Many months ago, I received an email from my father asking if I knew some guy named Rich Pepe. “Sure, I’ve met him,” I said. “Mr. Italy, right? I believe we were both judges for the Monterey County wine Challenge.”
Turns out, my father went to the same high school as Pepe in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, and a mutual friend of theirs (Nick Giarra, Class of 65) had just returned from a trip to Carmel to visit Mr. Italy himself.
Of course, I’ve yet to cross paths with Pepe since this miraculous discovery, but the man has inadvertently won a soft spot in my heart by Garden State association. Well, the Carmelite hit up the big time this week with the debut of his Pepe & Pants pasta sauces. The savory sauces were featured on The Martha Stewart Show, with Pepe’s partner, Joey Pantoliano (“Joey Pants”), cooking Pasta Puttanesca with fresh tuna over whole wheat pasta.