Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven is closed today in honor of Gary Bimonte, the co-owner of the famous pizzeria. He died on April 7 and his funeral is being held today.
Bimonte was the grandson of Frank Pepe, who founded the pizzeria on Wooster Street in 1925.
In lieu of flowers, the obituary for Bimonte says memorial contributions may be made to the Connecticut Food Bank ctfoodbank.org, or the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter branford-ct.gov/departments/animal-shelter.
"Gary was the pride and joy of the Pepe’s family, and there are no words to express the immense void that his passing has left in our hearts. He truly loved and cherished our family’s history, and he was so proud of the legacy that has carried through all these years," a statement on the company's website says.
“His life was a legacy of New Haven pizza,” Colin Caplan, author of Pizza in New Haven said. Caplan is an expert on the city’s deep pizza history and knew Bimonte well.
Caplan said Bimonte, and the other grandchildren of founder Frank Pepe, ran the shops knowing their legacy.
“He always brought that with him, that his grandfather blessed everybody with this delicious family meal and I think one of the joys is that he got to share it with everybody,” said Caplan.
Paul Duda has been on Wooster Street almost 30 years, as long he’s known Bimonte.
“Quite a few times I remember him stopping me and asking me how I’m doing and, it was great,” said Duda. The photographer was recently working on a photoshoot for Bimonte and Pepe’s.
“In typical Gary fashion, he was in great spirits and ended up giving away the pizzas from the shoot to the police, they got some of them, I think a food bank got some of the extra pizzas,” said Duda.
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker sent condolences to the family that has had great impact on local culinary history.
"My condolences to the family of Gary Bimonte and the greater Pepe’s family. They are an iconic institution not just in New Haven, but to the country. Their cultural contributions have a lasting impact on our nation’s culinary history. We will always remember Gary for the love he had for this City, his employees, and his family. Please keep his family in your thoughts," Elicker said.
Gov. Ned Lamont also weighed in on Twitter on the loss of Bimonte.
"Gary was as much of an icon and cornerstone of #NewHaven as anyone. A man with big heart, Gary was immensely proud and dedicated to his family, employees and greater community. Our thoughts are with the Bimonte family and everyone at @pepespizzeria as we all mourn their loss," he tweeted.
In addition to New Haven, Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana has locations in Danbury, Fairfield, Manchester, West Hartford, Waterbury and at Mohegan Sun.
“Anyone who thinks of pizza at Mohegan Sun, or in New Haven, Connecticut and New England as a whole, thinks of Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletona, and much of that has to do with the incredible business and legacy that Gary Bimonte and his family dedicated their lives to,” Jeff Hamilton, president and general manager of Mohegan Sun, said in a statement. “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Gary, and our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and the many lives that he impacted.”
There is one location in Rhode Island, in Warwick.
There is also one location in New York, in Yonkers.