As I'm driving down to Atlanta for a quick trip, I have some serious pizza on the mind. Some people I respect say that I have to try Antico Pizza and yes, you don't have to twist my arm for me to start getting excited about some great za. So instead of registering at my hotel, I GPS Antico and head straight on over for an early dinner. Or late lunch but who cares, the place should be empty! As I pull into Antico Pizza, the spaces up front are empty, score! Discrete and humble store-front that says Italian, I pull open the metal door to find...
an open, warehouse-type space with order counter up front. The menu is remarkably simple, 5 or 6 types of pies along with a handful of add-on's. Neapolitan pizza tends to be super simple and focused on the core ingredients of flour, tomato sauce and cheese. You'll never find a Hawaiian toppings combo and for good reason. With all the ingredients imported from the Motherland, you better believe those ingredients will shine through in Antico's pizza.
I put in an order for a margherita with sausage. In back I notice they now have beer (Peroni) and wine, I go with a little bottle of Chianti. I grab a stool at a large, communal butcher block table up front oblivious to the back room. Given it's my first visit, I just followed the people in front of me but in back, Antico has a larger dining room where you can watch your pizza being made. I hear the buzz of voices and there's barely any English, just some staccato Italian which reminds me of being back in the Northeast. I spent most of my young life in heavily Italian areas so there's something a bit comforting about the language to me. And yeah, it makes this place feel authentic as all get out!
It takes 10 minutes for my pie to come out. Most Neapolitan pies are cooking in blistering hot ovens over 900 degrees so typically it takes only about 2 minutes to bake a pie. Add in the simple ingredients and I'm sure Antico can put a large number of pizza's out for the crazy crowds that must come here. My sausage pizza comes out on some paper in a aluminum baking sheet. And it's a really good looking pie, very circular with splotches of white mozzarella, lightly sauced and chunks of sausage on top. On and a couple of pieces of fresh basil, yum! I lift up the crust and there's some light charring on the bottom which just adds to the flavor, in my opinion.
After I'm done with my pictures (professional at work), thankfully the pie has cooled down! Certainly don't want to suffer with a burned mouth, even for this baby! As I bite in, there's a lot of softness here. Soft crust, soft fresh mozzarella, lightweight and flavorful tomato sauce with a hit of basil. The crust is definitely the real deal here, with the char it tastes like a poofy cloud. It's a bit soft in the middle which I believe is the Neapolitan style and closer to what I used to get in New Haven, CT. I've found that NY pizza tends to have a stiffer crust but to each his own! Overall I really enjoyed my pie here and while it's expensive at $25, it should feed two medium-appetite eaters.
So after dinner, I'm wandering around and remember that my friend mentioned a gelato place next door. Ok, ok, twist my arm I'll go! Behind Antico Pizza is Caffe Gio and apparently they do sandwiches and a LOT of gelato. Up front there's some interesting waste cans, umbrella'd patio tables and more. Inside it's a long space with a case of about 25+ gelato flavors lit up. I scan the flavors while waiting for the gelato dude, flirting with the cash register girl. Made it all feel very Italian. After waiting a bit, he slides by and I get my order in, a mezzo salt-caramel and pistachio cup. The gelato dude scoops out heavy and puts a wafer cookie in it, whoa! While I may have paid $6, it must be twice the size of any gelato I've gotten before. Normally you get a tiny cup with a tiny spoon, for shame! The gelato here is adult-sized and ginormous! But that doesn't mean it lacks in flavor because my first taste has my eyes rolling back. Smooth, sticky, lightly salted gelato deliciousness, it could have moo'ed based on the fresh dairy I tasted in that spoonful. I'm sorta lactose intolerance but what the hell. The pistachio isn't nearly as good but still solid. I stumble out of Gio's in a happy carb and sugar-laden buzz, it's time to go find my hotel.
What can I say but this little corner of ATL happily surprised me. A supa-Italian section of a Southern town, go figure. And I've lived in some very Italian areas and always miss that strong ethnic feel in most places outside of the Northeast. But this place is the real Italian deal for pizza or gelato. I've hit up some of the best pizza in the country (NYC, CT) and Antico's can compete. Be prepared to pay a little more but you'll get back a lot in return, ciao and buon appetito!
1093 Hemphill Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30318
4.5 stars out of 5