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Pete Wells Gives Don Peppe One Star, but It Doesn’t Need Him

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The Times critic files on the Ozone Park legend

Don Peppe interior
Yelp

In a rare, almost random review, Times critic Pete Wells hits up Ozone Park institution Don Peppe — the cash only, red-sauce restaurant that Entourage blew up more than once. Don Peppe has an endless list of devout regulars, many grandfathered in by their families who have been dining there for decades. Pete Wells is not one of those people, having first visited the mainstay this year.

Not one to miss a restaurant’s quirks and charms, Wells points out the rules: “Don Peppe novices need to know that certain items are not welcome on the premises, as listed on a sign on the front door: No Tank Tops, Hats, Strollers, Baby Carriages, Credit Cards.”

The food is beside the point:

White clam sauce can be a thin soup with stray eraser tips, or it can be, as it is at Don Peppe, a concentrated broth that sinks deep into the pasta, which sits under a wide swath of chopped fresh clams and parsley. The pomodoro sauce is a thick, profoundly red gravy that doesn’t cast a watery pool on the bottom of the plate. The same sauce, or one close to it, is the bed for shells stuffed with ricotta, topped with mozzarella and run under the broiler long enough to put a crackle on the lips of the shells.

The meat sauce is just meat sauce. The marinara, though, is what every jarred sauce on the market wishes it could be.

Wells must also pick up that Don Peppe’s quite legendary status is no match for any of his critiques, so he no doubt has a little fun with the review. One star.

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