Varasano’s Pizzeria: Buckhead

posted on May 6, 2009 at 3:30 am

Varasano's Pizzeria: Buckhead
The Nana’s pizza at Varasano’s

There is something fascinating about a new restaurant’s evolution. It’s somewhat akin to watching sports; you really never know what the outcome will be despite all the odds and stats the experts throw at you. That was certainly the case with Varasano’s Pizzeria. For those of you who may not know Varasano’s story, here is the quick and dirty: a pizza enthusiast with impeccable methodology starts a website that becomes a standard for pizza making across the country, he morphs into an underground pizza “god” to the lucky few who score a coveted spot in front of his hacked home oven, he’s prominently featured in The New York Times and The AJC and then opens his own pizzeria to the delight of long-time fans as well as eager new customers—myself included.

During my early visits, all of my pizzas were floppy and in dire need of seasoning. On one visit, the pizza dough was so intensely sour it overwhelmed the toppings and lingered unpleasantly on my tongue. The calzone was pure heartbreak. The crust was as soft as white bread and the mealy off-putting fresh tomatoes tainted every bite. Where was this amazing pizza I’d been reading about for years? My excitement waned. Yet, like any good masochist, I kept returning. The pizza had to get better. And then it happened. I watched the pizza change before my very eyes. Varasano got it right and kept getting it right. I heard he was closely monitoring the feedback around the interwebs and was focused on adjusting his recipes accordingly. He wasn’t approaching the pizzas like a chef. He was being scientific and it was strangely refreshing.

The crust is where Varasano’s excels. The dough is stretched thin and briefly cooked in an extremely hot and super fancy European electric oven that renders a charred and crackly crust. It still has a pleasant amount of chewy tug, which makes it feel substantial.The flavor is good, but I doubt the perfectionist in Varasano is satisfied if one tenth of the articles about him are true.And while people seem rabid over classifying the crust as New York or Naples-style, I believe it’s neither. Instead it’s a bastard creation that belongs to Varasano and Varasano alone.

Varasano's Pizzeria: Buckhead
The Margherita pizza

I am a Margherita lover, but Varasano’s version was bland and soggy both times I ordered it. Instead, it is the Nana’s that really won me over. It’s the pizza I crave whenever I am there. The combination of herb laden tomato sauce and creamy mozzarella cheese is perfection. I also enjoyed the white New Haven Clam pizza that is chock-full of garlic, olive oil and briny chopped clams that are so tasty I could care less whether they are fresh or come from a can. I am not a fan, though, of the loaded down Salumi pizza. The weight of the charcuterie is detrimental to the integrity of the crust and it was way too salty.

As wonderful as most of the pizzas are, a few problems persist. The appetizers are not enticing at all. Caprese salad when tomatoes are not in season? No thanks. The wine list is forced, but there are drinkable choices. All of my drinks from the cocktail menu were cloying and reminded me of Spring break shooters in a fancy glass. The “Italian” doughnuts are fine, but a mere after thought with choices like the Dolce, a pizza of dates, Fontina cheese, honey and walnuts with a hint of rosemary. The space is my final pet peeve. It’s simply devoid of any personality and almost seems like its designed to be franchised at any moment. And Varasano’s big screen slideshow of himself is incredibly—pun intended—cheesy.

Verdict: Would I go back? An emphatic yes. I’ve already been 5 times and will continue to go. The pizzeria is churning out some stellar pies thanks to the combination of Varasano’s methodology and passion. I find lunch is the best time to go, because things are quieter and you can park yourself instead of having to valet. Skip the appetizers and cocktails. Just stick with the pizza. Need another incentive to visit? Thursdays nights are all the pizza you can eat. Not only is it a great way to try different styles in one sitting, but also a steal at $12.95 for adults and $7.95 for kids.

Address: 2171 Peachtree Road, 30309
Phone: 404-352-8216

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  • Re: Varasano’s Pizzeria: Buckhead
    posted by: Anonymous · May 7, 2009  10:04 AM

    I totally agree about the space. I felt that it was the wrong space in the wrong style for some very good pizza.

  • Re: Varasano’s Pizzeria: Buckhead
    posted by: Ben · May 10, 2009  11:15 AM

    I just recently went to Varasano’s and I was disappointed. The pizza is mediocre at best (we tried two different pies) – as you mentioned, it’s soggy and underseasoned. We also had calzone was also just ok. There is really nothing special here and for a guy that reportedly spent years perfecting his recipe….it’s just hard to see. Moreover, the space is just not appropriate for a restaurant that primarily serves pizza and doesn’t have anything over $15.

    Poor execution.

  • Re: Varasano’s Pizzeria: Buckhead
    posted by: Jen · May 11, 2009  7:51 AM

    I do not know what all the hype is over this pizza. As someone who grew up in NYC I was hopeful that Verasano’s would bring good pizza to Atlanta. After my 2nd visit last week I can emphatically say it hasn’t. The crust is soggy and tasteless on the bottom with the top of the crust burnt, not charred. While the toppings are great they can’t make up for the failure of the crust.

    Also don’t understand why the wait staff has to give a lecture on why the pizza can’t be taken to go due to the way the crust is made. I don’t understand how every pizza place in NYC can make their crusts stable enough for delivery but Verasano’s can’t handle a 10 minute car ride home. Ultimately I stayed and ate in but that did not help as the crust was still soggy.

  • Re: Varasano’s Pizzeria: Buckhead
    posted by: Allen A. Wheeler · May 11, 2009  7:02 PM

    The pizza at Varasano’s is outstanding! I have had pizza all over the world and this restaurant ranks very high. Thank you for the reminder!

  • Re: Varasano’s Pizzeria: Buckhead
    posted by: Matt · May 12, 2009  11:10 AM

    I went last Thursday for all you can eat and was pretty disappointed. When I hear all you can eat, that is what I expect. This was just a battle of patience. I bet in the hour and a half of sitting there I was offered the equivalent to one total pizza. After like 3 slices that asked if I wanted more. Yeah that is why I came, to get more than 3 pieces. As for the pizza, it was good, but honestly it wasn’t great. Place was decent but really not worth going back to.

  • Re: Varasano’s Pizzeria: Buckhead
    posted by: Anonymous · May 15, 2009  9:35 AM

    FRITTI baby!!

  • Re: Varasano’s Pizzeria: Buckhead
    posted by: Anonymous · June 3, 2009  5:03 AM

    I went last Saturday and tried the Nana's and Salumi pizzas. Both looked promising but the crust (the crust that has been so hyped) was soggy on both. I liked the toppings on both but would not go across town again for these pies. I liked the space and the host and server were both very sweet. Agree with you about the salads and the wine list. If I was in the area, I might try one more time. I hear they have a Monday Night "Slice of Heaven" special starting at 10 p.m.

  • Re: Varasano’s Pizzeria: Buckhead
    posted by: Anonymous · June 4, 2009  5:55 PM

    Pizza = Over Rated

    Price = Over Priced

    Outlook = 6 months, max.

    At least the girls at the front looked good…

  • Re: Varasano’s Pizzeria: Buckhead
    posted by: Atlanta's Fat Farmer · August 7, 2009  5:58 AM

    My third and final visit to Varasanos was last night. We ordered three pies: the Nana (The House Special) Mozzarella & Tomato Sauce with a Secret Blend of Italian Herbs) and added sausage; the MARGHERITA (Mozzarella & Tomato Sauce with Basil and paid the extra $5 for the Mozzarella di Bufala); and the CARAMELIZED ONION (Sweet Onions with a Sharp Emmenthaler Cheese).
    The Nana and the Margherita both had nice crusts, but my table was incredible disappointed in these two pies overall. The mozzarella cheese was so scarce that there were several slices that didn’t even have a hint of cheese on them. I am a fan of the lightly saucing the pies; however parts of the pies not only lacked cheese, but sauce as well – several bites were nothing short of crust and olive oil. The Caramelized Onion pizza’s crust was burnt black, not slightly charred. The pizza has potential, but again, because of their lack of cheese and onions, some bites were deliciously sweet and some were no far above snacking on cardboard.
    The service was off – again. I honestly don’t expect much from pizza joints in terms of service, but we would literally have to flag our waitress down to get her attention to order more wine and drinks. An empty wine glass frustrates more than anything when I’m dining out.
    Overall I’d rate this place a C+, slightly above average. Fritti’s Margherita absolutely blows Varasano’s out of the water.

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