The arrival of New Haven's iconic Pepe's Pizza brand in West Hartford is one step closer to reality following the West Hartford Town Council's unanimous vote Tuesday night to approve the owner's application to convert 3,200 square feet of space currently occupied by the Puppy Center for use as restaurant space.
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana hopes to open for business in Elmwood this summer. The Puppy Center will remain open, in a reduced space.
A public hearing on the restaurant's application preceded the Town Council vote, a process necessary because the shopping center at 1126-1148 New Britain Ave. is a special development district and the conversion from retail to restaurant space affects parking requirements for the site plan. The 72-seat restaurant requires 24 parking spaces, which are currently available at the site.
Prior to their unanimous vote on the application, Town Council members each spoke out in favor of bringing Pepe's to West Hartford.
Mayor Scott Slifka said that following the arduous consideration of a housing project in Elmwood, which was just approved in December, he was pleased to see development in the same neighborhood so positively received.
"Pepe’s is not just a New Haven institution, it’s not just a Connecticut institution ... it’s a national institution. It’s a really great statement for Elmwood that they chose that over all the other locations that I’m sure were available," Slifka said.
Council member Burke Doar said he was pleased about the 35 jobs that would be created by the opening of Pepe's. He also said he also admires the fact that it is still a family business.
Leon Davidoff, who also supported the recently-approved Newington Road apartment development, said he supported the Pepe's application for a variety of reasons. He thinks the housing project, Pepe's, and Sliders – which will soon open near the Elmwood Stop & Shop – constitute a renaissance for the area.
"People from the outside are validating what we already know about this town – that all parts of town are great places to do business. Elmwood is one of the hottest parts of town,” Davidoff said.
"Obviously it’s a no-brainer to approve it," said Council member Clare Kindall. "We already have great pizza in West Hartford, but I think you’ll fit right in," she said.
The West Hartford location will be Pepe's sixth Connecticut restaurant. The original restaurant, which opened in 1925, is on Wooster St. in New Haven. The closest location currently is Manchester.