First Impression: Antico Pizza Napoletana: Westside

posted on September 28, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Antico Pizza Napoletana: Westside

It takes a lot for me to to jump off of my couch, throw on some clothes and speed over to a restaurant after settling in for the night. But that’s just what I did after getting a call from my friend (partner in crime and pizza freak), Kit Fenton, tonight proclaiming he’d just had “the best pizza in Atlanta.” I have no idea how Antico Pizza Napoletana flew under my (and everyone else’s) radar. But my first visit was a revelation.

Owner Giovanni Di Palma (a native of New York and Naples) is the kind of man who instantly wins your adoration. His enthusiasm and pure passion for true Naples style pizza is so infectious, I was thrown into a manic state of pizza lust the moment I entered the brand new Westside Pizzeria. Yes, lust. And anyone who wants to know where Enrico Liberato (the former pizzaiolo at Fritti) has disappeared to need not look any further.
Antico Pizza Napoletana: Westside
Luca Varuni, Giovanni Di Palma and Enrico Liberato.

Is it completely irresponsible for someone who reviews restaurants on a semi-professional basis to say this spot is the real deal after just one visit where I chatted with the owner without the requisite veil of anonymity and ate in the kitchen while interviewing the staff? Completely. Hate me or love me–I’m all about full-disclosure when it comes to my readers. So, forgive my loss of control. There is so much to say about this place, but I’ll just give you my first impressions for now.

The ingredients are impeccable and the kitchen exceeds all the criteria for authentic pizza Margherita dictated by the Margherita Regina Associazione of Napoli. Check out the certificate that proves it:
Antico Pizza Napoletana: Westside

It sits next to this framed record of Di Palma’s grandfather’s arrival to Ellis Island.
Antico Pizza Napoletana: Westside
Love it!

The three ovens were imported from Naples and reach temperatures up to 1000 degrees, which means the pizzas cook in 60 seconds or less.
Antico Pizza Napoletana: Westside

This was waiting for me when I pulled up:
Antico Pizza Napoletana: Westside
The San Gennaro

Antico Pizza Napoletana: Westside
The Margherita D.O.P

It tasted just like Italy. The slightly sour crust is puffy–as it should be–so the ingredients have no where to go and are therefore cooked uniformly. This classic method–I think the Italians know a bit about architecture–ensures there is little sogginesss. The sauce is made with beautiful San Marzano tomatoes, the crust uses a special flour from the hometown of Di Palma’s family (a town the size of Inman Park) and a high quality Bufala mozzarella, which both Liberata and Di Palma still lament is just not the same as the kind you get delivered to your door by the farmer in Italy.
Antico Pizza Napoletana: Westside
A selection of some of the ingredients

Luca Varuni runs the dessert area where impeccable cannoli (available in many flavors) are filled to order with a pitch-perfect ricotta they import from Italy.
Antico Pizza Napoletana: Westside
A very bad picture of the cannoli after we attacked them.

Every order of crackly cannoli comes with a free espresso made the old-school way on the stove. Observe:

Above the dessert area and cash-wrap is a Lichtenstein inspired banner with pictures of Di Palma’s son, Gian Luigi, demonstrating how to eat the pizza the correct way. Yes, I did complain about Varasano’s signage, but this is cuter:
Antico Pizza Napoletana: Westside
Antico Pizza Napoletana: Westside

Gian Lugi is not just a pretty face. He can talk trash about his pizza skills versus another well-known Atlanta “pizza maker” and will be teaching pizza-making classes to other kids starting in a few weeks. He is also quite the pint-sized gent who refused to let me carry my order to my car alone.

More information to come on this new spot as it develops. But I have to say it has loads of promise. The “seating” is pretty much non-existent at this time (there is talk about having outdoor tables in the future), so be prepared to stand at the “bar” while you eat or take it to go. I would stand and eat if I were you.

The restaurant is located at 1093 Hemphill Avenue. Atlanta, GA. 30318. 404-724-2333.

It’s open on Monday through Friday from 4:00 PM until “the dough runs out” and Saturdays from noon until–you guessed it–“the dough runs out.”The pizzas start at about $15 depending on what you order. But they are so worth it. Run do not walk.

Antico Pizza Napoletana: Westside
I’ve got some videos from my visit that I will be posting as soon as I can figure out how to edit them. Stay tuned…

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  • Re: First Impression: Antico Pizza Napoletana: Westside
    posted by: Anonymous · October 22, 2009  4:50 PM

    WOW! WOW! WOW! The best pizza this pizza hound has ever eaten in Atlanta, and really the best I've ever had. We got it to go, so now i can't wait to go back and eat it there!!!!

  • Re: First Impression: Antico Pizza Napoletana: Westside
    posted by: BigTuna842 · October 23, 2009  6:01 AM

    Tried Antico for the first time last night. I thought the pizza was very tasty although to my taste, not as good as Verasano's. I prefer my crust a little crispier, which Verasano's delivers, while Antico's crust was softer and chewier. The toppings seemed to be of similar quality between the two. That said, I agree with some of the comments here about rampant douchebaggery at Verasano's and I feel much better giving these guys my pizza dollar than I do giving it to Jeff. Plus, the canolis are delicious, and a gratis espresso at the end of the meal was a nice touch. All in all, I'll probably continue to frequent both pizza establishments — they're the two best in town, IMHO. I'll enjoy the pizza at Verasano's a little better but on the whole I'll enjoy the dining experience more at Antico.

  • Re: First Impression: Antico Pizza Napoletana: Westside
    posted by: Anonymous · November 10, 2009  5:01 PM

    Tried it for lunch today, absolutely fantastic and the best I have had in Atlanta, and as good as anything I have had in Italy. Espresso and cannolis were a great finish to the meal. Can't wait to get a chance to reserve the kitchen table with friends and family.

  • Re: First Impression: Antico Pizza Napoletana: Westside
    posted by: Trevor · November 13, 2009  1:35 PM

    First time I tried the pizza I got it to go, mind you I only drove from midtown to downtown, and it does not travel well it was a sloppy mess. The second time I ate in the restaurant and still very wet and soggy. Its obvious that the ingredient are extremely high quality, but honestly it was a quite soupy. And considering all the other posts I'm gonna look like the asshole but I feel that it fell a little short, considering the hype.

  • Re: First Impression: Antico Pizza Napoletana: Westside
    posted by: Anonymous · November 22, 2009  2:00 PM

    antico is the Best pizza in Atlanta, but it can be better.

    it is equal to or better than most of the so-called best pizza places in new york city (and i have eaten at many). yet, it is still not as good as the best in connecticut, such as pepe's or sally's (both famous from new haven) or luna's and first and last tavern (hartford and avon) or harry's (west hartford). just as a note, i have had pizza in naples, rome an other spots in italy as well.

    the first time i had antico, i ate the pie fresh in the restaraunt. it was great, with high end ingredients and cooked almost to perfection (it could have used a very little more time in the oven). still it was missing a little of the magic found in the very best. it needed to be seasoned a bit better with a little more depth of flavor as well. the biggest problem that was only slightly noticeable on-site was that it was a little soggy and floppy towards the center of the pie. it is possible that the tomatoes need to be drained of some moisture or maybe cut down on the amount added to the pizza. regardless this was very good/great pizza. an exciting day

    the second time i picked up the pie and brought it home. this time it still had the same basic strong flavor, still slightly bland due to seasoning. but i almost started crying because the pizza was so soggy i cold not eat it as is. i probably could have squeezed water out it was so wet. so i put it in the oven to dry out some of the moisture. unfortunately the night was a huge letdown. most likely it also steamed in the box a little on the ride home eventhough they cut a big hole in the center of the box top.

    with a few slight changes antico pizzeria could go from really good and best in atlanta to one of the best places in the US/world.

    glenn campagna
    pizza guru

  • Re: First Impression: Antico Pizza Napoletana: Westside
    posted by: deepmime · January 9, 2010  12:43 PM

    No doubt that this is the best Pizza in Atlanta. Shout it from the rooftops.

    The fact that the ingredients is what sets this place a part. I don't want to eat pizza anywhere else after this place.

  • Re: First Impression: Antico Pizza Napoletana: Westside
    posted by: Jimmy · January 11, 2010  9:43 AM

    I agree with Mr. Campagna, a little more time in the oven for my marg would have made it perfect. Still awesome. I ate it there. Taking it home I would do the same thing I do with my Tasty China dry-fried eggplant: pre-heat my pizza pan in the oven before I leave to get it.

  • Re: First Impression: Antico Pizza Napoletana: Westside
    posted by: Anonymous · January 31, 2010  8:12 AM

    I agree with Mr. Campagna –

    Soggy in the middle (too watery in general), kind of bland, but still kind of tasty (not sure how it can be both at the same time, but it was).

    I suppose I am spoiled bc I lived in Italy and I expect a much thinner, crisp crust, and really fresh tasting ingredients, which makes me want to eat EVERYTHING on my plate.

    And also as a matter of preference, I just never have liked gobs of fluffy squishy crust – it just reminds me too much of typical American pizza.

    I did try to bear in mind that it is Neapolitan style, so I just left the giant pieces of plain crust on my plate.

    The mozzarella was very good and the olive oil they had on the table to garnish your pizza with was quite tasty – nice touch.

    I would like to have had a crisp bottomed and edges pizza – almost being accused of being a little charred in spots. That makes a pefect crust.

    Will I try them again? Yes. Just like I tried Fritti and again and was very surprised – it's delicious. Just keep it simple – it's hard to lose with a pure Margherita. : )

  • Re: First Impression: Antico Pizza Napoletana: Westside
    posted by: Robertr · February 5, 2010  10:25 AM

    I write this as a sincere supporter of Antico's awesomeness. I was lucky enough to go there in the first 10 days of them opening, and have enjoyed watching it grow into it's popularity while continuing to produce great pizza. The vibe there really is fun now, especially when its busy. The eat-in kitchen, the high stainless tables, the Louis Prima, all very cool. The pizza is what counts, but all that certainly helps.

    This being a blog comment, however, I must take this opportunity to complain. And if I am making this complaint as others (especially BG) have done either with Antico or with other restaurants in the past, I apologize, and please direct me to those posts.

    My complaint has nothing to do with the restaurant. In fact, Antico is one of the few I have come across that directly addresses the issue, which I must commend. But the problem is with the patrons, and I'm just sick of this self-important crap.

    I am referring to the seating. What is it that people do not understand? You order your pizza, you go to the line in the kitchen. When you are given your pizza, then, and only then, do you go find a seat. It is a beautifully simple process, and it tends to work quite well. But, invariably, 25% of the people come in, order their pizza, and immediately try to secure seating in front of all those who are already waiting for the pizza line. Why? Because they are selfish douchebags. Why are you more important than anyone else? Why do you get to make sure you sit down before the other people in front of you? My favorite part is, you can see the furtive looks on their faces. They know the Antico cashier just told them to wait to get a seat until they get their pizza. They know they are doing something wrong. And when you get your pizza, and go and sit in the two seats they are trying to save for their friends, they don't say a word, because they know they just got silently called out for their douchebaggery (as an aside, BG's previous use of this term must be celebrated).

    Anyway, this rant is mostly a request. Please just follow the fairness rules, unwritten or otherwise, at restaurants that don't use hostesses. It just ruins the process in place, and makes us decent people feel bad for being decent.

    I must note that this happens elsewhere, another pizza place a prime example. Fellini's: you're supposed to sit down after you order, but any time it gets remotely busy, people start coming in and trying to secure tables immediately. It ruins the natural progression of people ordering, sitting, eating, and leaving, making room for the next patron. These processes aren't put in place on mistake. Some people are just too stupid and selfish to follow them.

    A final request, to the restaurants: enforce your rules. Tell them to get up and wait like everyone else. In Georgia, I've only seen this once, in Macon of all places. IVP, actually good pizza in it's own right. Their servers tell the early sitters "You're gonna have to get up." It is so much fun to witness.

    My apologies for the rant.

  • Re: First Impression: Antico Pizza Napoletana: Westside
    posted by: mrmambo · April 7, 2010  9:26 PM

    First visit today–been meaning to go since I read this in Sept, but didn’t (too pricey, only open at dinner at first, too crowded, etc.)…no matter! Was awesome.

    Got the Marg with pepperoni and it was cooked perfectly–slight char on bottom, crust solid from crown to tip, nice fresh ingredients. Let me tell you, I’ve eaten and cooked a ton of pizzas in NY, Italy, etc. and this was one of the best I’ve ever had.

    Only other comment is mine cooked at home isn’t that different–I’ve hacked my oven (like Jeffrey Steingarten who influenced Jeff Varasano) to go over 900 degrees. I use fresh and/or dry mozz, canned store tomatoes, good meat, at least 24-hr fridge rest on dough, etc. and it was extremely similar. So, don’t be discouraged and think it’s impossible to do yourself; it also shows that other places can do much better, as it’s really not that complicated.

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