852 St. Rte 3 , Clifton, NJ
Remember me? I don't. Been a while since I've been able to get out to a restaurant to sit and enjoy a meal. And by enjoy I mean repeating: "Sit Down", "Do not touch that, it is dirty", "Eat your food", "Yes you can have some juice" 38 times each...around quick non-breath bites and swallows of nearby drinks.
Anyway, Anthony's is the latest restaurant in the newest/coolest bricks and mortar location in Clifton. Replete with everything the newest/coolest place should have...a huge gym, a seafood place with a built in line, yet another cup cake place, a Velvet Rope having frozen yogurt joint, a wine and burger joint, a place to get Greek fries, a LARGE liquor store and the King and I's best line (etc etc etc), WAY too few parking spots...you get the picture.
Anyway...Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza...which apparently was started in Florida (that hotbed of early bird dinner...and pizza *sarcasm*). I guess tourists, Mickey and Septugenarians demand good pizza? Anyway, the mood is like an upscale Cheesecake Factory (which is of course an upscale Houlihan's...which is an upscale Applebees...which...). In that it is smaller and has less people and tables and thus quieter (size/seating due to location and population due to lack of familiarity). Lighting is a bit dim (for those with children) but excellent for a good meal with friends or family. The menu is simple and to the point. 1 side of a page sectioned off into: Traditional Pies, Specialty Pies, Anthony's Original, Salads and Coal Oven Sandwiches, Italian Soul Food, Dessert/Coffee.
First up, Coal Oven Roasted Chicken Wings (with caramelized onions and focaccia bread). Great for sharing. Served with tongs, because picking up that mess of onions and wings with your hand or a fork is a bad idea. The onions and focaccia bread are tasty, but the wings are...different (and I think this is where they will generate some dislike, especially in the New York area...because it affects their pizza too). When you cook something in a 800 deg. coal oven...it cooks FAST and moisture is at a minimum. So these wings were dry (if not covered by the onions). Yet they had that very distinctive carcinogenic taste to them. Which has it's pluses and minuses...depends on who you are. I appreciate the flavor, but wish they would provide some type of dipping sauce (though maybe I didn't notice a sauce because my son had to go potty mid-app). The focaccia bread is the pizza crust dusted with flavors. Soft and tasty.
Next up...Pizza. Half: plain (finest mozzarella, Italian plum tomatoes, Romano cheese, basil and olive oil). Half: sausage and mushrooms. 1st, the non-plain slice. Held up under the toppings and bent low, but did not break like most local pizzas (we were told that due to the high temp cooking style, it would hold up better). In this I am reminded of a very Italian friend of mine that made homemade pizza once and held it before me like a trophy as the slice was arrow straight under the sauce and cheese "Now THAT is Pizza!". So apparently, this is a good thing.
Anyway, first bite. Flavor explosion...in my mouth. The sausage tasted FRESH. Like Porky was raised on a healthy diet of Fiji water and organic swill. It tasted like sausage. Not super salty, not super fennel/anise, not super anything. Just a down home, like my Italian mother made it yesterday earthy sausage flavor. Fresh mushrooms (believe it or not, some local pizza places use canned mushrooms...UGH). Very flavorful. The bread is thin, a bit on the sweeter side and springy. Must be to hold up under all that flavor on top. When you get to the crust alone...some people may have a difference of opinion. Hearken back to my earlier statement about the wings. Carcinogenic, but tasty. Some would just call it burned. Whatever you want to call it, to me, it was tasty and memorable. "Pizza Well Done" as they say, referring to both the temperature/flavor and to the quality. Next up, plain. Cheese had that yellowish brown color of properly burnt and bubbled cheese relaxing in a hot oven. A little salty yet well counteracted by their simple and sweet tomato sauce. Too little sauce and it will be too salty, too much sauce and it will be too sweet (for me at least). What this says to me is that whoever made this recipe KNEW what the hell they were doing. If the chef/cook does their job properly, you will get the proper mix of salty and sweet +/- dependent on layout. Overall, that pizza was EXCELLENT. Flavorful, hot, well made and well done.
For me, the best slice of pizza I ever had was after a hard day of physical labor in Brooklyn, heading over to 6th Ave and 58th St, and getting 2 nice thin plain slices and 1 with cold cheese and a coke as served by Vinny, Joey and the other 8 *y brothers. This is not that. This is not a pizza that is made to take out your local Mom and Pop shop's. This is a pizza aimed at those dumbed down esoteric pizza places and their ridiculous pineapple chunks and BBQ sauce and avocado. This is pizza aimed at getting back to the basics of pizza and upping the quality and surroundings from your local pizza joint and being a restaurant.
My only problem in coming back to this place is that EVERY time I come back, I'm getting that sausage and mushroom on at least half a pizza. Which will limit the other items I can order (Italian Soul Food sounds great). I guess I'll have to return early and often so I can find out what else deserves to be ordered. Or you can go and let me know...Skip the wings...get the pizza!