posted on May 6, 2009 at 3:30 am
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.
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