Feb 23, 2014
New Haven Pizza History Revelation: Pepe's Came After Camposano Apizza
Melanie Stengel/New Haven Register
Anthony Caponera shows a map that he has drawn indicating the former locations of his favorite, and pre-Pepe's, pizza parlor.
There was great “We told you so!” rejoicing among the surviving members of a group of old guys from “the Hill” neighborhood when I quoted a diligent historian’s findings that Ignazio Camposano made the first pizza in New Haven.
That’s right: Camposano Apizza came before Frank Pepe’s.
This revelation arose when Colin Caplan, who has written many books about New Haven history, spoke last December at the New Haven Museum. He was promoting his latest volume: “Legendary Locals of New Haven.”
I was there to write about his talk and had read his book. But I noticed Caplan didn’t write, as is popularly believed, that Pepe made the first pizza in New Haven, and perhaps the first anywhere.
And so during the question-and-answer session, I asked Caplan why he had “left this fact out.”
He looked at me, smiled and then calmly, matter-of-factly, stated that pizza was invented in ancient Mesopotamia. Furthermore, he informed us, the first pizza maker in New Haven was actually Ignazio Camposano.
Caplan said he had gone back nearly 100 years in the city directories, which list all local businesses. And there, in 1917, was Camposano’s bakery.
That was eight years before Frank Pepe opened his pizzeria (although he, too, had been a baker in New Haven since 1920).
Over the past week, Caplan, who is writing a book about New Haven pizza history, gave me lots of details about all this. He said Camposano came to America from Italy in 1909 and arrived in New Haven in 1914.