Pepe’s Pizza Annual “Peeled Plum Tomato Tasting”

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Sauce being applied for a Pepe's pizza. Photo by Tom McGovern Photography
The famous sauce being applied to a Pepe's pizza. Photo by Tom McGovern Photography.

There’s a reason why their sauce always tastes that good! This week America’s iconic pizzeria – Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, held their annual taste test for the 2017 inventory of Italian peeled plum tomatoes, an essential ingredient on every pie.

Pepe's PizzaCo-owners and grandsons to Frank Pepe, Gary Bimonte and Frank Rosselli, got together with top level executives and their distributor to see, smell, touch, and taste a selection of Italian peeled plum tomatoes from various tomato packers from the Amalfi region of southern Italy. This vine-ripened meeting of the taste buds happens annually, just after harvest, and is an important part of the pizza making process, ensuring the consistent quality and taste that a Pepe’s Pizza is known for.

The origins of the Pepe’s pizza sauce   

All of the tomatoes were grown this summer, packed, and shipped for their chance at becoming Pepe’s tomato of choice. This year there were five tomatoes, along with the current tomato for 2016, being tested. Pepe’s pays close attention to color, the ratio of solid to liquid, seeds, thickness, basil content, and of course, overall flavor profile.

Pepe's PizzaThe difference in the tomatoes, which comes down to the day a packing facility packs the can, is surprisingly substantial. Phrases like “not tomato-ey enough” or “too juicy” are exchanged as everyone analyzes each variable.

After the tomatoes are narrowed down to two front-runners, the peeled tomatoes are then pureed and Pepe’s signature ingredients are added. Three versions of the original Pepe’s pie are made (crushed Italian tomatoes, olive oil and grated cheese), one pie made with each new tomato choice, and one with the current tomato. Pizzas are marked by a mystery topping, such as bell pepper or pepperoni.

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This year was close, and the two runners up ended up being from the same packer, just canned two days apart. The winner was chosen and Pepe’s will put their label on the complete lot of cans from the packer’s day of production, which will serve all locations through 2017. There was an obvious difference in color, flavor, acidity, and intensity, but each was as interesting and delicious as the next.


To learn more about Pepe’s Pizza and locations, visit their website.