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Photograph by Chris Revell

Just Chew It: Pizza Antica might just be the valley's best new snack. No fork required.

Slice It Like That

Santana Row's Pizza Antica serves up supermodel pizza that'll keep you coming back--despite the military presence

By Joseph Izzo Jr.

AS YOU MAY have guessed, in the parlance of Santana Row pizza is far from ordinary. The stony ovens of Santana Row's Pizza Antica don't offer up chummy, gummy pepperoni pies. No, this is supermodel pizza: thin crust, baked on stone, crispy and juicy all at once. Antica's pies are so light and delicate that I eat a large every time and never feel full. Each slice floats on butterfly wings, making for divine digestion. It just might be the valley's best new mealtime snack.

The last time I visited Antica, I sat on the patio and realized that my view of the street was blocked by Hummers, which are exhibited for sale all over Santana Row. The sight of military-style vehicles obscuring all that beautiful new Santana Row cobblestone--not to mention the variety of plant life there--was off-putting to say the least. But I was busy enjoying the pizza, so I stayed.

Unlike the big, bad Hummer, Pizza Antica has yet to become a brand name. No other location exists outside Santana Row. The place sports an old-style pub décor with fishnet tile floor, eggshell-colored walls and dark mahogany wainscoting. Two large mirrors open the room with big space and airiness. The kitchen and ovens enter the dining room as a stage for the culinary activities. The layout is handsome, devoid of glitz or pretension. Outside, there are tables for open-air dining that are very comfortable, especially when the high sun has slipped into the west. In spite of the Hummers parked on the street, these tables go fast. We like to arrive early, ahead of the crowds.

Like me, most people come for the pizza. The toppings are not the usual fare but involve a variety of greens and meats, all fresh and cooked in such a way that their juices infuse the melted cheese without making the crust soggy. I like the kalamata olive, arugula and Italian bacon pie. The ingredients are not piled on but lightly applied.

I repeat: Don't expect big pizzas. These are not after-softball-game-size pies with mountains of sausage erupting from glaciers of greasy cheese. In addition to a circular small, ranging in price from $7.95 to $10, there is an oddly shaped large, beginning at $12.95, that looks much like a paramecium under a microscope. The prices aren't bad, especially for such high quality.

Antica's menu changes with the seasons, in the manner of so many good restaurants in this new age of dining. It's not a large, unreadable compendium. Offerings have been tailored to the best and tastiest items the kitchen can offer. Pizza is not this restaurant's only item either. There are salads, from Caesar to field greens in a light creamy vinaigrette, and appetizers like the crispy artichoke hearts with a lemony dipping sauce.

My wife enjoys the entree of spaghettini with tomato conserva, garlic and basil. ($8.75). Garlic and basil are delicately woven into the mellow, nonacidic tomato sauce; the pasta has bite and spins onto the fork without complication. Simple and delicious, this pasta dish brings me back to that day I found bliss in a ristorante on the way to Rome.

There is also an oven-roasted pork loin ($13.75), which could not have been better had it been served at Fleur de Lis in San Francisco. On a juicy bed of greens, the medallions were presented with a purée of rhubarb over the top like a red meandering river.

For the most part, the servers go out of their way to keep the action running smoothly. They've been friendly and, so far, never forgetful. All food has come to the gate hot from the oven, beer cold tap. The cold Anchor Steam, the tables, the layout: all of it makes sense for diners in the mood for kicking back with good pizza.

Pizza Antica
Address: 334 Santana Row, Suite 1065, San Jose
Phone: 408.557.8373
Hours: Mon-Thu 11:30am-10pm, until 10pm Fri-Sat, until 9:30pm Sun
Cuisine: Uptown pizza
Price Range: $8-$15

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From the August 7-13, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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