IN THE KITCHEN The twin coal-fired ovens situated like eyes in the face of Angelo’s open kitchen never sleep. On active duty from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., they’re fully stoked with large piles of glowing coals, which can be seen banked inside the ovens. The fires are stoked and tended throughout the day, keeping them at the blazing 900 or so degrees optimum for cooking pizza. When the kitchen closes for the night, the fires are left to dwindle. By morning, the still-warm caves are just the right temperature for prepping menu items like caramelized onions.
A Cordon Bleu graduate, head chef Chris Howard orchestrates the action, wielding a long pizza peel left and right from one oven to the other. Anthracite coal produces a blazing but uneven heat that requires Howard to turn the pizzas while they cook so they crisp evenly but don’t burn. He does this several times over the quick four minutes or so it takes to cook a pie. Each oven can fit eight large, so that’s a lot of maneuvering.
Co-owner Brian Leonard, the food and beverage director at Quincy’s Granite Links Golf Club, fell in love with this old (now resurgent) way of cooking pizza hot and fast after he discovered a coal-fired pizzeria in Florida. “They’re not just your average gas-fired ovens,” said Leonard. “I love the concept . . . the whole process, the open kitchen, the fires going . . . how fast everything cooks.”
THE LOCALE Angelo’s opened in Quincy center on Oct. 10 at the site of the former Remick’s restaurant on Hancock Street, but most people know the building as the very long-lived Finian’s restaurant and pub.
The large space has a fresh, laid-back vibe with high ceilings, faded brick walls, wooden floors, and lots of room between tables, booths, and high tops. Four flat-screen TVs behind the long counter give it the functionality of a sports bar, while a single wall creates a more sedate dining area.
Leonard fully renovated the now-open kitchen so guests can be part of the action. It’s easy to see the fires and pizzas inside the ovens or talk to the chef as he works.
ON THE MENU On a first visit, the arugula salad ($8.50) was very fresh and satisfying, tossed with a tasty truffle vinaigrette and generous amounts of pistachio nuts, peppers, mushrooms, and shaved Parmesan. The meaty stuffed portobello mushroom appetizer ($7.50) was frosted with breading and divided into quarters. It was good, but the winning starter here is the coal-roasted wings ($11.25). The simply seasoned, crispy pieces of moist chicken are covered (or sided) with caramelized onions. If you like really good roasted chicken, you will be very happy with these. (Ask for them to be extra crispy.)
The Margherita pizza ($10.25/$16.25) was thin, crispy, and chewy, but we like old-fashioned, shredded mozzarella better than the ubiquitous upscale buffalo, so we enjoyed a simple shredded cheese and tomato pie ($10/$14) even more.
On a subsequent visit and another take-out order, pizzas fared well, and the topping on the tomato bruschetta ($7.50) was delicious, but the wedge-shaped focaccia it was served on was nearly raw. (I’d try it again as the kitchen gets its legs.) The Caesar salad — ordered twice — was great ($8.25). It could, and maybe it will soon, become a standout by being the rare Caesar that has really great homemade croutons. Angelo’s definitely has the oven for them.
Angelo’s Coal Fired Pizza, 1657 Hancock St., Quincy, 617-302-3200, www.angeloscoalfiredpizzas.com.Joan Wilder can be reached at email@example.com.