“Hey. You game for a review tonight?”
I get The Pained Look. He has a bit of work he could do. He should really mow the lawn. And he may be coming down with something. ‘Couldn’t we just… scramble some eggs? Netflix… Veg…?’
“It’s a new pizza place. In the Glebe.”
He runs to change his shirt.
What is it about pizza? — It’s just flatbread topped with gloopy stuff, eaten quickly and with your hands. And usually without reflection. It’s just pizza.
Unless, of course, the pizza is Neapolitan in style, the dough fussed over, hand-shaped and pan-pulled, the tomatoes San Marzano, the cheese craft — not Kraft — toppings orthodox not inventive and the pie cooked in a Hadean-hot oven, fired with wood. That’s not just pizza.
Anthony’s on Bank Street certainly ticks most of those boxes.
This is the Hintonburg pizzeria’s second location, open about four months now in the space where Naji’s Lebanese restaurant tried to make a go of it.
The room has the high ceilings of pressed-tin, hung with iron chandeliers. One wall is old brick, another cinder block. Tables are rough wood, the floor is ceramic, and other than a tiny cross over the front door, a mirror and an ‘A’ tacked on the cinder block, the walls are pretty bare. It means all eyes are on the pizza oven in the centre of the narrow room, and on the baseball-capped guy manning it, a pile of wood at his feet, his shoes leaving prints in the flour-dusted floor.
Husband starts with the Caesar – the lettuce is so cold, the dressing doesn’t dress it. Nothing sticks. And besides, the salad’s on the dull side. But that’s about it in terms of real quibbles. We like the chicken wings – nothing that I’d rush back for, but they are meaty and highly munchable, deluged with sautéed onions. And we like the house meatballs. They are Nonna’s recipe, we are told (and Nonna’s ample serving): a meal in themselves, served with a dollop of ricotta.
There are pasta dishes at Anthony’s – those same meatballs on spaghetti and some random linguini dish – but really, you are here for the pizza. Order pizza at Anthony’s. It’s what the place is about. It’s about well-made dough and fire and ash and the careful management of those fundamentals. Pizzas come out with charred bubbles on edges and nice chewy centres.
The Gianni tops its dough with ricotta, mozzarella (not the finest I’ve tasted, but once treated with fire, fine enough) and spicy salami. It’s a simple, rich, clean tasting pizza, with a hit of heat. The Margherita could use more basil, though most Margherita’s could use more basil. It’s improved with a lick of the house chilli oil.
Had the mushrooms been pre-roasted and seasoned before topping the Capricciosa I would have been happier, still, still, it was tasty enough, with bits of artichoke and Italian ham.
There are local beers on tap, and though the wine ‘list’ has improved slightly from my first visit (from one choice to three) it could use some attention. (And the red wine shouldn’t arrive as though it’s stored near the oven, thanks fellas.)
We’re in, we’re fed, and we’re out of Anthony’s in the space of an hour. That’s the thing about those ovens: they’re blisteringly fast. Makes for a happy husband. Makes for a mown lawn.
Me? I like Anthony’s. Service is fast, friendly, almost aggressively casual. And there’s no doubting the quality of the dough and the magic the wood fired oven makes of it. If Anthony’s paid the same dogged attention to the toppings, stepped up their quality a notch or two, I’d be a regular.