Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza opens at Centre Square Commons in Blue Bell

Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza regional manager Anthony Sandstrom showcases of variety of menu items at the chain’s newest restaurant in Blue Bell, including the signature coal-fired pizza, Pot of Meatballs and Eggplant Marino, named after co-owner and former Miami Dolphis quarterback Dan Marino.

WHITPAIN>>As Centre Square Commons gradually comes to life, Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza touts a commanding presence in the center that began attracting customers from the time the doors opened on Monday.

Don’t be surprised if those doors stay open much of the time, blurring the lines between inside and outside, noted regional manager Anthony Sandstrom, who was in town overseeing the launching of the 64th Anthony’s location.

“This is one of our first stores sporting the new look, where we try to (blend) our indoor and outdoor seating. People love it … even though you’re in a strip mall in a shopping center, it doesn’t really feel like it,” Sandstrom said, sitting in the pub-style interior with its spare, industrial vibe sporting vaulted ceilings, exposed beams and walls graced with Americana accents of black and white prints of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe.

The name of the chain already familiar to diners in Exton, Wayne, Horsham , Wynnewood , Wyomissing and several other Pennsylvania locations conveniently captures the essence of what Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza is all about: “well done” thin-crust pies baked in about four minutes in 800-degree coal-fired ovens, delicately charred around the edges and boasting a subtle smokiness throughout.

“The method in which we cook our pizza is a little bit different than most and it allows us to have our own little niche in a way,” Sandstrom said. “We use anthracite coal, a clean-burning coal. In Italy, coal is a common method of cooking, and New York is known for where pizza in coal ovens originated in the states. It’s another dimension that separates us from the wood burning ovens.”

When he relocated to Florida, New York native and founder Anthony Bruno authentically replicated the memory of his beloved Brooklyn-style pizzas with his first Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza in Fort Lauderdale in 2002, and the chain gradually expanding up the East Coast.

“Anthony took that method down to South Florida, where we originated, and it kind of blossomed from there,” noted Sandstrom, adding that the company has had its sights set on Blue Bell well before the opportunity became available.

“We’ve had people requesting us to open in Blue Bell for a long time. They were dining at our Horsham location and now they’re so happy that we’re here,” Sandstrom said as the lunchtime crowd streamed into the restaurant and the small full-service liquor bar where Yuengling is one of more than a dozen beers on tap. “This was one of those situations where the timing was right. The center was going up and it’s a beautiful center. We’ve had a lot of guests come to dine with us that have dined at some of our other locations. We’re excited to be here.”

Although pizza is the main attraction in all manner of specialized ways, from the Fresh Mozzarella Sliced Tomato and Basil Pizza to Meatballs and Ricotta, the menu aims to please a variety of palates with traditional Italian dishes tweaked to perfection, Anthony’s-style.

“We have no freezers, no microwaves, no deep fryers … Everything is fresh and made from scratch,” Sandstrom explained. “We have a limited menu and with the items we do have we try to use the highest quality ingredients possible. The recipes are from within Anthony’s family. We call it ‘Italian soul food,’ and it kind of tells the story of where we came from as a company. Even our tomatoes come from Italy and are exclusive to us.”

As explained on the company’s website,, “once a year, (Bruno) flies in handpicked tomatoes from 19 different vineyards in Italy. He then blind taste tests all of them. When he finds the perfect one, he buys the entire crop and the tomatoes are canned just for us so he can deliver that perfect sauce all year long.”

“Everything on our menu is a little different than what you’d find in other restaurants,” Sandstrom noted. “Our wings are like an oven-baked chicken, never frozen, and marinated in rosemary, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and parsley. It’s served with caramelized onions, and it’s a much different take on chicken wings that doesn’t need the usual condiments of ranch and blue cheese dressing. Once people try them they are in love with them.”

Among the most popular menu items are Broccoli Rabe and Sausage (bitter Italian greens sautéed in garlic and olive oil, served with the restaurant’s own Italian sausage) and Eggplant Marino, thinly sliced, lightly egg-washed and baked with a spare measure of sauce and mozzarella cheese, which is named after co-owner and former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino.

“Anthony and Dan go way back to Dan’s playing days. Dan and his wife would come to the Fort Lauderdale location; they loved the food. And then we opened up the second location in Weston and Dan’s been around ever since,” said Sandstrom, who added that Marino may be joining his buddy Bruno for a grand opening celebration at the Blue Bell location at some point.

Despite the center not being fully operational, Sandstrom was pleased with the number of folks coming out specifically for lunch or dinner at Anthony’s.

“Now we have to win over everyone else, and that’s the exciting part,” he said.

“Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza is located at Centre Square Commons shopping center, 960 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell.

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