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"I'm in love. I'm having a relationship with my pizza."
- Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love
... tucked away on the last page of Artisan's menu, the quote couldn't be more fitting. That is precisely the feeling that lasts long after the Artisan experience comes to an end.
Months before Artisan threw open its doors, we had heard word of a new Italian spot to-be, one with a pizza oven flown all the way from Naples. The news spread quickly. It is safe to say its reputation preceded its opening.
For months we watched as Artisan took shape. The floors, the paint, the chairs and tables, the sign, and the finally, the lights!
The time to venture inside had arrived...
White walls meet wood floors and ceilings at this stylish, European eatery tucked away in Island Harbour, opposite historic and archeological site, Big Spring. Lit up against the night sky, it beckons you inside.
True to its Anguillian and Italian roots, a certain rustic charm lives inside Artisan.
Balanced with an undeniably upscale feel (prices are affordable), it is not the least bit pretentious. Welcoming, warm and with down to earth staff, my Mom and I were greeted kindly and shown to a table.
Artisan is the product of the passionate husband and wife team, Juergen and Indra.
Indra, from Island Harbour and Juergen, a Liechtenstein native, met here in Anguilla when Juergen was working in finance. Together, they traveled the world and fell in love with the south of Italy.
With Indra & Juergen
Weeks turned into months of exploring the southern Italian countryside, dining from town to town. "Cuisine gets particularly interesting the further south you go in Italy," Juergen beamed.
Time to hang up his suit and tie, Juergen and Indra decided to bring a little slice of the area they so love to Anguilla, their true home.
Beautifully executed, would our palates be equally impressed?
First, the appetizers. These include a soup of the day, misto salami (cured meats, olives and homemade pickles), formaggi (three cheeses), insalate and fritto misto alla napoletana (mixed fried delights, Neapolitan style). The prices are fair, ranging from $6-12.
My Mom and I were taking pizzas "to go" that night, but the fritto misto caught our eyes. With a glass of Chianti, we ordered a plate to nibble on while we waited for the pizzas.
"Aranchini," rice balls, and fried breads peppered with zucchini (the fritto misto selection that night). Perfecto!
Next? We contemplated their pizzas, cooked in their state of the art, 900° wood oven.
The Pizza Oven
From "classics" such as the Marinara (with tomato, garlic, oregano, olive oil - no cheese) and Margherita (with tomato, basil and mozzarella), to those for the epi-curious, including the "Bianchi" (with lardo, pecorino cheese, basil, pepper), "Quattro Stagioni" (with artichokes, mushrooms, cooked ham, salami, black olives) and even "Ripieno Al Forno Con Salame" (a calzone with salami and mozzarella), the choices are many.
Prefer to make your own pizza? You can do that, too!
My Mom placed our order and I continued to read the menu.
Already captivated by the laidback-yet-refined ambiance, the southern Italian cuisine and Juergen and Indra's warm spirits, that initial enchantment was enhanced the further I read.
If there's one thing that's impossible not to love about Artisan, it's the true love and care that has been put into each and every detail.
From the sign that embraces Anguillian heritage (reflecting the restaurant's location), to the font used on the menu, even pieces of Neapolitan history are peppered throughout...
And then, it all comes to life before your eyes!
Juergen Preparing Neapolitan Pies
When the work is done? The pizzas to-go are popped in a charming box, reminiscent of older days in Italy.
Now, for the final verdict...
Juergen had explained that the classic Neapolitan way is to create a wide, doughy, crust pizza with a paper thin middle. Cooked for only 60-90 seconds, it is served hot. The center is often softer and soupier than the pizza's edge. The crusts are meant to soak up the savory juices in the middle.
It is indeed an art!
One bite, and? Pizza perfection!
With just the right amount of chew, the crust is exceptional. The flavor, savory and salty, with a wood-burning smokey hint, is divine. And, it is nicely balanced by the sweeter tomato sauce and the fresh mozzarella.
I would take Juergen's advice and dine-in, or, if dining at home, pop it in the oven for a few minutes before biting in.
I'm not sure that veggie and pepperoni pizzas are Neapolitan classics, but they are outstanding. First "Artisan" pizza under our belt, now it is time to return and let Indra and Juergen show us the true Neapolitan way!
Directions: Located across the street from the road to Arawak in Island Harbour.
Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday for dinner.