With Old World charm and quality cheese, Anto Pizza Chicago takes the pies — er, prize — for culinary creativity.
A League of Their Cone: Jarvis Pizza Joint Passes on the Plates
Rogers Park residents who are starved for spaghetti don’t have to spend an hour on the Red Line just to get to Little Italy — they can come to Anto Pizza Chicago (1547 W. Jarvis Ave.).
Apart from Italian-American classics like spaghetti carbonara and Margherita pizza, the warm and wallet-friendly restaurant also offers more adventurous items like pistachio ravioli, fried olives and roasted potato pizza.
For chef and owner Tony Barbanente, who’s run Anto since 2019, creativity is the key ingredient. He serves pasta in an unlikely fashion — a paper cone.
The 62-year-old said the unique cone plating idea came from childhood experiences he had growing up in the coastal metropolitan city of Bari in southern Italy.
“After World War II in Italy, their economy crashed, so there was no china,” Barbanente said. “The women, the wives, they cooked the food and put in this paper cone, so they bring it to the husband, and it stays hot.”
While diners eat from the top of their cones, the warmth from their hands keeps the bottom hot, Barbanente said.
Before founding Anto, Barbanente ran Via Veneto (6340 N. Lincoln Ave.), an Italian restaurant he sold in 2020. He said he opened Anto because he owned the property for years and wanted to do something new with it.
“I was planning to retire, but I’m not the type to retire,” he said. “It’s my happiness. I love what I do.”
Barbanente said he works every day of the week, which he sees as an exciting challenge.
“Some people say these are Michelin dishes without paying the price,” Barbanente said. “The same dishes we serve, they serve in the city at very high end places, paying two to three times the price.”
Customer Theodora Williamson, who lives in the wealthy Gold Coast district of Chicago, said Anto is better than any restaurant in her neighborhood, though parking on Jarvis can be difficult. She said she’s been eating at Barbanente’s restaurants for ten years now.
“The feeling, the décor, the food — it’s just excellent,” she said. “As soon as you enter, you’re met with a ‘Hello.’ He’s very friendly, walks to every table, meets everybody.”
Williamson said she didn’t come to Anto for its first six months because she didn’t think it would compare to her experience at Via Veneto. However, she was won over when she saw they offered her favorite, eggplant Parmesan.
Apart from other restaurants who celebrate the day of ‘za, Anto has their own spin on the age-old classic, breaking away from Chicago deep dish or cracker-thin dough. Their Roman-style, or thick crust, is pillowy and barely has an outer edge, allowing an even spread of toppings. Their thin crust, called Neapolitan-style, has a larger edge but retains the fluffy texture.
As one of the most popular foods in the world, according to The Washington Post, pizza is a global and Chicago staple boasting its own holiday, National Pizza Day, on Feb. 9, according to NBC Chicago.
Barbanente said one of his favorite meals served at Anto is the spaghetti pescatore — a pasta with clams, mussels and shrimp in either a tomato- or olive oil-based sauce — because it reminds him of his childhood in southern Italy where seafood is a principal source of protein.
People with dietary restrictions don’t have to stick to salads at Anto. Gluten-free and cheeseless pizza are available as well as a vegan spinach and mushroom spaghetti. The arancini, fried risotto balls traditionally made with meat, are instead filled with peas and cheese.
The food may be cheesy, but the décor isn’t: the checkered tablecloths, twinkling string lights and soft background music exude an Old World charm so strong it might turn Lake Michigan into the Mediterranean.
One employee, Lyka Mae Erquita, said Barbanente welcomed her, especially since this was her first time working in a kitchen and making Italian food.
“Tony teaches me everything,” she said. “Working here is really fun — very warming.”
Barbanente said some people have told him they come from all over the country — and the world — just to try the pasta in the cone.
Erquita said she came to the U.S. from the Philippines to study and work. She said she’s been working at Anto for almost four years, joining a few months after it opened in 2019.
She said her favorite memory of working at the restaurant is everyone on the team teaching and learning from each other, whether they’re dishwashers, pasta makers or waiters.
Food bloggers come in every week, according to Barbanente. Anto’s Instagram frequently features videos cross-posted from TikTok of food bloggers trying the signature pasta in a cone. One TikTok of a Chicago-based food influencer showcasing the restaurant has garnered nearly 500,000 views and over 33,000 likes.
As for the future of Anto, Barbanente said he plans on franchising the company across the country.
“It’s not a typical restaurant,” Barbanente said. “It’s a destination.”
Anto Pizza Chicago is open Sunday through Thursday from noon to 9 p.m. and Friday through Saturday from noon to 10 p.m.