ANTHONY’S COAL FIRED PIZZA, Various locations.
I’ve always appreciated Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza for its solid thin-crust pizza, tasty wings, decent beer and wine list. Hey, a national chain will never have the native personality of a local joint, but Anthony’s serves quality grub from Wayne to Wilmington to West Palm Beach.
I’d never tried their meatballs, however, so I braved the mid-March snowstorm to try a Happy Hour Chianti and $6.49 meatball appetizer while watching an NCAA Tournament game from a seat at the bar. You get two billiard-ball size meatballs, along with triangles of focaccia bread and a big pad of Ricotta cheese to slather the whole thing.
This is not a complex meatball. It’s all beef, with some cheese, bread crumbs, a few spices. My sense is that a large chain restaurant has to please palates in every part of the country, so you’re not going to find anything exotic. It comes in a sauce said to be made from plum tomatoes that are grown at owner Anthony Bruno’s family tomato field in Italy. Nice idea, although we found the sauce thin and unexciting.
The verdict: Decent meatballs, which both your six-year-old kid and your cranky uncle from Clearwater, Fla. can both enjoy. I liked them as well, but not nearly as much as more creative and complex finds along this year’s food hunt.