In 2015, The Food Network lauded Anthony’s as one of the “12 best pizzerias across Canada worth travelling for.” Now Tony Balestra, who opened his first Anthony’s location in Hintonburg in 2012, is just days away from launching a second restaurant in the Glebe. The Hintonburg Anthony’s was an immediate neighbourhood hit, a casual, family-friendly pizzeria serving up great Neopolitan pies. Wood-oven pizza with a thinnish crust, a sweet tomato sauce, and traditional Italian toppings — what’s not to like?
Now Balestra is bringing his recipe for success to the Glebe, taking over the former Naji’s location, and making the wood oven the centrepiece of the intimate 28-seat restaurant. Ottawa Magazine caught up with the busy restaurateur as he attended to the finishing touches on the new restaurant (opening day is tentatively set for the first week or two of March).
Has the Glebe always been on your radar?
I was actually looking to open my first Anthony’s in the Glebe about five or six years ago, but at the time Bank Street was under construction and businesses were having a really hard time.
And so you opened the first Anthony’s in Hintonburg in 2012.
Yes. It was a former pawnshop. My family has been in business here for 40 years [they own Fil’s Diner, Daniel O’Connell’s Pub, and the West Park Bowling Centre just across the street] so I know the neighbourhood.
Anthony’s was really popular from the start. Describe your pizza.
We have a wood oven and make a traditional Italian pan-stretched pizza — all the ingredients are traditional. We get everything from Luciano’s [114 Preston St.].
So no urge to make a North American-style pizza?
Never! I like North American pizza, too, but that’s not what I do here.
I hear the atmosphere also draws people in.
It’s a small place, 40 seats, so you get to know the customers and get really close with them. It’s also very family-oriented. We have families with babies, grandmas, everyone sitting down together to eat pizza. My staff are a huge part of that success.
Will you change things up at the new Glebe location?
No, the menu will remain the same. We’ve got a good thing going and we’ll keep it that way! But this restaurant will look a lot different. It’s a long, narrow room — just 28 seats — so it will have a real neighbourhood feel. It’s got this great tin ceiling, and booths, and the pizza oven is really part of the restaurant. People can see their pizza being made.
Who do you picture stopping by?
I see people who live in the neighbourhood walking over to eat. Maybe there will be some foot traffic when things are happening at Lansdowne, but mostly I picture getting to know families who live here.
How do you plan to juggle two Anthony’s locations?
I plan to be everywhere! Seriously, though, I will be going back and forth between both locations, but I have great staff and I’m very confident in them. Over the past four years, I have had very minimal staff turnover.
I’ve always known that this is the business I would get into — I’ve learned from my uncles and my Dad since I was a kid. Going to work should be fun, and it is!
Anthony’s is located at 753 Bank St., 613-695-9669