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The Early Word on Pizza Destination Don Antonio

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Two pizza greats teamed up to open Don Antonio, a new Neapolitan pizza place in Hells Kitchen, two weeks ago. Kesté's Robert Caporuscio and his old mentor Antonio Starita, who is not only the owner of one of Naples' oldest pizza places but also has pizza making in his blood. They are serving up classics from their homeland as well as New York favorites. This is the moment for which pizza aficionados have been waiting, so let's hear what people are saying.

The Fantastic Review: According to one Yelp review, the hype hasn't been undeserved. "Fantastic pizza. I can't say anything else because that about sums it up. There are lots of veg options (and if I remember correctly at least one vegan option: the margherita). The staff was really friendly and the vibe is fun. The tables are a little too close together for my taste, but the amazing pizza more than makes up for it." [Yelp]

The Fabulous News: The one Menupages review is a glowing one. "Read about this restaurant on the blogs online, what a pedigree, had to see if it lived up to its billing. The food really is that good. Salads were fresh and crisp, great arugula. Pizzas were outstanding. finely charred crust, creamy mozzarella, great sauce. There's too much choice for pizzas on the menu, must be at least 30 of them. The Regina Margherita is truly outstanding. We were going to have dessert but were too full. Next time because I'm definitely going back." [Menupages]

The Great News: Most Yelpers agree that this place is serving up some seriously delicious pizza: "It's great -- as good as Keste and closer to where I live. Perfect Neopolitan pies and lots of variety, including the Montanara style (flash-fried) which I first had elsewhere and seems to be gaining in populuarity around town." [Yelp]

The Not So Great News: Overall Chowhounders like the place but mention spotty service. This 'Hounder has a few misgivings: "My friend had the margherita with mushrooms, which was fine - just what you'd expect, and nothing more nor less. I didn't find the homemade mozzarella all that special, but the mushrooms had a good strong flavor. My montanara was like a giant zeppole topped with sauce and cheese. The crust is very nice, and as Cheeryvisage said, not greasy at all...And while I am very fond of smoked buffalo mozzerella, after a while its saltiness started to wear on me. Our server also forgot to put our order in (and don't lie about this, dude, when I can plainly see that people who arrived ten minutes after us are getting their pizza and we're not - just 'fess up and move on). So we also got a free nutella/fried dough dessert, which was very tasty if you eat, like, one piece. After that, it's just too much sweet & fry. I think the place will do a tremendous business - it's in a great location, and it certainly deserves to be popular. The atmosphere, though, is sort of horrible, in the way that Keste threatens to be without ever quite getting that bad. Crowded and loud, I can handle. But the tablet ordering system, the big tv screen showing the cooks at work, and the relentlessly effusive servers made the place feel like Disneyland." [CH]

The Mostly Good News: The food blog donuts4dinner chronicles their experience at this new pizza spot. "The S.T.G. is for guaranteed typical specialty, the pizza by which to judge all other pizzas. Typical as it may have supposedly been, I was pretty impressed. It needed more basil, but the sauce–which seemed a weak tomato-only puree at first glance–was somehow extremely flavorful. The crust was this perfect not-too-burnt-and-crispy, almost-chewy texture, bready enough and airy enough to please everyone.Despite the similar toppings, the fried pizza was wildly different from the S.T.G. Every bite was noticeably smoky, and well, the crust was something special: crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, like a funnel cake or a French fry. And with that specific French fry/funnel cake soaked-through-with-oil-ness. It’s a magical mix of frying and oven-baking, and it was my favourite of the four...Overall, this pizza was awesome, and I say that as someone who barely like vegetables on pizza at all, especially when those vegetables are mushrooms (half-blergh!) and tomatoes (double-blergh!). But these vegetables were cooked down so flavorfully and lent a level of heartiness to the pizza that meats don’t. The disappointment was in the handle, which was lightly stuffed with creamy ricotta cheese and should have been the best stuffed breadstick ever but was just sort of okay–not quite flavorful enough and not quite cheesy enough. I need some oregano stuffed into that sucker..." [donuts4dinner]

The Pretty Good News: Gayot provides a brief summery of the Don Antonio's experience. "he menu deviates from the rigid Neapolitan line-up by offering more than just a margherita and a marinara. In fact, there are dozens of pies available: from red sauce to pizza bianca to fried pizzas, a common Neapolitan street treat. The dough is soft yet crispy and the tomato sauce is ultra tangy, making this pizzeria a destination restaurant. There are a handful of Italian wines on the menu, some of which are offered by the half liter, and all of which are priced slightly higher than they should be." [Gayot]

The Not So Good News: A Grub Street reader writes in about the less than pizza. "Sorry to advise but this branch falls far short of the Naples original." An Eater commenter echoes, "Sorry to break the news but . . .this isn't even a pale echo of Starita's in Naples." [GS; Eater Comments]

-Sarah Rose

Don Antonio

309 West 50th St., New York, NY

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