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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Antica Pizzeria [Meeting #89]

Antica Pizzeria
5663 N Clark St [GoogleMaps]
Chicago, IL
(773) 944-1492‎

CPC invaded Antica Pizzeria on 12/9/09.

The Andersonville neighborhood on Chicago's Northside is no stranger to good restaurants. In October 2008, native Sicilian Mario Rapisarda opened Antica Pizzeria and it competes with the best Andersonville has to offer, including the much-lauded Great Lake a few blocks away.

Our group of ten was comfortably seated in the small dining room. While the furnishings are non-descript, the wood-burning ovens give a warm honey glow which was especially welcome on a snowy winter night. We could actually see our pizzas cooking in the ovens.

We ordered nine pies:

  • Fattarosa (Italian ham, hard-boiled eggs, English peas, mushrooms, and fresh mozzarella)
  • Homemade Fennel Sausage
  • Pistachio and Prosciutto
  • Margherita (fresh mozzarella, basil, tomato sauce)
  • Asparagus and Mushroom
  • Funghi (white pizza, fresh mozzarell and mushrooms)
  • Parma (fresh mozzarella, shaved parmesan cheese, cherry tomatoes, fresh arugula, prosciutto de Parma)
  • Padania (caramelized onions, tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella)
  • Daily Special, which was the Pizza Maldonado, featuring fennel sausage, marinara sauce, mushrooms and salami.
The first three came out about ten minutes after ordering, and the remaining pies came shortly thereafter two or three at a time. The pizzas are Neapolitan style, about 12-inches in diameter. The crusts generally had some charring along the outer edges, but not as much as you might find at other places. The crust was thin, but still had a noticeably chewy texture that became much softer toward the middle.

Although all the pizzas were good, a few were standouts: the Caramelized Onion, the Fattarosa, and the Pistachio and Prosciutto. The Caramelized Onion pizza had caramelized onions, whole roasted garlic, and pancetta. The onions were likely sauteed in a vinegar which really brought out the flavor of the onions, but also added an interesting dimension to the pizza overall. I was afraid that the bold use of garlic might be overwhelming, especially on such a thin crust pizza, but it was very well-balanced.

The Fattarosa was the first time many of us had seen English peas or eggs on a pizza. The yolk of the hard-boiled egg tasted wonderful when combined with the spicy and sweet marinara sauce, and added an almost creamy texture. The peas make the whole dish seem a bit more virtuous.

Also noteworthy was the Pistachio and Prosciutto. Again, this was the first time many had seen pistachios on a pizza. The pistachios were halved and roasted. The sweetness of the pistachios provided a nice contrast to the salty prosciutto. They also provided an occasional crunch, which is a rare feeling when eating pizza.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention the house-made fennel sausage. This sausage was a crumbly sort of sausage -- not sausage balls. It seems like you get more sausage this way, as there is sausage in every bite. It has a strong fennel flavor, but because it's crumbled it doesn't overwhelm your palate like chunks of it might.

Overall, Antica Pizzeria is well worth a trip to Andersonville. You can expect a high-quality pizza, with fresh and unique ingredients. It has been BYO thus far and there are no plans for a liquor license currently. And no, we did not forget the link to their website. Antica is living up to its name by not having one thus far.

The CPC gives Antica Pizzeria a score of 8.4.



Antica Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

12 comments:

  1. I was really pleased with the meal we had here at Pizzeria Antica. As always, we ordered the majority of the pizzas on the menu.

    The first thing I found was that the crust was outstanding. It was perfectly cooked on all the pizzas I tried, and I do believe I ate them all. Crisp, with a little chew and cooked enough so you got a hint of the bitterness of the char.

    The sauce was featured on a few pizzas, notably the margherita and mushroom/asparagus pizza. The sauce was simple and elegant, just tomato flavor balanced with a little salt. On the pizza montanera, which featured two meats, the whole thing was a little salty, but this was the only one.

    I should note that I am usually not a fan of white pies because they're far too dry. Happily, the white pies here were great. The pies simply had a bit more oil than most other wood-burning white pies and this made all the difference.

    Perhaps I'm liking Neapolitan pizzas more and more as our fair city is being swarmed by them. Or perhaps more likely, Antica Pizzeria, is beating a lot of bigger names at their own game. I'd happily eat here again. Some of the pizzas had toppings that didn't work well together (Montanera, Quattro Formagio), but some were new to me and outstanding (pistachio and proscuitto, fattarosa). Highly recommended.

    8.9

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  2. I should add that the carmelized onions pizza was the best one of the night. I don't know how I forgot to mention this. The onions had a depth of flavor beyond onions in oil; I'm not sure what they were cooked in. The pancetta was awesome, as pancetta usually is. They showed restraint in using it sparingly here. I want this pizza again. Preferably, now.

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  3. I agree with El Presidente, I didn't have a bad bite of pizza all night. If there were some crust carcasses on my plate it was because I was so anxious to move on to the next pie… and even then, I snacked on those when I was done. Hard to choose a standout, but I think I'd have to go with the Fattarosa and the Pistachio & Prosciutto as highlights of the evening. Another toppings highlight was the sausage, which had a delicious fennel flavor. The carmelized onions stood out as well. I'll also go with a score of 8.9

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  4. My favorite pizza of the night was the Padania, with the caramelized onions -- hands down. It was truly memorable. These onions were dark and sweet and just delightful.

    I am biased toward thin-crust pizzas, and these are top-notch. Well worth a repeat.

    For an excellent crust, fresh and unique toppings, I give Antica Pizzeria a 9.0.

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  5. WOW, is all I have to say. It really was some great pizza.

    Fattarosa: Was surprising. Didn't think I would like it, but wow what a combination of flavors that all worked beautifully with each other.

    Homemade Fennel Sausage: YES! I am not a sausage fan, and I would actually walk back into this place and order a sausage pizza. The taste and crumble of this sausage was just excellent.

    Pistachio and Prosciutto: Really?!? Pistachios on pizza??? A resounding, OH YEAH! This was in my top 3 of the pizzas tried. Delicious.

    Padania: This was a special pizza. The onions were carmelized in balsamic vinegar. It was tasty as all hell.

    I really was shocked at how good everything was.

    My only complaint was about the place itself. Since it was so new the varnish smell was really bugging me. Also my clothes and jacket (even the next day) smelled like it had been dipped in olive oil. I will definitely be taking out from this location, again and again!

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  6. I really enjoyed Antica Pizzeria. It's always a pleasure to try a new place you haven't heard of and find it to be delicious. There really wasn't a bad aspect to any of the pizzas, though some were stronger than others. The crust had a good chew, the right level of salt, and it was cooked just right. This style of pizza can always get floppy, but it did not get soggy. The sauce and cheese were also pretty good.

    The Padania was the clear stand-out for me. I don't remember the last time I was so pleasantly surprised by a flavor combination, and my jaw might have dropped if I had not been so busy chewing. The caramelized onions were cooked with wine or something that made them rich and delicious, and they went really well with the pancetta. Yum! I also really enjoyed the sausage, and a well-done Neapolitan Margherita is always a winner in my book. I expected the white mushroom pizza to have more garlic, but it was still well-seasoned.

    On another note, I really loved that the open kitchen allowed me to enjoy a view of the smoke and flames swirling around in the brick oven, but as Elana pointed out, this openness can cause some kitchen smells to stick to your clothing.

    8.8

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  7. Antica Pizzeria consistently delivered pies with fresh and delicious topping combinations. My only gripe is that the crust in the center of the pie was too wet; All of my slices had a major sag factor.

    Their pizzas exude bold flavors thanks to the use of superb vegetables, meats and cheeses. Antica's simplistic approach to pizzamaking allows ingredients to have their moment to shine. One of my favorite bites occurred while eating the asparagus/mushroom pie. Although I'm not a fan of mushrooms, the asparagus was so tender with a hint of smoke that I forgot about my dislike of funghi. I must also mention that the thought of hard-boiled eggs makes me cringe (save the yoke!), but the Fattarosa pulled it off...also I love peas! The Padania was really potent and exotic, but my fave was the pistachio and speck. I mean really, have you ever seen pistachios on a pizza? I loved the texture they added, and they were plentiful. The margherita deserves a mention, because although I didn't have a visible basil leaf on my slice, I could taste it and it was very pleasing. The quantity and quality of sauce is perfect and well-balanced.

    To sum it up, Antica Pizzeria is delish but I wish gravity didn't affect the crust so much. I don't like using my fork while eating pizza.

    Antica Pizzeria gets an 8.

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  8. My rating of Antica Pizzeria's pizza is a solid 9.5. It would be a 10 if they could work on the sogginess factor in the middle.

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  9. What I liked most about Pizzeria Antica was that their pies had good combinations without being pretentious. There weren't unusual ingredients by themselves, but good ones put together well.

    The pies I enjoyed the most were Padania and the Margherita. The Padania's caramelized onion combination hits you with immediate intensity from the aroma and seasonings. The margherita was nice because the star is the sauce, which had a handmade quality to it where you could briefly envision having it on the streets of Naples. On other pies, there were pistachios, eggs, peas, all of which didn't seem to foreign to be on the pie.

    The crust on the pizzas was thin and light with slight-to-moderate chewiness. After eating 9 slices of pizza, I didn't have the over-stuffed feeling one normally gets from a Chicago pizza place. The one drawback would be the soggy middle and sometimes a bit too much oil, though more oil did work well with the mushrooms.

    Overall, Pizzeria Antica is a solid little gem of a place worth seeking out.

    8.0

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  10. Wow, I am a little surprised at the number of super high ratings. With that said, I agree with most everyone's assessment: chewy crust and a subtle and not overpowering, well-seasoned sauce.

    My personal favorite was the pistachio/prosciutto, pizza. I have never had such a delicious nut as the toasted pistachio. And a toasted pistachio on a pizza? With prosciutto? Sublime.

    8.0

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  11. Great thin crust pizza. The crust was fantastic (especially if you like crispy crust). The sauce was outstanding. It tasted fresh with a salty sweetness to it. My favorite pizza was the Pistachio and Prosciutto. I don’t know if it was because a few days earlier I ate a bunch of Pistachios at work and have had a hankering for them since… but it truly was a novel concept that worked great. I love caramelized onions on my pizza and thus that pizza was a favorite of mine as well. I would have liked the onions to have been bunched up more in the middle that way every slice would have some. As it was they seemed to be spread out randomly and my slice had just a few strands.
    The Fattorosa was pretty interesting as I have never had an egg on my pizza. This was not a fried egg but a boiled egg. It was quite delicious.
    Overall I give this place a 7.5/10. The only reason this score was not higher was b/c I felt like one pizza would not fill me up. I am a hungry and growing boy. I would absolutely order two of these pizzas and take them home and devour the hell out of them.

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  12. I don't want to typecast myself as someone who always questions the value of a wood-burning-oven pizza, so I'll say that on the spectrum of quality and quantity, these pies have always been very deeply seated on the quality side. In other words, the focus seems to be heavily fixated on ingredients. As the reviews suggest, the toppings on Antica's pies were all very top notch, and many of them rather adventurous. I am with Stelios, and usually look for a pizza that offers good mileage and 'bang-for-your-buck' (while being well made and delicious, of course), and my only complaint is that for the price, there wasn't more food. But, alas, we're here to discuss the pies, themselves, and they were very tasty. I do wish Antica might consider developing a method to make the center of their pizzas more solid - all of the slices I ate drooped down from the moist, uber-thin crust toward the middle 4 or 5 inches of the pizza.

    I think my favorites were the margherita (simple and very good), and the Maldanado (kind of smokey and hammy...had a lot going on). I was also pretty impressed with the appropriateness of the pistachios with the prosciutto - what a grand slam!

    7.3 for this guy.

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