Can this fast-growing Florida pizza chain win over the Bay State?

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Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza has opened more than 50 restaurants since launching in 2002, including one open and four planned Massachusetts locations. But opening in the Bay State took convincing.

“Our board members were a little nervous,” said Charles Locke, chief operating officer for the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, chain. “It’s Boston. It’s pizza.”

Backed by equity partners including NFL Hall of Famer Dan Marino, Anthony’s initially balked at local competition like Bertucci’s, according to Locke. They ultimately pulled the trigger, he said, “because I pushed for it.”

“I knew the market,” said Locke, a New Hampshire native. “I grew up there.”

So far, it seems his faith has been rewarded. The chain, known for its “well-done pizza,” coal-fired wings and homemade meatballs, opened the first local Anthony’s at University Station Plaza in Westwood last year. Its newest location opens Monday at 48 Walkers Brook Drive in Reading.

The Westwood Anthony’s not only opened to strong sales, but maintained them past the point when a new restaurant’s business typically drops off, Locke said.
“We’ve been pleasantly surprised,” he said. “The Boston clientele has really wrapped their arms around us.”

Up next in Massachusetts are previously announced 2016 openings in Littleton and Northborough, as well as a fifth location planned for Newton, Locke said. Elsewhere in the northeast, Anthony’s is expanding to Rhode Island, in addition to growing its presence in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

In 2017, Locke said, Anthony’s is eyeing an arguably even more competitive pizza market: Chicago.

Its coal-fired pies, ready in roughly four minutes, run around $20 apiece, available to dine in or carry out. You can find the full menu here: and read more about the chain’s history from founder Anthony Bruno here: