We spent four days gorging on Southern staples like fried chicken and collard greens and were desperately in need of a change of pace. That’s when I remembered the advice of Sublime Doughnuts owner Kamal Grant, who praised Antico Pizza Napoletana, a new Naples-style pizzeria near Georgia Tech from Giovanni Di Palma. Since Grant’s doughnuts were so satisfying, we took his advice, and can now report what is undoubtedly some of the best pizza in the South.
Order at the counter and cross your fingers, since seating is first-come and limited during peak hours. A glass lined room-within-a-room hosts a single communal table. You’re better off headed for the back room, where three communal tables sit in the middle of the working kitchen. Cooks might be patting dough on your left or using long-handled wooden peels to fire pizzas on your right.
Di Palmo’s triple-oven attack and Italian born pizzaiolos adhere to tradition. Acunto ovens come from Italy and are each labeled differently (San Paolina, San Gennaro and San Felice). The ingredients are also imported from Italy. I spotted bags of San Felice flour, jars of Tutto Calabria long hot chile peppers, Peitro Coricelli Extra Virgin Olive Oil and cans of Napoletano peeled San Marzano tomatoes.
Antico uses a limited menu that involves nine pizzas, three calzoni Napoletana and pasticceria that fills a display case near the register. Each pizza is 16 inches in diameter, yields eight slices and has a tangy, blistered crust. We started with a Pizza Tradizionale di Napoli, a Margherita ($16) with San Marzano tomatoes, luxurious mozzarella di bufala, fresh basil and garlic.
You’ll also find three Pizza Specialita, with the same crust but different toppings. We ordered the San Gennaro ($21) with sweet red peppers that practically caramelized in the oven, mozzarella di bufala, sweet strands of cippoline onion and pellets of pork sausage that would have been better free-form but still tasted pretty good.
The crust is tangy, pull-apart and bubbled with blackened dough blisters that form thanks to 1000-degree heat. Each pizza cooks for 60 seconds in the oven.
Antico makes all of their pastries in-house, including three variations on the cannoli, which is piped to order with rich, chocolate-studded ricotta. Each end of the crisp shell is dipped in dark chocolate. One is lined with coconut shavings, the other with crushed pistachios.
We also ordered walnut-lined cannoli and a halved croissant dipped in dark chocolate and filled with a layer of custard. In this case, the pastry was dry and the chocolate and custard merely served to distract from that deficiency.
When people think of Atlanta, pizza isn’t the first food that springs to mind, but Antico is helping to prove that the unofficial capital of the south is developing culinary range.