Fired Up for Pizza

. January 16, 2014.

Tony Sacco’s Coal Oven Pizza opened its doors in Ann Arbor last spring near the corner of Eisenhower and Ann Arbor Saline. Home to a custom-built, 1,000 degree anthracite coal-burning oven, Tony Sacco’s might want to literally open its doors, too, to let the heat out.

Never fear, though, the only thing smoking hot on the night my family of four ventured to Tony Sacco’s was the opposing team beating our team in the football game on the TVs overhead. Besides the TVs, other things give Tony Sacco’s a bar-and-grill feel. It has exposed ceilings, inviting cherrywood chairs and tables topped in dark granite with an extended bar area.

The large coal oven where the pizza is cooked is prominent against the back wall, and serves as the mainstay at Tony Sacco’s. Sauce is made from scratch with plum tomatoes. Quality mozzarella is used as well as filtered water for their dough and sandwich bread. Besides pizza, the restaurant offers appetizers, like garlic bread bites and wings, and entrees such as calzones, oven-baked sandwiches, and gluten-free wraps.

Fit for kids: food and entertainment

Tony Sacco’s has locations in the Midwest, North Carolina and Florida. While the corporate website lists a kids’ menu, the Ann Arbor location does not yet offer one. The personal pizzas with six slices were good fits for my kids, though. My ten-year-old son selected pepperoni ($6.95) while my six-year-old daughter chose cheese ($5.95). My husband and I decided to share a large antipasto salad ($10) and the Napoli specialty pizza with tomato sauce, meatballs, ricotta, and provolone ($17.95).

After ordering, my daughter and I headed to the glass partition near the coal oven to watch the cooks create our pizzas. She sat on a bar stool as we watched them knead and toss the dough before swirling pizza sauce, adding toppings and placing the pizzas into the coal oven, where the pies were periodically shuffled around with paddles until done. It was an entertaining way to pass the time until our food arrived.

The full-size antipasto salad was pretty to look at—and pretty big. Copious amounts of romaine were topped with green olives, Roma tomatoes, and pinwheels of pepperoni, capicola, ham and provolone. Italian dressing was served on the side. Everything tasted fresh. I particularly liked the salty tang of the olives with the Italian dressing. Our kids munched on the meaty pinwheels and happily ignored the lettuce.

Creamy, cheesy goodness

The kids’ pizzas arrived five minutes before ours. Our server explained this was because the smaller pizzas cook faster. At least it wasn’t the kids waiting while we ate. When the Napoli arrived, we found that dollops of creamy ricotta complimented the cheesy goodness of the provolone. The meatballs were savory. The coal oven had cooked the thin crust perfectly while the toppings tasted flavorful, not overcooked. Fresh basil sprinkled on top added season and color. The large size was generous and we took half home.

“How’s your cheese pizza?” I asked my daughter.

Her reply was nonverbal. Her lips smacked, her eyebrows raised, and her head nodded up and down.

“How’s your pepperoni?” I inquired of my oldest.

“Yum, yum.”

Filled by the  salad and pizza, and still taking half a pie home, we passed on dessert. Tony Sacco’s offers shortcake baked in the coal oven, filled with mousse and topped with fruit and whipped cream. Maybe next time.

Tony Sacco’s CoalOven Pizza
980A West Eisenhower Parkway
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Phone: (734) 995-2625
Hours: Sun-Thurs 11am-10pm
Fri-Sat 11am-11pm