Monday, December 14, 2009

My First (and Second) Antico Experiences

I've pent up so much excitement about one day visiting Antico Pizza (1093 Hemphill Ave; Atlanta, GA). After hearing more and more good reviews from friends and reading more and more RAVING reviews, I couldn't hold it in any longer (Blissful Glutton's review here, Savory Exposure's here, Besha Rodell/Creative Loafing's here and Chow Down Atlanta's here).

So on Friday, my colleagues Peg and Gene and I made the trek down from lower Marietta to the pizza joint (near Georgia Tech). Antico has taken up post in a space that formerly housed a bakery. As we walked up, I thought about how grateful I was that Antico expanded its hours and is now open for lunch. If my memory serves me correctly, they've only been open about 10 weeks.

I'd heard that the food was good (and authentic), the ingredients fresh from Italy and the experience unparalleled. It's all true.

Within two minutes of ordering our $17 Margherita pie (with pepperoni added for $4) from menu, a steaming hot pizza arrived at our table (apparently the pizzas cook in under a minute in the blazing hot, Italian-imported ovens). Gene, who had been twice before, showed us where to find plates, fresh chopped garlic, parmesan cheese and paper towels. Not sure how we wanted to attack the pizza, Peg and I requested silverware. So there we sat, in the bustling kitchen on modest folding and rickety wooden chairs, devouring our pie and listening to blaring Italian music.

I now understand why Besha Rodell says in her review that she had to eat there several times before she could concentrate on writing the review. I couldn't even talk. All I wanted to do was shove more pizza deliciousness into the whole in my head you call a mouth. OMG. I can't believe I'm saying "OMG" in my restaurant review... but seriously, OMG. The sauce was simple but didn't lack flavor. The buffala cheese tasted so fresh it was unreal. The pizza featured just the right amount of basil. And the pepperoni wasn't that preservative-packed, pseudo-meat stuff we've all tasted too many times. The crust was lightly charred, light and fluffy (but not soggy). We groaned, grunted, shoveled more food into our mouths and mopped up the leftover crust with some of the most delicious olive oil I've ever had. We topped the meal off with a complimentary espresso (good call, Gene). So. Good.

We all left reflecting on the delicious meal and saying we had to bring friends and family here. And so I did, that night. That's right. I came back for dinner Friday night.

Friends Moeko and Matt, as well as my husband Dan, heard all my ranting and raving and wanted to check the place out for themselves. I obviously had no qualms with stopping by again. Mo picked out the Margherita ($17) for them; we snagged cappricciosa ($21 - artichoke hearts, proscuitto, mushrooms).

The moments that came next were like deja vu of lunch earlier that day. More grunting, groaning, eating without many words exchanged, dipping of crust in olive oil, etc. The cappricciosa was good, but I have to say the classic margherita is better. (FYI, the gal at the counter said the pomodorini is fan favorite -- it's a riff on the margherita but with whole cherry tomatoes).

Since Antico doesn't have its liquor license, it's BYOB. We brought a bottle of Spanish granacha ($10) with us -- but some folks next us brought in four coolers, about 10 six packs and enough wine for a small army. Too bad they wouldn't sell us a bottle once ours ran out... FYI, for those of you who don't do math, we ate and drank for about $12-$13/person. Not bad for a dinner out.

Moeko treated us to a tiramisu, which was nearly as delicious as the pizza itself. Served in a modest plastic cup, the dessert's lady finger/licquer and custard layers melted together beautifully. Moeko thought the bottom of hers was a little too moist (perhaps it had been hanging out the fridge a little longer?) but she enjoyed it tremendously nonetheless.

My fellow evening diners agreed that the pizza was the best they've had in a long time. And we all loved the loud, rustic dining experience. "It was the best pizza I've had outside of Italy," my husband shared. He wanted to go back on Sunday (sadly, Antico is closed on Sundays). "I seriously dreamed about that pizza the night after we ate it," is what my friend Moeko said. No joke.

If the so-called "Atlanta Pizza Wars" are being fought, Antico is winning.

The pros:

  • Pizza that's so good that you'd think you died and gone to Italian heaven
  • Affordable, plus the BYOB saves on the spending
  • Fresh, authetic ingredients

The cons:

  • Super healthy eaters may be turned off that Antico doesn't offer any low-cal options like salads
  • Some may be put off by the casual, dive-y eating experience (note: we enjoyed it) and not really having wait staff
  • Local food movement folks may not like the carbon footprint created by importing ingredients weekly
  • (You're plain crazy if you don't like this place)


Traci said...

I'm really glad to see this since I work at GA Tech and haven't even been there yet (and my office is just a few blocks away so I have no excuse!). I'm definitely going to try it very soon now :)

Kb_Mal said...

Traci, you gotta go. You just have to go. And bring friends because they will THANK YOU.