Delaware is a notoriously small place. I graduated college last May, and since then, I’ve been doing, well, this. My very first post after moving back home was about a chain of sandwich shops where all the menu items are named for dogs: Purebread Deli. Just next door is the subject of this week’s spotlight, Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza.
Anthony Bruno had a predicament when he moved to Florida almost twenty years ago. Coming from Long Island—and a traditional Italian family, he had standards when it came to pizza, and nowhere around lived up to them. The best solution is the easiest one, so he opened a shop in 2002 and did it himself.
And do it he did. Those standards to which he held establishments in his area became the standards to which he holds over sixty locations nationally. Anthony’s present themselves as a serious restaurant, while maintaining the casual dining atmosphere. I didn’t feel underdressed when I walked into the dining room. My server wore a simple black tee and black pants. It’s a duality that few restaurants achieve.
It’s painted on the wall and printed on the menu, and it shows up several times on the website. “We serve our pizzas ‘well done.'” The dining room is divided from the food prep area by a half wall so that guests, without getting up from their chairs, can watch the coal oven chefs at work. It’s not far from the mouth of that furnace to your table, and they don’t undercook their food (well done, remember?), so when that pizza hits your table, well, you won’t be chilly anymore. The edges are blackened (and not with seasoning) and the oils might still be bubbling, and I can promise it’ll smell amazing.
Once it cools down and you can bite into your first slice, you’ll find a delectably crispy crust soundly supporting whatever toppings you’ve deigned to order. I was there during the lunch hours, so I took advantage of a special they run during the daytime. The smallest pizza available on the regular menu is twelve inches in diameter. Mine was a personal size, the size of a dinner plate. I payed about two fifty more for a specialty pizza than a traditional pie, and I sure didn’t regret it. I went with the Philly Cheesesteak format, with thinly sliced top round marinated in Worcestershire Sauce and caramelized onions. I didn’t realize until it was far too late (three slices into a four slice pizza) that I was missing mushrooms sorely, so next time I’ll be sure to fill that culinary hole. Even without the mushrooms, however, my little pizza was absolutely wonderful. The onions were cooked to perfection: not too mushy, but also slack and flavorful. The Worcestershire came through loud and clear, but wasn’t in any way overpowering. The sweetness of it threw me off a bit at first, averse as I can be to sweet and savory, but it was just the right amount (particularly with the excellent onions) to compliment all the other flavors going on. For me, the only other thing the pizza was missing was an element of spiciness (which is absolutely not for everyone), but that was easily remedied with the use of a crushed red pepper shaker sitting pretty on the table before I’d even arrived.
If it’s lunchtime, dinnertime, time for a serious dinner, or time for a party, Anthony’s will have you covered. Just remember to wait a moment before digging in; that stuff’s hot!