Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza.
Pizza crust is perhaps among the most versatile dough. Walk into most pizza places and the toppings are the same. Sauce, cheese, your standard array of meats and vegetables, but the crust can fall over a wide spectrum. Thick or thin. Chewy or crispy. Greasy vs. extremely greasy. While it isn’t quite as critical as the bread of a sandwich, the pizza crust is an extremely important element. Assuming you’ve found a place that uses real cheese, it is the crust and sauce that make most pies. I don’t hear many reviews of pizza places that start, “you’ve got to try their toppings.”
I’ve had about every kind of crust you can imagine in my lifetime. I was a Pizza Hut eater for a portion of my youth, and was perfectly happy with their “pan pizza.” A bready, buttery compilation that doesn’t really scream true pizza, but can satisfy nonetheless. When I moved away from Pizza Hut, I found myself occasionally going back to a Sicilian crust to satisfy that urge for more dough, but I became more of a thin crust fan. This has its limits of course, extra thin, extra crispy, or cracker crusts are not my thing. I like a little dough, a little give, and that indescribable bit of chewiness that makes a perfect pizza crust.
Aside from a crust being too crispy, I’d say my other main concern is the grease battle. I don’t mind a little bit of grease, but since I am a pepperoni eater, you have to be careful. Sometimes a pepperoni pizza can look like someone opened the grease faucet over top of it, and I’m no dabber of excess grease. Blotting pizza with a paper towel is just something that isn’t done in my book, so I like places that use a good balance of toppings. Too much pepperoni can actually be a bad thing.
So with those firmly entrenched opinions and a tangible wariness of too crispy a crust and too much grease, I entered Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza in Wayne, PA on Saturday night. I think Anthony’s is new to Wayne, but it is a chain that has at least one other location in the general area and some spots in some other states as well. I heard a rave review of the place only days earlier, but was warned about the style of pizza, and it gave me at least a moment’s pause. The sign at Anthony’s said the pizza is “well done,” and of course while it is also done well, that set off a little alarm. I hear well done and I think burnt crust. At that point, you lose me.
Well, if I am being honest, the crust at Anthony’s is a little burnt. I don’t know how the “coal fire” is applied exactly, but when handling the crust you get the evidence of the well doneness on your fingertips. The result is hard to describe. Imagine the best parts of cooking something over an open flame, that taste, that full flavor and apply it to pizza. I happily tore through the blackened crust, while at another place I would I have been cursing my luck and the poor timing of the chef.
I suppose there is just a difference between burnt in an oven and burnt over a “coal fire.” The crust maintains an unbelievably rewarding chewiness, and that may be at least partially attributed to the generous mounds of toppings Anthony’s serves. The pepperoni pizza was greasy. Be warned, but also be aware that is was somehow part of a total packed that came together for the first real original take on pizza I’ve seen in years.
Pizza aside, Anthony’s is just a small place with a seating area and a bar. There are plenty of televisions to watch a game, and while it was crowded at prime time on a Saturday night, even then the short wait was very manageable. There is a limited list of Italian options not in the pizza category, and they seem quite proud of their wings, of which I was offered a sample. Either the waitress was into me, or she was trying to pad her tip. Well, it worked (I’m very easy to manipulate with chicken wings). The wings were good as well, also burnt to that crispy perfection, they were like a campfire chicken wing as opposed to the buffalo style you are probably accustomed to.
So, add it all up, and you have a nice spot to grab a pizza. The whole coal-firing thing could be a fad and maybe people will find their way back to their old pizza shops, but it is certainly worth a try. I suggest heading to Anthony’s, or if you get wild this season, throw a DiGiorno in with the Yule log and see what happens.
*For some reason can’t get the hyperlink to work, and don’t have time to fight it. It’s at anthonyscoalfiredpizza.com