We are, as a nation, united on one matter: We love pizza. As a city, we’re divided on the subject. There are all those questions about how thick the dough should be, how well cooked, how much topping is enough, and what those toppings should be.
My pizza has to be cooked through. No flabbiness around the edges. And ever since a Jersey boy taught me that when you hold up a slice it should stay perfectly horizontal, without the tip flopping down, that’s on my list. Also, don’t load my pizza with stuff that doesn’t belong on it. Like chicken or barbecue sauce. Enough about me.
Two pizza chains, one big and one mini, opened in Newton in January, and both are drawing crowds.
Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza of Newton is a loud, friendly 70-seat spot in the shopping strip along Needham Street. Other Bay State outlets are
in Littleton, Northborough, Reading, and Westwood. The 61-location chain, founded in 2002 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., by restaurateur Anthony Bruno, is mostly along the Northeast Corridor. Former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino is a partner.
Walls bear signs warning customers that pizzas are well done. And they are! Coal ovens produce nicely chewy, thin charred crusts ($18.49-$21.49). Square Margherita is a beautiful pie, sparingly dabbed with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and Romano cheese. By day, you can get a lunch size ($8.99), just as nicely cooked. A meatball and ricotta version is topped with marble-size balls and dollops of fresh cheese. The meatballs are cute but someone has a heavy hand with filler. Large meatballs come as an appetizer with ricotta ($6.99-$11.99) or in a pot of 13 ($29.95), which you take home, pot and all.
Juicy wings are on a bed of caramelized onions ($6.99-$20.49) with disappointingly cold focaccia. Delicious garlicky broccoli rabe ($7.49-$12.99) forms a base for nuggets of very good sausage. A chicken sandwich ($9.99) with prosciutto, mozzarella, roasted peppers, and arugula, pressed on pizza dough, is appealingly sweet.
Service is a science and has to be, with families descending early every night. When they leave, the place is practically empty, the sound system thumping, the wall of photos of Bruno, Marino, and friends left looking a little forlorn.
Stone L’Oven (get it? “lovin’ ”) is in the former location of Waban Kitchen. This three-spot chain (others are in Canton and Brewster) was started by Scott Lopes, who began making pizza on the Cape 15 years ago at another venture. The 46-seat pizzeria looks like it has table service, but a small sign tells you to order at the register. If you don’t notice it, you’ll sit at a table and wait and wait for a menu (there’s full service at the bar). Big salads like Greek ($9.49) and Cobb ($11.99) are ample for two; ask for spoons to serve one and you get teaspoons. Dressing comes in a takeout container. A chicken panino with caramelized onions and cheddar ($9.99) hasn’t melted and the bread is dry.
One day the pizza ($10.49 to $14.99) is so undercooked we take it home to resuscitate it. Another visit, we ask for them to give it extra time in the oven and the result is wonderful, including crisp, firm, thin-crusted fennel sausage. Fig and prosciutto ($15.99 and $19.99), with fig jam, caramelized onions, mozzarella, and gorgonzola, is quite sweet; a pinch more of any ingredient would have been too much.
The things that don’t work here won’t take much to fix. Pretty soon, in any Newton neighborhood, you can fall out of bed and get a great pie within steps.
ANTHONY’S COAL FIRED PIZZA OF NEWTON
180 Needham St., Newton Upper Falls, 617-467-4250, www.acfp.com. All major credit cards. Wheelchair accessible.
Hours Sun-Thu 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri-Sat 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.
Prices Appetizers, salads $6.99-$20.49. Pizza, sandwiches, entrees $9.99-$21.49
Alcohol Full bar
What to order Chicken wings, square or lunch Margherita pizza, Italian salad, broccoli rabe and sausage plate, chicken sandwich.
STONE L’OVEN PIZZA CO.
1649 Beacon St., Newton (Waban Village), 617-916-1796, www.stoneloven.com. All major credit cards. Wheelchair accessible.
Hours Sun-Thu 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri-Sat 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Prices Appetizers, salads $7.49-$12.49. Pizza, calzone, panini, wraps, sandwiches $9.99-$21.95. Desserts $1.25-$10.49
Alcohol Full bar
What to order Margherita pizza, fig and prosciutto pizza, Greek salad, Cobb salad.