|"Pizza Pianeta" at Don Antonio. Click any image to enlarge|
From the Don Antonio website:
World-renowned Neapolitan pizza chefs, Roberto Caporuscio of the wildly popular Kesté Pizza & Vino in New York City, and his maestro, Antonio Starita, third generation owner of one Naples’ oldest and most revered pizzerias, Pizzeria Starita a Materdei, have joined forces to bring authentic Neapolitan pizza to Midtown Manhattan at Don Antonio by Starita.
I have not been to Kesté, but it's been on my pizza radar for a long time. Importantly, the best Neapolitan pie I've ever had came from Scuola Vecchia (Delray Beach, FL), whose owners were trained under Roberto Caporuscio.
On this Tuesday night, Don Antonio was a warm and cozy place. Narrow and deep, like so many city restaurants, it was filled with happy diners and bar patrons.
|The Neapolitan pie|
I had one drink at the bar while waiting for my friend to join me. It's worth noting that my $12 glass of Calcinaio la Calonica Sangiovese was one the worst wines in my memory. This wine doesn't belong on any restaurant's wine list. We were seated at a table in the rear dining area of a pretty big interior space.
The menu is extensive, offering a variety of appetizers and over 60 kinds of pizza. We decided to share two of the personal-sized pies. One was a traditional Neapolitan, topped with prosciutto.
|View from the back dining area|
Among the varieties of Pizza Fritte, we chose the Pizza Pianeta, filled with fresh ricotta, anchovies, raisins, escarole, pine nuts, and then topped with more ricotta, grape tomatoes, and fresh basil.
This rectangular offering came to us with a few surprises - first, that it was more calzone than pizza (my mistake in not reading the menu carefully). Second, it had no raisins, pine nuts, or anchovies. The waiter explained that the version we ordered hadn't proven popular, and so we got this streamlined version.
That's inexcusable. Of course it's fine for a restaurant to tune the menu, but hard to imagine they'd serve you a dish so different than the one you ordered.
|Margherita, after slicing|
Nonetheless, this calzone was excellent. The dough had a beautiful golden color from the fryer, but it was not greasy at all. Inside, it had wonderful texture and flavor, and it's hard to fault the nice simplicity of fresh ricotta dotted with green escarole, fresh basil, and red grape tomatoes. Even as we mourned the loss of the more-authentically Italian combo with pine nuts, raisins, and anchovies, we loved this calzone.
Next came our traditional Neapolitan pie. It was big for a personal-sized pizza, perhaps 13" in diameter. It was not sliced, so we cut it into four big slices for sharing.
|Underside of Margherita crust. Crispy and chewy|
It featured the puffy leopard-spotted cornicione you'd expect, and the rest of the crust was thin, light, and delicate. Importantly, it was not wet or soggy anywhere. Much to love and little to criticize about the crust, even as it did not quite rise to the level of some other standout Neapolitans, such as the one at Capofitto in Philadelphia.
The sauce and cheese were submerged under a generous layer of excellent prosciutto, shaved cheese, and fresh arugula - all of which were added post-bake. Overall, this pie was very nicely balanced in texture, flavor, and even color. A standout pie, worth the $19 price tag.
Toward the end of the meal, our waiter brought us a bowl of angioletti - finger-sized cylinders of fried dough, topped with a drizzle of chocolate sauce. It seemed to be the same excellent dough used in the pizza and calzone, and the sauce was addictive. I'm guessing the complimentary dessert was offered to make up for bringing us a pizza fritte different than we had ordered. A nice gesture and a great dessert.
|With our great friend Ken|
With a few drinks, our meal tab exceeded $100. That's a lot of money for pizza for two, but not out of line for an upscale spot in midtown Manhattan. Don Antonio by Starita is excellent Neapolitan pizza. In the current explosive growth of Neapolitan pizzerias, it doesn't stand out from the others as much as you might expect, given its heritage. Nonetheless, this is destination pie; one of the best meals you can find near the theatre district.