ONSET — On a never-ending search for the best pizza around, my latest quest brought me to downtown Onset for the anchor establishment in the old bay village in Wareham.
Marc Anthony’s Pizzeria has been at the corner of Onset Avenue, just a stone’s throw away from Onset Beach, since 1977. It’s been a staple in town for tourists and locals alike — even getting some airtime on the big screen in 2013’s “The Way, Way Back” starring Steve Carell.
They have huge pies, but it’s one of the few places that offers pizza by the slice in the area — a novelty I grew to love to when living in Queens. You name it and you can get a slice of it, at least that’s what the man wearing a straw box on his head like a chef hat told me.
My girlfriend Julia, my go-to taste tester in most of these reviews, and myself showed up around 9 p.m. on the Monday before the Fourth of July. Parking can be tricky around Onset Center as a few other restaurants, like the Quahog Republic and Stash’s, have opened up in recent years. Luckily there was a public spot just a short walk from Onset Avenue. And the cherry on top — free parking after 7 p.m.
Onset Center was buzzing on this particular night, which meant so was Marc Anthony’s. A father crossed the street carrying a full load of pizza boxes piled high to his nose, evidence of nothing else but that the propane tank emptied after a weekend full of grilling.
After working our way past the crowd of people, we get to the front door which greets us with a big sign at eye-level that read “CASH ONLY.” This was but only a minor speed bump in our hunt for a heavenly combination of sauce, bread, meat and cheese as a secured ATM can be found just around the corner.
Cash in hand, we get in line to place our order. Unlike other restaurants I’ve reviewed for the Standard-Times, Marc Anthony’s has you placing orders at a counter, and they’ll bring you your food when it’s ready.
The aesthetic of Marc Anthony’s screams local townie hangout — in the best way possible.
The narrow space has a series of long, communal-style tables along the left hand side. The walls are lined with memorabilia, from the local youth sports teams Marc Anthony’s sponsors, to the Rat Pack, to a shrine dedicated to Wareham native Stephen Cooper, who played linebacker for the San Diego Chargers from 2003 to 2011. The cedar-planked walls are barely noticeable with so many pictures hanging over it.
Being enamored by all the pictures on the walls, I was too distracted to check out the menu — which I soon realized is just as involved as the wall decoration.
Marc Anthony’s boasts the “biggest menu on Cape Cod,” at least according to their online menu. Now I can neither confirm nor deny this, nor do I have a passion to actually put in the leg work to find out.
They do, however, have a very extensive menu despite the fact that Wareham is not a part of Cape Cod.
Their hot appetizers run the gamut from chicken fingers ($8.75) to garlic knots ($6.95) and a pound of steamers (market price) to something called BBQ rib ticklers ($8 for 6 ribs). We did not venture to the deep end and reach for the rib ticklers. Our eyes were on the classics.
Julia went with her usual go-to, a Greek salad ($7.75) served with fresh Syrian bread (Marc Anthony’s version of pita, essentially) and I ordered a small order of bone-in Buffalo wings ($9.75 for 8 wings).
To wash it all down we ordered a pitcher of Miller Lite (12.75 for 72-ounce pitcher), which comes complete with two plastic cups to fully put you back in the college mindset.
We settled in, tucked away against the wall, shimmying between protruding chairs from patrons who needed to push away from the table to give their stomachs room to breathe.
A waitress brought over our appetizers on a middle school cafeteria-style tray. The Greek salad came in a tin foil bowl with the dressing in a plastic ramekin. The wings sat on a butcher paper, and to further the minimalist atmosphere, plastic fork and knives came alongside.
But this is a place where you go to for the food, not the elegance of five-star hospitality.
The Buffalo wings, featuring no drumettes, were piping hot, temperature-wise, and were drenched in a spicy, but palatable buffalo sauce. Simply put, these wings were down-right delicious. You know Buffalo wings are good with you get buffalo sauce on your Polo and you couldn’t care less to clean yourself.
In fact, I’m pretty sure Julia chose our seating to specifically hide her embarrassment of how I eat wings. Full disclosure, I won’t wipe my face or mouth until I finish all the wings. Why continually clean up when I’m going to get just as dirty with the next bite?
The top of my face was dripping in sweat and bottom half of my face was slathered with buffalo sauce.
Julia recorded a Snapchat of me in my primal state to show just how much of an embarrassment I was. I say it’s a testament to how good the wings were. Crispy skin, tender meat and a spicy sauce that wasn’t overbearingly so — all the basic necessities for a great wing.
The salad, probably the healthiest choice of menu, was ironically loaded with feta cheese and accompanied with a couple spicy pepperoncinis. That was no problem for me, but with beach season upon us, the precursor of a cheese-loaded salad before pizza didn’t excite Julia.
A pro-tip for those who go to Marc Anthony’s, the semi self-serve pizza joint: get the napkins at the accompaniment station before you eat. Otherwise you’ll have to make the buffalo-sauce covered walk of shame in front everyone waiting to order.
You know the walk I’m talking about — sauce lathered on your face, hands held in the air with your sauce-stained fingers separated like a doctor that just sterilized before surgery.
Before getting to the main event, the pizza, for those who aren’t in the mood for America’s favorite meal there are plenty, and I mean plenty, of other options. Subs on a bulkie roll or wraps in their Syrian pita pocket are available in small and large sizes. The options are endless, from classic meatball parm to sausage and peppers to chicken cutlets. The small size price ranges from $7.70 to $8.75 and the large size price ranges from $8.70 to $9.20.
If subs aren’t for you, Marc Anthony’s offers dinner platters like fried fisherman plates ($15.95) and steak tips with sauteed mushrooms, peppers and onions ($15.95) and pasta specials like spaghetti and red sauce in both small ($8.00) and large ($9.20) options.
But now we get to the headliner: the pizza.
We went straight to the classics for this review. Julia ordered a slice of cheese ($2.50 per slice) and I went with my go-to pizza favorite, two slices of pepperoni ($2.50 per slice with 25 cent extra charge per topping).
Marc Anthony’s specializes in thin crust pizza ($10.25 for a 12” cheese or $14.75 for a 16-inch), although you can get a Sicilian-style pie for an extra dollar or two depending on the size. The key to a great slice, in my opinion, is at least a two-to-one sauce to cheese ratio and Marc Anthony’s delivered.
The crust has a crisp crunch to it and it’s safe to say I had a taste of pepperoni with every bite.
The lone negative that come to mind, which is a cautionary tale for all who venture for a pizza slice, is the timing of which you eat it. The first few moments of getting your slice is dangerous. Go in too fast and you’re likely to lose the first few layers of the roof of your mouth. Wait too long, and you flirt with scary notion that the crust hardens to a dry, inedible point.
The latter happened with me, but that’s the chance you take when you order pizza by slice, knowing that it’s likely not going to be as fresh as if you ordered an entire pie.
In total the meal came to $38.25 with tax included and we left a few bucks in the coffee can labeled “tips.”
With a seemingly endless amount of pizza options in Wareham, and there are some good ones, Marc Anthony’s is crown prince of pizza in town.
More than pleased with latest hunt in pizza excellence, my pursuit will not end in the heart of Onset. But Marc Anthony’s is tough to beat.
Should you have a tip or suggestion on the best pizza in the SouthCoast, feel free to e-mail ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet them to @WesleySykes_SCT.
Dine Out’s reviewer visits restaurants unannounced and at his or her discretion. The newspaper pays for the meals reviewed. The reviews merely reflect one diner’s experience. Ratings range from 1 to 5 stars.
Browse our map of SouthCoast restaurants to read more recent Dine Out reviews: