RestoReview: Don Antonio by Starita

Dear Friends & Eaters,

Several years ago a rude attorney, reading that I hold a JD from University of Naples, asked me if that was the “university of pizza”.  I replied that I did learn a lot about the law while practicing how to knead pizza dough. This guy was clearly an idiot, but he was right on one count: I know a lot about pizza.  While leaving in Italy I used to have sushi cravings. Now, in New York, sushi is readily available.  Since the same cannot be said about pizza (the real neapolitan one, not the bastardized version regularly eaten by hungover students), this is my new craving.

Keste’ in the West Village is one of my long time favorite pizzeria.  I have religiously visited at least once a month for a pizza Keste’ a margherita with prosciutto, arugula and parmigiano.  Now the pizzaiolo from Keste’, Roberto, surprises me again and brings pizza even closer to me.  Don Antonio by Staritaopened last week on 50th St and 8th Avenue and it has the same warm and welcoming atmosphere of Keste’ with some additions.

First let me tell you that my standards for pizza are very high… for example I powerfully disliked the now closed pizzeria in Brooklyn owned by a belgian chef.  When he can to my table with a smile asking me how much I had enjoyed my pizza, I told him in no ambiguous terms that his belgian interpretation of a pizza was burned and bitter.  Yes when it comes to pizza I am more evil than the evil witch of the west.

With the great track record from Keste’ (solid, consistently excellent pizza), I had high expectations for Don Antonio by Starita.  And with the Starita name associated to the restaurant the expectations were even higher (the Starita Family has a pedigree similar to the Kennedys in the pizza world).

I was not disappointed: the pizza was outstanding and there were additions to the menu that made the experience even more similar to that you would have in Naples. In the Friggitoria tradition (yes, we Italian like our fried food), Don Antonio’s menu also include arancini, timballi and crocche’.  But the most impressive and innovative element, at least for the New York market is the montanara or pizza fritta, fried pizza dough stuffed and voated in tomato sauce.  It is so good, so similar to what you eat in Naples’ Tribunali neighbour, that if you close your eyes you can see the Vesuvium and Via Caracciolo in the background.

My advice? Run, don’t walk to Don Antonio by Starita, you won’t be disappointed!