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#FamilyEats – Antonio’s by the Slice or the Pie

Antonio’s by the Slice or the Pie in Worcester, MA

Pizza has powers. There’s no question about it. The combination of cheeses, sauces, and crispy crusts give pizza the ability to turn anyone into a craving-induced food lover. Its powers can cure everything from Monday blues to weekend nostalgia. Chaotic family day? Skip cooking and order pizza. Long day at work? Skip going to the grocery store and grab a pie on the way home. And if you want to turn an ordinary family dinner into a night of quality time and pie sharing, head to Antonio’s Pizza by the Slice for a night of dining out on the patio with pizza, pasta, and drinks.

Honey Hot Wings from Antonio’s by the Slice in Worcester, MA
Honey Hot Wings from Antonio’s by the Slice in Worcester, MA

We all know pizza has become the quintessential New York food, but Antonio’s Pizza is holding down the fort in Worcester – one of its eight locations – with the perfect sauce to crust ratio. Opening its original location in Amherst, MA in 1991, Antonio’s opened in Worcester in 2016 and hasn’t slowed down since. In Worcester, Antonio’s Pizza by the Slice includes a call-ahead, drive-up pickup window, an open-concept kitchen and an outdoor dining option – all of the necessary options for a #FamilyEats destination.

Scott Weiner declared New York the “slice town” in his book, “Viva La Pizza! The Art of the Pizza Box,” because of New York’s emphasis on the sliced pizza opposed to the entire pie and honestly, there’s something to be said about the ability to order a slice over a pie and at Antonio’s they understand that. With a slice counter, Antonio’s speaks to the indecisive eater, the “I’m in a rush, let me get a slice” eater and ultimately to the little belly eaters – the kiddos. While the adults can order skillets filled to the brim with specialty pastas and topped with the likes of mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, herbs and even baked seafood, the kids can feed their simple needs with a slice of cheese pizza.

We can’t give Antonio’s kudos for their “order by the slice” philosophy without talking about their variations. Pizza options are a specialty at Antonio’s. From gluten-free to veggie pizzas, the pizza line up gives more options than most New York pizzerias. (Sorry, New York) They offer the standard cheese, pepperoni and Hawaiian pies but they also branch out their creative pizza skills with pies like the beaurider – a pizza topped with breaded chicken, cheese-filled tortellini, mozzarella cheese and basil pesto sauce – the chicken quesadilla – a pie topped with spicy chicken, pico de gallo with cilantro, sour cream, nacho chips, cheddar cheese and mozzarella cheese. These pizzas are for adventurous eaters and are the perfect way to liven up a family night out. The kids’ menu speaks to the simple taste pallet of a child: cheese pizza, pastas (with or without sauce) and chicken fingers but with so many options for pizza toppings, Antonio’s may be the place to get your picky eater to explore more menu items on your next family night out.

Chicken and gorgonzola salad + Calamari from Antonio’s by the Slice in Worcester, MA
Chicken and gorgonzola salad + Calamari from Antonio’s by the Slice in Worcester, MA
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In Praise of … Crust’s Coney Island Hot Dog Pizza

Coney Island Pizza from Crust on Main Street in Worcester, MA

David Bowie and Mick Jagger’s 1985 cover of Martha and the Vandella’s “Dancing in the Street” is a perfectly serviceable collaboration. But the video. Oh, the video. It’s an absolute train wreck. The clothes (really guys?), the “dancing,” the ridiculous emoting. For two great artists and performers, the video is the veritable opposite of a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup’s two great tastes that go great together.

This is what popped in my head when I first saw that Crust Bakeshop was mashing up the legendary Coney Island “up” hot dog (homemade chili sauce, raw onion, and mustard) with the excellent pizza Crust Bakeshop just started making on Thursday nights (from 4-8pm only). And I had to have it. Just to know. An idea like this can only break one of two ways: deliciously defying logic so that you’re happily willing to sacrifice an artery or two or you smile politely when asked what you thought and say, “Thank you for trying.”

In this case, I am delighted to report that more is more. The Coney Island Hot Dog Pizza just works. Pizza is among the perfect foods – and if I am going to have something besides my hand convey the inappropriate number of “Up” dogs I already consume, might as well be some damn fine pizza done right by Crust. Plus it’s a family affair: Crust owner Alexis Kelleher is the daughter of the owners of George’s Coney Island. The pizza is a tribute to the beloved Worcester institution’s 100th anniversary.

The Coney Island pizza ($17) fits snugly in a 17” box and easily feeds 2-4 depending on your willpower or willingness to fight your friends and children for the last slices. A layer of Coney’s famous chili sauce goes down in place of red sauce, then mozzarella cheese shredded and sliced, followed by chopped Coney Island dogs. After cooking it is finished with minced onion and yellow mustard. (And relish and/or ketchup if that is what you’re into – I won’t judge. Okay, maybe about the ketchup.)

So how did this love child of old and new Worcester faves, come about? “We started pizza night with one regular and one special pizza and it caught on. We’d been talking about doing some kind of collaboration for the 100-year anniversary, and my mom said, ‘Well why don’t we try it with the pizza?’” The head-slapping moment was a hit and turned into a plan to offer the pizza as a special the second Thursday of every month in conjunction with Coney Island’s comedy night. (On that night only you’re allowed to bring it in to Coney.)

For Kelleher, the effect of the pizza cooking in her store is a Proustian moment: the hot dog as madeleine. “The smells are so familiar to me,” she says. “They trigger something. My mom asks me, ‘Why do you think people like it? Why don’t they just come get a hot dog?’ I think taking something that you love and making it a little different is fun.” Maybe the only downside is it’s available only once a month. Or maybe that’s an upside – an incentive to start running so I can blow the benefits all to hell once a month!

Crust’s pizza is a wonderful addition to Worcester’s surprisingly strong pizza scene (Dacosta’s, Pepe’s, Volturno, Wonder Bar, Nonna’s, and BirchTree twice a week) and a great way to grab extra stuff from the bakery after 3pm one night a week.

But the Coney Island pizza? Go ahead dance in the streets for that one.

Editor’s Note: Earlier in 2018, we broke that Crust Bakeshop will be expanding as North Main Provisions!