Our search for the Best Pizza in Central Florida is heating up. As I write this, there is a three-way fight for the top prize among NYPD Pizzeria, Pizza Fusion and Del Dio. You can see the current tally here. You can see that the totals drop off dramatically after third place.
Frankly, I’m surprised Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza hasn’t received more votes. It may be because the small chain, which started in Ft. Lauderdale in 2002, only recently moved into town. But pizza lovers really ought to take note.
Anthony’s is in the Whole Foods center at the corner of Sand Lake Road and Turkey Lake Road, next to Seito Sushi. Since I live in downtown Orlando, I phoned my order in and headed down I-4 to pick it up. When I finally got to the restaurant -- it takes longer to exit the interstate and get around the corner onto Turkey Lake Road than the actual drive from Orlando -- I was sorry I wasn’t dining in. The place had a dark but modern tavernlike moodiness and was bustling with a good sized crowd.
When I got to the cash register and told the woman I was there to pick up my order -- large pizza with sausage, pepperoni, onions and mushrooms -- she asked if I wanted an eggplant pizza.
Huh? I was confused. Was my pizza not ready? No, she said, my pizza was ready to go. But someone had phoned in an order for an eggplant pie but then called to cancel after it had been cooked. She wanted to know if I would take it. For free? I asked with a smirk. Uh-huh, she said with a smile. Sure, why not?
Both pizzas were based on the same slightly crispy crust. A main feature of the coal-firing is that the bottom of the crust gets good and blackened, which gives a dark, earthy taste. (The company’s slogan, “Pizza well done,” is probably meant to have double meaning.) I don’t want to say it was burnt, because that gives the wrong impression. Think of this as more like the charred outside of a campfire-roasted marshmallow. Same sort of effect but without the goo inside.
Of course, I preferred the pizza I had ordered. I like some meat on top of the crust and sauce. But the aubergine version was OK. It just struck me as something more akin to a flatbread appetizer.
By the way, the coal used at Anthony’s is anthracite, and the restaurant’s Web site goes to great lengths to sing the praises of its “clean burning” properties. I can’t attest to that, and I’m not going to weigh in on the pizza’s contribution to global warming. But I was amused that in the explanation of its use of coal that Anthony’s was patting itself on the back for doing something about reducing America’s dependence on foreign sources of fuel. I can’t think of any other pizzerias that are using foreign fuel sources to cook their pies.
The menu at Anthony’s is Spartan. You’ve got your pies and variations of toppings, plus a couple of salads and a few pasta dishes and “coal oven roasted chicken wings,” which could be interesting. But you come here for pizza. And really, you should.
Anythony’s Coal Fired Pizza is at 8031 Turkey Lake Road, Orlando. It’s open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-363-9466.
By the way, today I’ve dropped out the low vote getter (Nonno’s, which is a place I really liked), and added Junior’s Pizza & More at University Boulevard and Dean Road. Junior’s had a vocal fan club requesting it to be added to the poll, so there it is. The pizza search ends on Aug. 31, but in the last days I’ll be dropping the restaurants with the fewest votes until only the finalists remain.
To vote, find the poll on the left side of this page.