It would be fair to call me more than a little skeptical when I heard of the opening of Don Antonio by Starita in the former STG space in Buckhead. It’s not that the original Don Antonio in New York didn’t have pedigree – it does, and I was quite familiar with them as they were featured in Slice by Serious Eats a few times, including a recipe for their famous “fried pizza”, the Montanara pictured above. Always the pizza geek, I tried making the fried dough a few times with fair results. The hot oil efficiently transfers heat to the dough, crisping it quickly, and puffing it up bigger than most Neapolitan style pizzas. Then toppings are added, in this case, a thick, tangy sauce and smoked mozzarella cheese, and it’s finished in the oven.
What I was skeptical about was another out-of-town restaurant attempting to plant itself in Atlanta, a feat which has failed so many restauranteurs. There may be many reasons for this, but I’m sure the aspect of having a far-off owner, not there to keep their eyes on the details, and in this case, hands on the dough, has something to do with it. Cooking pizzas at this temp and time takes a lot of feel and an eye for details. And the menu is HUGE. Over 50 pizzas, along with a bevy of appetizers, sandwiches, and salads. How good would all the ingredients be, I wondered? How can they successfully manage such a large menu? I’ve yet to be able to answer that question, as we only had two pizzas an an appetizer on my one visit.
But based on this visit – I will definitely be back. I was impressed with the pizzas, light and very chewy, there was not a single crust left on either plate, though I did miss the sourdough notes found in a Varasano’s pie. I was particularly fond of the Montanara, which is big and dense and crusty, with a zesty tomato sauce wonderfully balanced with the smoky cheese.
The pizza bianca with arugula was Katie’s choice, and again, was pleased, though it couldn’t stand up in comparison to the powerful flavors of my pie.
We went for lunch, where prices on the shorter lunch menu (full menu still available) offers choice of a few red or white pies in either 8″ or regular sizes (which are still relatively small). The Montanara only comes in one size (smaller) and at lunch it’s $12 with choice of two salads (vs $13 at dinner without salad). My salad was nice, with real shreds of Parm-Regg, while Katie’s featured their house made mozzarella, which was also of good quality. Little quality details, even like small amounts of good cheese, make such a difference to something like a salad. Developing…