Washington Heights, You've Got Good Pizza Now: Antika Family Style Pizzeria
Thank you, Antika Pizzeria. When the "family-style" pizzeria and Italian eatery opened in December 2010, it solved two vexing issues. First (and more important in terms of the greater good of all New Yorkers) it brought some very good pizza to Washington Heights, a neighborhood long underserved in this respect. Second, it finally gave me a place I could wholeheartedly recommend to folks asking for pizza recommendations in the area.
3924 Broadway, New York NY 10032 (near 164th; map); 212-781-9100; antikapizzeria.com
Getting there: A/C to 163rd
Pizza style: New York–Neapolitan and grandma
Oven type: Bakers Pride gas ovens
The skinny: Washington Heights has been underserved in terms of pizza for ages. Antika fixes that. They do two styles here, but get the grandma pizza is the thing to get. Whole pies only
Price: Grandma pie, $17 plain; "Classic New York Round," $12 and $16 for small and large, respectively
Although the name may evoke visions of Italy, Antika serves decidedly New York–style pizzas — a "Classic New York Round" pie (above) that in truth nods more toward the New York–Neapolitan style of pizza than to the more common New York "street slice" style and an "Old Fashioned Grandma Style Square" pizza (at top).
One thing the name properly conveys, however, is the communal aspect of the food served. All pizzas come whole pie only — no slices. (And the nonpizza dishes are served family-style, on large platters for everyone to dig into.) Yes, it's a sit-down joint, casual in vibe but still neatly dressed — exposed-brick walls, black-and-white tile floors, a floor-to-ceiling window wall that opens completely to the street in nice weather.
But let me cut to the chase: Get the Old Fashioned Grandma here. It's great stuff.
The crust is light, airy enough, and takes a nice burnishing from the oiled pan, becoming crisp-fried-chewy in spots while remaining soft and moist (but not underdone) in others.
It doesn't quite reach the heights of Adrienne's grandma pizza in the Financial District (my benchmark for this style), but it's close.
A generous amount of blended cheese (fresh and regular mozzarellas, grana Padano, pecorino Romano) covers the pizza to the rim, with bits that get trapped between the crust and the pan, adding that frico-like quality to the last few bites of a slice.
In true grandma style, stripes of sauce sit atop the cheese. It's minimally seasoned, so you taste the tomatoes' true flavor rather than the mix of dried spices that dominate New York–style pizza sauces (not that that's necessarily a bad thing).
There's no garlic on this pie, a deviation from most grandma-style pizzas, but this one is good enough that I didn't miss it.
I've only had plain grandma pizzas there so far, but I've got friends in the neighborhood, so I'll be back with updates on topped pies.
The round pies are good, too, but not in the same league as the grandmas. Have you ever been to one of the locations of the Patsy's Pizza mini chain?* It's much like the pizza there. Better than average, good even, but not reaching the heights pizza awesomeness you may have experienced elsewhere.
The crust is dry, without much lift, but is crisp and chewy — maybe a little too chewy at the rim. I was tempted to leave the "pizza bones" behind.
Still, like the chain Patsy's, I'd happily recommend them in a pinch — and that's the deal here. You're not going to find a New York-Neapolitan style pizza like this for blocks and blocks.
But, yeah, the grandma pizza. That's the thing.
* The original Patsy's in East Harlem has different owners than the mini chain, and its pizza is completely different, so don't use it in your mental comparison.