As a neighborhood eatery, Pepe's Pizza on Falls Road is hard to beat. It's been around seemingly forever (actually since 1979). It's family-run. (Andy Makris took over after the murder of his father, Peter, in 2000.) And its vast menu offers pretty much everything you could ever want at a deli/diner/family restaurant. (Pizza? Check. Gyros? Check. Burgers, Maryland crab soup, and salads? Check, check, and check.) It's no wonder that North Baltimore families have depended on Pepe's dine-in and carryout options for decades.
So it was with great interest that we watched Pepe's recent $1.5-million renovation, including an expansion that doubled its size. We wondered: Would the new Pepe's retain its humble charm? (We hoped so.) And would the spiffed-up digs prompt a similarly spiffed-up menu? (We hoped not.)
With its new seating area, flat-screen TVs, and earth tones, the updated dining room is a comfortable, if slightly generic, spot for noshing, but the constant bustle of families and kids (with a heavy representation from area private schools) keeps the vibe feeling cheerful and homey.
Except for a few additions (Makris decided to add fried chicken at the request of the construction crews), the menu is largely unchanged. The signature subs boast fillings ranging from Italian meatballs to jumbo fried shrimp and remain satisfying. On a rainy, late-fall night, we opted for the 16-inch eggplant parmigiana and chicken parmigiana subs (both $14.50) and found ourselves rewarded with toasted-bread torpedoes filled with gooey mozzarella, tangy tomato sauce, and thick layers of breaded eggplant and chicken cutlets.
On another occasion, we tried a lamb gyro ($6.50 sandwich, $9.50 platter) stuffed with thin slices of tender meat; lettuce, tomatoes, and onions; and a slightly over-generous dollop of tzatziki sauce. An accompanying Greek salad ($6.95-10.95) leaned a little too heavily on the feta, but the curly fries ($3.95) were golden coils of perfection.
Pepe's is also open for breakfast, and regulars swear by its platters of eggs, scrapple, sausage, French toast, and breakfast sandwiches.
Whether starting or ending your day at Pepe's, it's likely you'll find exactly what you want. We couldn't be happier that at Pepe's, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
›› Pepe's Pizza: 6081 Falls Rd., 410-377-3287. Hours: Mon.-Thurs. and Sat. 5:30 a.m.-11 p.m., Fri. 5:30 a.m.-12 a.m., Sun. 5:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Breakfast: 85¢-$10.50; pizza: $9.95 and up; entrees $2.50-23.95; sides: $2.95-4.75; desserts: $2.99-3.99.