucked clams are the most delicious choice, but chefs say frozen clams get pretty close in taste. In a pinch, you can even use chopped canned clams.
For the cheese, you need Pecorino Romano. Pepe’s only uses one cheese, but if you like your slice a little cheesier, pick up some Parmigiano Reggiano too. Other popular non-traditional additions to the pie include garlic, bacon, and oregano.
Experienced bakers may want to make a crust with yeast, flour, and salt. If you’re short on time or haven’t worked with rising dough, you can always pick up a premade crust from the grocery store.
To make the dough, let the yeast foam in warm water for about five minutes before combining the ingredients. Once you’ve mixed everything in, you’ll knead it for a few minutes before letting it rise for at least an hour or until it’s doubled in size. Alternatively, you can get a premade crust to avoid the hassle.
Preheat the oven and your pizza stone while you prepare the toppings. Most recipes recommend preheating your stone on broil to increase its surface temperature. Traditional New Haven pizza comes with a crispy, thin crust from being baked at high temperatures for short periods of time.
While you heat the oven, combine your clams, olive oil, and garlic. You can add in extra toppings like onions or bacon at this time. Spread the mixture over a thinly rolled crust and cover it with cheese. Pop it in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, and you’ve created the perfect pizza.
Pro Tip: Ordered a pizza? We uncovered Should You Tip When Picking Up Food?
Is Tasting White Clam Pizza Worth It?
The next time you find yourself asking who on Earth would try a white clam pizza, remember the specialty’s countless fans across New England. After all, these are the same folks who came up with lobster rolls.
Crispy crust and creamy garlic pair perfectly with cheese and clams to create the ultimate slice. If you haven’t already tasted this delicacy, we think you should. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it!
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