Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza
100 Welsh Road, Horsham PA
This review is a prime example of how recommendations are the deciding factor in where we eat pizza. After savoring coal fired pizza in center city, a link was posted to our Facebook page by one of our fans to check out “Anthony’s coal fired pizza.” Being the idiot I am, I assumed they were primarily based in the Florida area. A single wall post revealed that they have a spot just passed the Willow grove mall in Horsham. The Anthony’s family in Florida actually extended an invitation to the doughboys to come in and experience what REAL coal oven pizza was all about. Bring it.
After 10 years running and over 30 locations throughout the country, it’s obvious that Anthony’s has pizza eaters captivated nationwide. The first of many of their restaurants opened back in 2002 in Florida. Legend has it that Dan Marino loved the pizza so much that he helped finance the addition of dozens of other Anthony spots. And by legend, I mean fact. Either way, he looks great in those Isotoner gloves. What sets Anthony’s above the rest is their 800+ degree, anthracite coal burning ovens. Anthracite coal burns cleaner than wood and produces virtually no smoke whatsoever. Wood fired ovens leave your pies with a smokey, hickory aftertaste. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not hatin’ on wood ovens, I just prefer the finished product that coal ovens spit out.
Normally we stick to our guns and only eat pizza, but the General Manager Preston Russell set us up with some ridiculously sexy menu items that were just too good to pass up. We were given a tasting of 3 of the most deliciously notorious appetizers imaginable: Jumbo, sauceless, seasoned wings. Baked in their coal oven until crispy brown with a healthy shade of char on them. Anyone who can perfect a piece of chicken without the use of a sauce deserves to be recognized. Anthony’s took the wing game to a whole new level for me. The pork ribs marinated in garlic, rosemary, peppers and pinot grigio for no less than 24 hours were my favorite of the trio. The meat literally fell off the bone as it touched my lips. A perfect addition to wash your pizza down with. Lastly, 4 giant meatballs with a clump of fresh ricotta cheese. While we’re on the subject, it was brought to our attention that Anthony’s does not have a deep fryer, microwave or a freezer. They also do not carry ketchup, mayonaise or butter. What kind of restaurant could survive without any of those? One who knows their shit. This assures me that all of their ingredients are fresh and everything on the menu is roasted to perfection.
The main event. For our pizzas, we went with a half traditional plain pie (mozzarella and romano cheeses, italian plum tomatoes, basil and olive oil) and the “Paul and Young Ron” (Baby meatballs, sausage, long hots and ricotta cheese.) And for all you people who hate on freshly killed animals as toppings, a roasted cauliflower (consisting of roasted cauliflower, olive oil, garlic, mozzarella and romano cheeses topped off with bread crumbs). The soft Ricotta cheese was a nice creamy addition to the heavyweight meat combination of baby meatballs and sausage on the Paul and Young Ron. The Long hot peppers sealed the deal for me with this pie. It was only when I got a all 4 toppings in my mouth simultaneously that I realized how good this pizza actually was. The roasted cauliflower was a new experience for me. I’m not a fan of the texture of cauliflower whatsoever. But the fresh garlic and cheeses made it an enjoyable pizza. Perfect for all you weird non-meat eaters. The real star of the show was the plain pizza. It’s such a simple recipe. You can tell at first bite that the sweet sauce is made fresh. Anthony could scratch every other pizza from the menu. As long as that traditional plain pie was there, he’ll still have customers lining up at the door for a bite.
The standard for perfect crust under Anthony’s regime is crispy and blackened. Their motto is “Pizza Well Done.” Those 3 words are rules that all pizza shops should live and die by. The word “undercooked” does not exist between these walls. If you can’t handle the crispness the way pizza forefathers intended it to be, then stick to your run of the mill, corner shop-slop. If you want an impeccable pie created by a staff who truly understands the dynamics of great pizza, then let Anthony’s introduce you to their 800 degree, coal fired oven. I promise you the 11 mile commute from Philly will be well worth the wait.
Since I consider myself to be quite the pizza aficionado these days, I expect a lot out of the pizza I eat. Castro and I have separately eaten more slices in a month than some do in a year, so we’ve raised our standards and branched out quite a bit. While we both still enjoy the local, run of the mill pizzerias we grew up with, our tastes have gradually been changing. We jump at the opportunity to try anything different and/or original, whether it be an exotic topping combination or a textured crust. After all, how many reviews can we possibly write about a dish that’s sometimes so mundane? Fortunately for us, the coal-fired pizza craze over the past five years has changed the face of pizza for the better. And with places such as Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza leading the way, a new era is being ushered in.
Cooking pizza in a coal-fired oven certainly isn’t anything new. Lombardi’s in New York, the birthplace of pizza in America, has used coal-fired ovens since they first opened over 100 years ago. But somewhere along the way, conveyor and convection ovens became more popular due to their convenience and energy efficiency. So odds are if you’ve never had pizza from a coal-fired oven, you’re missing out on how pizza was truly intended to taste. Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza realized this importance, and has since then opened more than 30 locations with more on the way. Although this would technically fall under the category of “chain pizza”, the taste suggests they are anything but.
This not being an appetizer blog, I wish I could go into more detail about their non-pizza dishes. But let me say this: Any place that doesn’t have to rely on condiments to give their food authentic flavor is legit in my books. The wings and ribs, meagerly flavored with onions and peppers, were baked to a delicious crisp in the coal-fired oven. 100% ground beef meatballs were a welcomed addition as well, which was yet another “simple, rustic” dish. Go there for the pizza, but be sure to try one of these three as well.
Now appetizers are good and all, but we came there for PIZZA. The “Paul and Young Ron” was an easy choice for two lovers of hot peppers to try. Each bite was delicious, but it was only when you got every topping combination together did it really shine. The clumps of ricotta cheese went well with the baked sausage and meatballs, but were really pushed over the top by the long hots. Roasted cauliflower seemed like a a decent second option as a curveball, seeing how we indulged in a few dead animals already. Although I am a fan of cauliflower, the texture was a little too hard for me. But again, the garlic and cheeses made it up it. But the biggest upset of the day was the plain pizza. Simple, traditional and fresh, this pizza needed nothing more than sauce and cheese to be the star of the show. The coal-fired oven gave the crust a lightly burnt and crispy texture, while the cheese and sauce almost melted in your mouth. This thing was BOSS.
Anthony’s is only about a 20 minute drive from Philadelphia, so it’s definitely worth the trip. Their endless appetizers and specialty pizza list gives the customer plenty of options to choose from, but just be sure to go with a traditional pie as well.