First Impressions of L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele

Many of you have already been to L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele—do we call it L’Antica? Da Michele? Lantipidami?—judging from how busy it always seems to be. The enthusiasm is understandable: the restaurant is the second U.S. outpost of an Italian chain first established in Naples in 1870. And one can also see why the Lantipidamians were excited about the former Embermill space, with its broad terrace fronting State Street and wood-burning oven in the kitchen.

I didn’t take a photo of the terrace when I went for dinner, but at night, flames are everywhere, like at a hair-metal concert back in the day. Because the weather was iffy, my companions and I sat inside, where the clean lines and big windows make for a handsome space that’s also a tad generic, as if you could be in a Vino Volo. (People facing the flamescape have more to look at.) Plus, all the hard surfaces—metal tables, plastic chairs—mean the room can get noisy. The friendly, capable staff does a lot to warm the atmosphere up. Even at lunch, after you order at a counter and the food is brought to you, staff members patrol the dining room to make sure all is well. It’s a nice touch at a time when many restaurants are asking patrons to pick up the service slack.

The Santa Barbara menu is limited to appetizers, salads, pizzas, and pastas, while the far larger L.A. location also offers entrées, contorni, and weekend brunch dishes. That’s not a complaint: smaller menus generally imply more confidence, and a pizzeria wouldn’t be my first choice for a burger or eggs Benedict, anyway.

The pizza is bigger than you probably expect, with very thin crust, and as a result the pies with tomato sauce get a little soupy. The classic taco-style fold is risky at best; instead, you have to flip the tip over and then fold the sides (or give in and use a knife and fork). All four of us at dinner thought the pizza was delicious. We especially loved the diavola version with soppressata, while the margherita and white pie with pesto were close behind.

I thought the salads we ordered at dinner—arugula and citrus, and beets and goat cheese—were unremarkable, but my friends liked them, so maybe I just have higher expectations. And the fritto misto was pretty heavy. We were all flummoxed by the plates, which are almost bowl-like. Try to spear anything along the edge and the plate clatters loudly against the table.

The day after our dinner, I spoke with another friend who raved about the Caesar salad. I ordered it when I went for lunch and I agree: it’s the best I’ve found in Santa Barbara, with romaine and radicchio, savory breadcrumbs, fried capers, and a hint of heat. My friend was also pleased with the pasta, but that’s where our paths diverged. The cacio e pepe was more of an Alfredo than the Roman classic of cheese and pepper. And because the plate was cold, the pasta and sauce immediately congealed. I had to cut it with a knife.

Despite the occasional misfires, Lantipidami is a welcome addition to State Street, and I look forward to going again, and soon, for that Caesar salad, more pizza, and Italian wine. When a restaurant can nail those three things, I don’t believe there’s a more perfect meal.

You might also enjoy:
••• First Impressions of Corazón Comedor
↓↓↓ First Impressions of Ama Sushi
••• First Impressions of Rare Society

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Comment:

4 Comments

Leslie Westbrook

I also enjoyed the “Eat, Pray, Love” pizzeria – my main complaint is the tables are too small if you are two sharing a pizza at a two top! I will return and try the Caesar on your recommendation – and take another spin around the pizza menu! Grazie! Leslie Westbrook

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Meridith Moore

I’ve already commented on this excellent place but want to say that the cacio e pepe is addictive!

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MJ

I was terribly disappointed in L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele. I’ve dined at the LA location and had a wonderful experience. The Santa Barbara location was of the worst $$$$ restaurant experiences I have had in recent memory. I personally reached out to management and their response was disappointing. I understand the first month of opening can be challenging, but you compensate as a higher-end establishment when negative customer experiences occur. The response from management was insulting and I will not be returning to this establishment.

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Larry Ameen

Thank You… Thank You… for coming to Santa Barbara! After hearing so much about the original location in Naples we just had to try what everyone has been raving about ! Absolutely did not disappoint….. We were a party of 6 and everyone loved everything that was ordered . Pizza, pasta, salads and the Italian wine 👏👏👏Bravo L’ Antica Pizzeria : Larry Ameen

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