At a get-together last week at their new Don Antonio by Starita in Buckhead, renowned Neapolitan pizza maestros Roberto Caporuscio and Antonio Starita were busy serving up wood-fired and fried bites for friends and media, including samples of their signature Montanara Starita — a flash-fried dough delicacy that’s topped with secret Starita tomato sauce and smoked Buffalo mozzarella before it’s quick-fired.
The la dolce vita scene was loud and festive, but the hardworking duo mainly stuck by the kitchen, occasionally emerging to deliver a pie or offer a greeting heavily accented in Italian.
How Caporuscio and his Neapolitan mentor Starita decided to land a spin-off of their New York City hot spot in the former STG Trattoria space on West Paces Ferry Road had much to do with Bocado and STG owner Brian Lewis, who now owns a part of the Don Antonio Buckhead operation.
Before Lewis opened STG in April 2012, he traveled to New York to learn how to make Neapolitan-style pizzas from Caporuscio, who serves as the US president of the Association of Neapolitan Pizza Makers.
“We maintained a relationship after that,” Lewis said. “I went back to New York for several visits and we kept in touch. This past summer when we were at the James Beard House cooking, Roberto came to our dinner and we started talking about this partnership and Don Antonio taking over STG and opening here in Atlanta.”
Lewis seemed to enjoy watching Caporuscio and Starita spin their magic as he moved among the crowd, acting as the Atlanta ambassador for the Don Antonio brand.
“They are two super kind, humble, gentle guys,” Lewis said. “Antonio still works making pizza at his restaurant in Naples. Roberto and Antonio and Roberto’s daughter Georgia will be the face of the restaurant here. One of them will always be here. My role is more as an advisor for the Atlanta market.”
The book-like, lavishly illustrated Don Antonio menu includes antipasti, salads and panini, which is served only at lunch. The rest is all pizza, with 50-plus varieties and styles, including filled and fried, red, white and specialty pies, and a surprisingly large gluten free section.
Like everything else, the beer, wine and cocktail lists mimic what’s offered at Don Antonio by Starita in New York City. One notable concoction imported from New York is the big and boozy Italian Old Fashioned, made with Macallan 12 scotch, barrel-aged bitters, and a brown sugar cube, topped with Lurisia Chinotto soda.
“They’re trying to have everything as close as possible to what you would experience in New York,” Lewis said. “But really, this is a very simple rustic pizzeria. It’s not flashy. It’s just the way it should be done.”
— By Bob Townsend, AJC Food and More blog.