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Rich Pèpe 2018 HONOREE

“Io sono Italiano.” (I am Italian). Like any ethnic family, I am very proud of my heritage.

All my grandparents emigrated from Napoli, in Southern Italy and came through Ellis Island just before World War 1. With them they brought their love and respect for Italy, its culture, cuisine and its warm, lively traditions.

Growing up in Hoboken, New Jersey, some of my earliest memories was of our annual family gathering to make the homemade wine. Both sides of my large Italian family would get together - the men in charge of the winemaking and the women in charge of making jam and jelly from the fresh grapes brought in from California. During the day lots of last years’ wine would be tasted, Italian songs would be sung, jokes would be told and laughter filled the air. I could only imagine that this is what life was like in Italy and was proud that my family brought a little bit of the “old country” with them to America.

As a young boy, my twenty-eight first cousins and I had a favorite pastime; over a bowl of macaroni, we’d talk of ways to become successful, and “live the American dream” just like our immigrant grandparents sought when they came to America.

I like to say my first job was as an altar boy, albeit I didn't get paid for it. But I learned to show up for work dressed, on time, and learn my duties. I even learned a foreign language: Latin. A few years later, like many young boys, I had a successful neighborhood newspaper route, and like the US Mail, the papers would be delivered come rain or come shine.

All of my older siblings worked at the local bakery in my town, and finally at 13 years old I got a job as a dishwasher there. I worked thirty-two hours per week during high school and by the time I graduated I was a full-fledged baker. I continued to work at the bakery until I decided to seek my own “American Dream” and headed west for California.

In 1974, at twenty-two years old I arrived on the Monterey Peninsula with a suitcase and $600. in my pocket. I was immediately inspired by the bounty of the land and sea here. Being Italian, I was welcomed by the many Sicilian families of Monterey, such as the Davi’s, the Allioti’s and the Carnazzo’s. My first job was as the baker at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove. A few years later I moved to Carmel and worked at Wishart’s Bakery on Ocean Avenue.

In 1977 I finally went into my own business when I bought The Granary Natural Food Store and Bakery in Pacific Grove. In 1986 Sandra and I were married and we returned to Carmel to buy Wishart’s Bakery, and in 1988 we bought the only other bakery in town, Carmel Bakery. I am no stranger to getting up early and the motto for me and my baking crew is “we bake while you sleep”.

When our second son was born in 1990, Sandra and I opened our first little restaurant in Carmel and named it Caffe’ Napoli, after the city where my grandparents emigrated from in Italy. Then its sister restaurant, Little Napoli opened nearby in 1993. Vino Napoli, the wine bar and retail shop opened in 2009, followed by the Vesuvio Trattoria in 2011.

In 2000, I collaborated with Italy’s most famous winemaker Marchese Piero Antinori of Florence, Italy, to successfully open Pèppoli at The Inn at Spanish Bay.

All of my food and wine ventures give me reason to often travel back to my roots in New Jersey and Italy, visit my relatives and get ideas and inspirations to bring back to continue to improve on my “little taste of Italy” that I present to friends and visitors at my establishments on the Monterey Peninsula.

Over the years I have been active in many community and civic affairs, and currently serve as a board member of the Carmel Chamber of Commerce and the Carmel Mission Foundation. My family helps support many non-profits, such as the Boys and Girls Club, the Carmel Youth Center, CASA and the Kinship Center.

My wife Sandra and I are proud that our two sons Christian and Gian Antonio have been an integral part of our businesses and all major decisions are made by a family vote.

Today, as a bakery owner and restaurateur in California, it is my passion and dream to pass along and share our family’s Italian lifestyle and traditions through my restaurant, bakery, travel and hospitality ventures.

Italy’s most famous winemaker, Marchese Piero Antinori says of Pèpe: “Creative and passionate, Pèpe is a modern day Ambasciatore of Italian Food & Wine, and through his restaurants, travel ventures and cooking classes teaches people about the Italian lifestyle, its culinary heritage and shares his ‘passione’ for all things Italia

MCHA BIO: Chef Pèpe

Rich Pèpe started working in his uncle’s bakery in New Jersey at the age of 14 and likes to say, “I’m a baker first, a chef second”. No strangers to getting up early, the motto for Pèpe and his baking crew at Carmel Bakery is “we bake while you sleep”.

Pèpe, known as “Carmel’s Mr. Italy”, comes from a proud Italian heritage and remains committed to bringing the warmth and joy of his family dinner table to his guests. Not a bit of the lively traditions of Italy were lost in his grandparents' emigration to America. Coupling that with a childhood spent in a large Italian neighborhood in Hoboken, New Jersey, Pèpe grew up working in his family’s bakery with a great appreciation of the richness of his culinary heritage.

Pèpe arrived on the Monterey Peninsula in 1974 and was immediately inspired by the bounty of the land and sea. Being Italian, he was welcomed by the Sicilian fisherman families of Monterey and learned the appreciation of the fresh seafood available here and how to prepare the famed seafood stew called cioppino. On the Monterey Peninsula, you are never far from view of the sea, and Pèpe enjoys hiking and biking along the seaside when time allows.

Pèpe worked as a baker until he opened his own Carmel Bakery in 1985, followed by Little Napoli in 1990, and Vesuvio in 2010. Both of Pepe’s sons, Christian and Gian Antonio, are an integral part of the business as it enters its second generation.

My dad’s favorite saying to me was, “go out and get a job”. I’d say, but dad, I’m only 10 years old”.

Little Napoli “Bistro Italiano”

A tribute to Italian culture and cuisine, Little Napoli “Bistro Italiano” possesses Old World charm mixed with centuries old traditions in Italian cuisine – the menu features handed-down family recipes reminiscent of the Italian countryside by chef/owner Rich Pèpe.

That appreciation comes across not only in the attention paid to ensure authentic Italian-American specialties. Pèpe is proud to be one of the 30 million Americans that can trace their roots back to Italy and Little Napoli is a tribute to the Italian-American experience.

Opened Little Napoli in 1990 and it has been considered the icon Italian restaurant on the Monterey Peninsula ever since. Antipasti, Pizza, Pasta and Risotto are prepared perfectly with the handed down Pèpe family signature recipes.


Growing up in New Jersey, but traveling back to visit his relatives in Campania often, Pèpe always noticed the differences between the cooking styles of his cousins on both sides of the Atlantic. While Little Napoli focuses on his Italian-American heritage, Vesuvio will feature recipes from his cousins and great-aunts in Southern Italy.

At Vesuvio, chef Pèpe’s culinary style will take the so called “Mediterranean Diet” to the next level. It is thought that the diet among Mediterranean countries is healthier than the Northern European and American diet because, in addition to olive oil, more grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and fresh fish are consumed. The ingredients used at Vesuvio will often be imported from Italy, or made in house, and always of top quality. Pèpe will call his cooking style at Vesuvio the “Italian Lifestyle Diet”.

Both of Pepe’s sons, Christian and Gian Antonio, will be joining in the creation of the new Vesuvio and have been an integral part of the opening team.


"Pèpe took Italian cuisine to another level with the conception of Ristorante Pèppoli, a world-class Italian restaurant located at the Inn at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach. The restaurant is a partnership along with Piero Antinori, Italy’s most famous winemaker and the Pebble Beach Company, and is named after the Pèppoli Vineyard in Tuscany (owned by Antinori), and was opened in 2000.

The menu focuses on the centuries-old traditions of culture & cuisine of the Antinori family, Florence and the Tuscan countryside and pairs perfectly with the wines from the estates of Antinori and other great Italian wine producers.


Carmel Bakery, established in 1899, one of Carmel’s oldest running businesses has been owned by the Pèpe family for 30 years.

Rich Pèpe started working in his uncle’s bakery in New Jersey at the age of 14 and likes to say, “I’m a baker first, a chef second”. No strangers to getting up early, the motto for Pèpe and his baking crew at Carmel Bakery is “we bake while you sleep”.

As Pèpe says, “I am so proud to own this piece of Carmel history”. Equal parts bakery, deli, Starbucks Coffee Bar and neighborhood hangout, Carmel Bakery specializes in Scottish shortbread, English scones, Italian biscotti and giant soft Bavarian pretzels. Deli-style sandwiches, house made soups and fresh salads are also served.


Known throughout the Monterey Peninsula as “Mr. Italy”, Pèpe shares his knowledge of Italian culture and cuisine by answering questions in his online column called ASK MR. ITALY.

Pèpe travels to Italy a twice per year, often taking small groups with him on his culinary and cultural journeys. This column is fast becoming a good resource for people who are traveling to Italy, and for people who are interested in “all things Italian”.

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