Reprinted from Carmel Magazine, Winter 2010 — article by Renee Brincks
Two decades after New Jersey native Rich Pepe opened his first Carmel café, his Pèpe International enterprise includes Little Napoli on Dolores Street in Carmel, Pèppoli at the Inn at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach, Carmel Bakery on Ocean Avenue in Carmel, Pèpe Wine and Pèpe & Pants pasta sauces. In July, Pèpe opened Vino Napoli on Dolores Street in Carmel for wine tasting and light bites, just weeks after he cooked an Independence Day feast for 80 Kennedy family members in Massachusetts.
What was it like to cook for the Kennedys?
It was wonderful. We stayed at Bobby Kennedy Jr.’s house, right there on the compound, and made very good friends with Ethel Kennedy. That led to her inviting me back to cook for an October event… On the personal side, it was probably one of the most interesting things that I have ever done. I actually stayed with them for three days and they took me out sailing and welcomed me into their family for the time I was there. The time I spent with Bobby Jr. was precious and he is so inspiring with his environmental and charitable causes. Ethel had taken me under her wing and gave me a world of ideas. Who would have thought at my age to now have Ethel Kennedy as my mentor!
What do you order off your own menu at Little Napoli?
Our Cannelloni Tricolore: grilled chicken and vegetable cannelloni with marinara, Alfredo and pesto sauce. It comes out looking like the Italian flag. It’s just something that’s real personal and signature to us, and I like it—I tend to have that a lot. Of course, I start with our homemade Mozzarella Caprese Salad, and end with my version of Tiramisu. I try to make as much from scratch as possible, even our own wine from our vineyard on Atlas Peak in Napa.
Talk about boxing for charity, which you did last April.
I trained with the Garcia boxing family from Salinas for three months before the event…It was a challenging thing to box in front of 500 people, but it actually helped me get in shape a little bit. Also, we raised about $30,000 for the Kinship Center, which was really nice. This next year I will fight again, this time against my son G who is a boxer at Cal Berkeley. My family tries to be a charitable as possible, even going the distance and getting beat up for charity!