WORCESTER – To some, it’s more than a pizza place: it’s Pizza Heaven. The service is fast. The prices are low, and the options are almost endless. Antonio’s Pizza by the Slice in Worcester may be brand new, but it has a long history, and according to CEO Bill Kitsilis, few restaurants come with as much anticipation.
“A year or two before we even opened this location, the buzz about us coming to Worcester just takes off,” he recalled.
The reason everyone is so excited about Antonio’s is because for many, this pizza is simply legendary. The original Antonio’s opened in 1991 in Amherst, and its unexpected slices and student-friendly prices quickly became a hit with the thousands of college kids in that area. So much so, that a decade later, a second spot opened in Providence, Rhode Island.
“The original two locations are really just slice counter locations,” Bill said. “They’re very fast casual. You come in, the product’s right there in front of you. It’s very tight knit getting in and out, but you’ve got to be ready for it. It’s not for everyone, but luckily enough people like it that it’s fueled our tremendous growth and success.”
The Worcester spot is the eighth Antonio’s to open, but at this location those sensational slices are only the beginning. They’ve added a huge bar, a full menu, and 165 seats inside a big, beautiful dining room.
“The first time people come in, they’re like, ‘Oh my god, this is way more than just a pizza place. This is the nicest pizza restaurant I’ve ever been in.'”
Because they wanted to stay true to their roots, the first thing you see when you walk into Antonio’s is still that famous slice counter, where Jay Carreiro and his team help guide customers through the seemingly endless options.
“At any given time there’s about 55 different options of slices that you can choose from,” he explained. “You can be a little overwhelmed when you get in here, but that’s better than being underwhelmed I suppose. We’re sort of like pizza whisperers.
“It’s a sensory experience. You’re gonna have your sense of sight engaged in what you’re looking at. Your sense of smell is going to be engaged with all the different toppings and what’s going in the oven, what’s coming out of the oven. What you’re hearing, it’s not a quiet place. We’re talking a lot. There’s loud music. All your senses will be tested. Once you finally get your slice, now your sense of taste is going to get involved and you’re gonna taste something amazing.”
Some of the standout slices include Sliced Tomato, Basil, and Fresh Mozzarella; Chicken Parm with Penne and Ricotta; Potato Bacon with Provolone and Cheddar; Buffalo Chicken and Bleu Cheese; and the most popular of all, Chicken Bacon Ranch.
“An employee had suggested the combination I think over 12 years ago, and when it went to one of the owners, they were like, ‘Ranch on a pizza? That’s gonna taste terrible,’” Bill recounted. “They convinced them to do it. They did it. It’s the number one selling slice at every single Antonio’s location.”
Another top selling slice is the uniquely delicious Avocado Quesadilla.
“It’s tortilla chips, our homemade pico de gallo with cilantro, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and sliced avocado,” Jay listed. “It’s really just one of those slices where you have to experience that slice. It’s not something that I can tell you how it tastes, because most people have never had those textures and those flavors on a slice of pie before.”
If you’re not in the mood for pizza, there are plenty of other options at Antonio’s. Appetizers include Meatball Sliders with melted mozzarella, Boneless or Bone-in wings with ten different sauces, and crispy loaded Kettle Chips.
“Our homemade fried potato chips, with our bleu cheese sauce, bacon, scallion, chopped tomato, jalapeno. It’s very rich. It’s something that you’re probably gonna want to share with people,” Jay said.
As for entrees, comfort food rules, with hearty skillets of Chicken Parm or Mac and Cheese. For dessert, the Fried Ice Cream is good, but the Nutella Pizza is even better.
“Nutella base, strawberries, raspberries, mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, and a little bit of raspberry drizzle on top,” Jay described.
Just as enjoyable as eating a meal at Antonio’s, is watching the guys behind the counter do their thing.
“It’s dinner and a show, absolutely,” Jay said. “We’re dancing around each other. We’re cutting pizzas. We’re sliding slices to each other. We’re throwing stuff in the oven. It’s our opportunity to show our guests what we can do.”
You can find Antonio’s Pizza by the Slice at 286 Chandler Street in Worcester. You can find a list of all of their locations at antoniospizza.com.
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