The first time I heard mention of Atlanta’s Antico Pizza Napoletana was a few years ago in a Tweet of praise from Nashville musician Jason Isbell. Sadly, it took this long for me to get back to Georgia and visit this place that Jason so highly touted. Recently, in need of a long weekend escape from the routine of home, work and Yankees baseball, Mrs. Pie and I reckoned that we were long overdue for a drive to ATL. Of course, pizza at Antico was the numéro uno activity on my list.
After sleeping late on a Saturday morning, we had a fine breakfast at the retro-hip Java Jive and spent a few hours checking out the Ponce City Market shopping center that was developed from a historic former Sears distribution center. It was then time for a late lunch, and we headed to the west side of town through the sprawling Georgia Tech campus to Antico.
Not expecting what we were about to see, there in the middle of an otherwise residential neighborhood, sat a Roman Empire of an Italian village devouring two opposite street corners. In addition to our destination pizza joint, these skillful restaurateurs have assembled an Italian-themed compound that also includes a chicken restaurant, a bar, and a gelateria/pasticceria (gelato and bakery goods, respectively).
For the record, Antico has now been in biz since 2010 and has since added a location in the northern ATL suburb of Alpharetta and most recently one at The Battery complex at the new Braves baseball stadium up the interstate in Marietta.
Since the Pizza Snob has now long overgrown an earlier aversion to pizza of the Neapolitan variety, I was quite jazzed when I walked through the door and saw their set up and what folks were eating. An order counter greets you in the entry way which leads to communal seating in either the small front room with a few high tables and chairs, or the larger back tabled room. We chose to sit in the latter where we could watch both the pizzas pop out of the multiple ovens and the non-American football game on the multiple TVs.
While at the front counter, we ordered the Margherita D.O.P. ($20). This is the simple selection from the top of the menu with just the cheese and the sauce. There was a total of ten regular options from which to choose, plus their special “Sophia” pizza that is named for Ms. Loren, the famous Italian actress. Of the regular ten, five were on the Rosso (“red”) side of the menu and five on the Bianche (“white”). BTW – that D.O.P. designation on the pie we requested refers to the certification of the San Marzano tomatoes used to make its sauce. Serious business!
While waiting for our pie among the cheering “football” fans, I found a bit of charm in Antico’s delivery process whereby the waiters walked through the room holding finished pizzas on long rectangular metal trays while shouting out order numbers. Said trays were about twice the size of the pizzas, and that extra space cleverly provides enough room to eat without the need for any plates.
Although our pizza was undoubtedly prepared in the Neapolitan style, Antico’s fare was slightly untraditionally Americanized, bearing somewhat of a resemblance to the New York style with its long cut slices and thick end crust. No offense was taken by this Snob.
But, in keeping with tradition, both the cheese and sauce were sparse creating a lovely light taste. There were some haphazard sprinklings of parmesan cheese and basil leaves on top mostly for show. However, screaming out were the large width and spotted char of the end handles that gave this pizza some extreme crust appeal.
It didn’t take long for Antico’s pizza to knock me out with its savory light delicious flavor and its magnificently-made world class mouth-watering crust. If like me you believe that Neapolitan pizza is all about the crust, then Antico is all about Neapolitan pizza.
While I did label the Antico pie as light, I did find the cheese a tad thicker than normal and not totally familiar to my taste. Still, it had a flavor that my buds truly savored. The large firm slices also held up and controlled their oil rather well and did not finish soggy in the middle section as N-pies sometimes do.
In the end, it was Antico’s chewy, charred and tasty crust that made this pie a winner. Buonissimo!
PS – I would be quite remiss if I failed to tell you that we closed big time with some great gelato selections across the street.
Although I am a little late to the game, I am happy to now call out ATL as a major pizza destination. Not only can you get fab NY-style slices at Fellini’s Pizza, but there is also this wonderful Neapolitan at Antico. So, visit ATL, enjoy the fun atmosphere and food at the Antico compound, and get a slice every time you drive by a Fellini’s.
PIZZA SNOB RATING ***** Sets the Standard
Antico Pizza Napoletana
1093 Hemphill Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30318