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Dining

Make room for Anthony’s

Florida chain’s arrival adds more fuel to Vegas’ coal-oven pizza fire

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White pizza with ricotta, mozzarella and romano cheese from Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza.
Photo: Beverly Poppe

In spite of a pizza glut and a down economy, new pizza parlors seem to be springing up all over town. The summer has brought us Ciao Ciao, and in Town Square, Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, the scion of a South Florida chain with head shots of ’40s and ’50s movie idols like Tracy, Hepburn, Bogart and Bacall splashed all over its smoky walls.

At first glance, and in spite of a hard-to-find location near the mall garage fronting Sunset Road, this place seems like an awfully good idea, and the execution does little to change your mind. I have eaten here three times, mainly because I like it, and each time has delivered a new wrinkle that I missed on the previous visit. So Settebello, Grimaldi’s and Metro, you’ve got company.

Coal-oven pizza is something of a religion in New York’s SoHo, thanks to the presence of the venerable Lombardi’s on Spring Street, and also in Brooklyn, where upscale slices top five dollars. The coal oven creates a blackened crust, chewy, bubbly and yielding, and, as any aficionado of pizza will agree, it’s really all about the crust.

Meal in a Minute: Anthony's

But Anthony’s (the name belongs to the man who started the chain) does the concept one better—at least if you believe its double-entendre motto, “pizza well done.” All pizzas are brought to table well-done here, never undercooked, and presented rather grandly on stainless-steel stands. Crusts are dependably crisp, and the center does not sog like so many competing pies.

The menu is relatively small, and the pizzas are not inexpensive, but they make an argument for style. An Anthony’s pie uses mozzarella, Italian plum tomatoes, Romano cheese, basil and olive oil, plus any combination of good toppings, from marble-sized, house-made meatballs to a specialty called Eggplant Marino, ostensibly named for ex-Miami Dolphins QB Dan—thinly sliced, lightly breaded eggplant slices finished in the oven to give them a mildly smoky cast. I couldn’t stop eating this dish. Dan, if that’s really you, claim your Super Bowl ring at last.

Restaurant Guide

Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza
Three and a half stars
At Town Square, 361-7500.
Sunday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-midnight; Friday, Saturday, until 1 a.m.
Suggested dishes: Traditional pizzas (small $11.95, large $14.95); Eggplant Marino, $9.95; Italian tuna salad sandwich, $8.95; chicken wings (small $9.50, large $15.50).
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In practice, you’ll probably pass the long wait for your pizza by nibbling on the house salad, which the menu tells you is enough for two, but neglects to add the word lumberjacks. Size is important in Vegas all right, but my confidence wasn’t buoyed by the fork-resistant tomato, or the bland house dressing. Still, ya gotta do something while you wait.

A better way to whittle away the evening: an order of coal-oven-roasted chicken wings, small (10 pieces) or large (20). Even the small takes a minute to process visually, since these are the biggest wings in town, and smothered with piles of grilled onion and toasted focaccia bread. What you get is a huge, Giza-like pyramid of cluck, and I defy any four people to eat a pizza after consuming a large order.

So moderation is de rigueur, if you intend to do justice to a pizza here. Specialty pies are worth a look, although considerably pricier than the traditional ones. Frittata, a pizza topped with egg, onion and peppers, reminded me of a submarine sandwich I ate in Boston, except tastier.

White pizza has a coat of ricotta, mozzarella and romano, another worthwhile possibility, but I’d get the Paul & Young Ron instead, topped with meatballs, sausage, hot or sweet pepper and ricotta. (You can even have the Eggplant Marino on pizza, although I prefer it as a side.)

The addictive Eggplant Marino from Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza.

One more I like is the arugula pizza, even if the price point baffles me. A small (12-inch) traditional pizza costs $11.95, with an additional $1.75 per topping. Small specialty pizzas go for $16.50. So if I have to pay $4.55 for some arugula on my pizza, I’m going to be sore about it.

The only other menu items here are a fresh mozzarella and tomato salad, a course that is sub-standard even in the best Strip Italian restaurants, and a pair of coal-oven-roasted sandwiches, an excellent tuna with lemon, olive oil, tomato and arugula, and a workmanlike roast beef, garnished with romaine lettuce and tomato.

I didn’t try the only dessert, a New York cheesecake, but I did have a nice glass of Chianti Santa Christina from Antinori for $9.50, which I’ve seen for twice the price on the Strip. Keep the coal fires burning, Anthony.

Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza aaabc At Town Square, 361-7500. Sunday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-midnight; Friday, Saturday, until 1 a.m. Suggested dishes: Traditional pizzas (small $11.95, large $14.95); Eggplant Marino, $9.95; Italian tuna salad sandwich, $8.95; chicken wings (small $9.50, large $15.50).

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