Antico Pizza, Atlanta GA

Some chapters back, I suggested that Atlanta’s top five pizzerias are probably good enough to challenge any other city’s top five pizzerias, or at the very least good enough for myself and a representative of Chicago to at the very least greatly enjoy every last bite of proving the other wrong. I had been hearing really great things about Antico, a teeny little place on Hemphill just down the road from Ikea, and wondered whether it would be good enough to break into my personal list of the metro area’s top five.

Wonder no more; it isn’t. It’s still quite good, and certainly worth a visit, but I didn’t leave as satisfied as I had hoped.

Antico’s pies are very tasty, large enough for two, and come to around twenty bucks. They use fresh ingredients, including some amazing cherry tomatoes and wonderfully tasty bufala cheese. If they could just do something about the presentation, it would elevate a good meal into something special.

Antico is easy to find. It’s easy to drive right past, too, as Neal and I discovered early Thursday evening. He had the day off and suggested we get together for supper before our usual Thursday night get-together with friends, and I suggested pizza. We found the place with no difficulty, and arrived before the evening dinner rush.

The restaurant appears to have a very limited seating area, doing most of its business as takeout. It turned out that the room that I thought was merely the kitchen actually doubled as a dining room, with space for more than twice as many customers. I can’t swear that I’ve ever seen that kind of setup before.

But even before we sat down at what appeared to have been Antico’s only table, I had gone off the place. We placed our order at the register with an unpleasantly surly woman who grouchily told us the house rules and that there were no substitutions. That’s actually a rule that I’m fine with; I figure that if you’re one of those people who tries to order a Reuben with cole slaw instead of kraut, you’ve got no business ordering a Reuben in the first place. Anyway, she was a grouch, and underlining it the emphatic way that she did annoyed me, and the only drink options are bottled (teas, water and three Coke products), which I didn’t like either. Then we had to read something before we sat down.

Okay, so there’s a single large table in what appeared to be the only seating area. You have to pass through this room to get to the combination kitchen/dining room. The table seats eight, and so I figured this would be a nice little shared experience similar to how they serve up at the Smith House in Dahlonega. Only the Smith House employs an army of incredibly friendly servers who routinely check on you and make sure that you’re doing fine, and the Smith House would never, ever do anything so unbelievably tacky as tape a label to every seat around the table which read something like “If you move this seat, you will be asked to leave.” Neal and I, who took places at the far corner of the table, each seem to spend an inordinate amount of time with our eyebrows raised over some damn fool thing or other, but that warning on those chairs really might take some beating.

After an agreeably short wait, a server whose face I never saw appeared between us to drop a large metal serving tray on the table. Apparently you don’t get individual plates here, either, although you do get quite a lot of pizza grease. If the pie wasn’t made from excellent dough with such good ingredients, it would have been worth complaining about. I just shrugged, tore a section from the roll of paper towels on the table and soaked up a little of the oil before eating. Varasano’s, my favorite pizza in the city, used to get some stick for its pies having damp centers, but I’ve never seen as much oil and grease on a Varasano’s pie as what I sopped up last night.

I’m probably making this experience sound a lot worse than it was. Every restaurant, after all, has the right to restrict its drink selections, label its chairs the way they want, and even leave diners abandoned without a greeting, a how-is-everything, or any other cordial triviality, and I treat these as part of a restaurant’s character and these eccentricities as charming in their own way, and don’t wish for them to sound like complaints. Antico makes a simply excellent pizza, despite their odd choices, and if I lived in the neighborhood, I would probably eat here regularly. That is, if I didn’t feel like driving to one of at least five better places in the city.

Reviews of Antico have appeared on dozens of blogs. A few of these are…

Amy on Food (Oct. 3 2009)
Eat It, Atlanta (Oct. 11 2009)
Octosquid (Oct. 16 2009)
Atlanta Etc. (Dec. 10 2009)
Lane Chapman (Jan. 30 2010)


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