WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Pizza was created in Naples. In that southern Italian city is a quasi-official body called Association di Vera Pizza Napoletana. It sets strict standards that pizza makers must follow if they are to display the sign identifying their pizzerias as authentic. Ancora thought it would be interesting not only to bring in a wood-burning oven made from stone (from Mount Vesuvius!), but also to follow the rules of the AVPN. Having eaten pizza in Naples a few times, I’m happy to say that Ancora does indeed put forth a pizza that could be sold in Naples without anyone’s noticing anything deviant.
Although Ancora has eased its attitude a bit as to which pizzas they will or will not make, you can’t come here and expect to get the kitchen-sink, loaded-with-pepperoni varieties you might be used to. Fortunately for me, my favorite pizza is topped only with cheese, tomatoes, and herbs, and my main demand is for a crust whose surfaces are bready here and charred an inch away. This is what Ancora serves. The meats, cheeses. herbs, andchovies, and vegetables would pass the standards of a top-end chef. The fire is so hot that it bakes the pie in under two minutes. It’s a great pizza, but maybe not for everybody.
Ancora and its next-door neighbor High Hat–both partnerships of their separate operators with Chef Adolfo Garcia–opened in 2011. That marked the peak of the amazing renaissance on Freret Street between Napoleon and Jefferson Avenues. Like all the other eating-drinking establishments there, it was so traditional that it was hip. Drawing an excited young clientele, it generated much talk. The co-owner and chef is Jeff Talbot.
The room is dark, spacious, and designed the way a manufacturer might set up his heavy equipment in an old warehouse. The pizza oven–three or four tons of it–is the focus. A bar that looks too big for the place runs from the oven to near the door. The place reminds me of the pioneering pizza places in the 1950s, where a lack of fanciness was cool.
Ricotta, Sea salt, olive oil, bread
Bruschetta del giorno
»Affetatti misti (assortments of cured meats, several sizes)
“Antipizza” (antipasto assortment)
»Marinara (tomato, garlic, oregano)
»Bianca (fior di latte cheese, basil, olives, garlic, chili, capers)
»Margherita (tomato, fior di latte, basil)
»Diavola (spicy salumi, fior di latte, chili, tomato)
»Puttanesca (tomato, olives, anchovies, oregano, capers,garlic)
Daily pizza special
Biscotti, mascarpone cheese, honey
FOR BEST RESULTS
The bar is first-class, and offers a range of terrific house-conceived cocktails. You are only making trouble for yourself if you try to design your own pizza–unless you have a good idea of what they’re trying to do here. The remainder if the menu is surprisingly sparse, although the salumi and salad makings are of the top quality.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
I find the premises gloomy, and although I’m sure it’s very clean, the floors are so old that it creates the opposite illusion.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment -1
- Consistency +3
- Value +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar +1
- Hipness +3
- Local Color +2
- Open Monday dinner
- Quick, good meal
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted for large tables
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
American diners are accustomed to being able to shop a restaurant’s menu not just for dishes but for ingredients. In Europe, this is not common, and deviations from the chef’s standard dishes are often not allowed. If you don’t like Ancora, that probably explains why. If not, it’s because you wanted to do take-out, or insisted on pepperoni.