Todd Mussman, Ryan Turner and Chris Hall are known as a dynamic trio of the Atlanta restaurant scene.
Over the years, the friends and business partners have used their fine dining backgrounds to create several popular neighborhood destinations, including Muss & Turner’s and Eleanor’s in Smyrna, and Local Three in North Atlanta, and they co-founded the Giving Kitchen nonprofit for food service workers in need of assistance.
The newest spot from their Unsukay Concepts group is MTH Pizza, described by Turner as dedicated to “the holy trinity of baked dough, sauce and cheese.” Located in the former Little Azio space around the corner from Muss & Turner’s in the Ivy Walk complex on Cumberland Parkway, it opened last week for nightly full-service dining.
Eschewing labels and styles, in many ways MTH is an homage to Hall’s teenage years, when he got his start “throwing pies at Pizza Hut, Papa John’s and Fellini’s.” And as you’d expect, pizza is at the heart of the menu, with a grand total of 10 (16-inch) pies on offer, with no additions, though you can subtract toppings.
The five “classics” include a Margherita with fresh mozzarella, My Tenderoni with pepperoni, and Funghi with ricotta and roasted mushrooms. The current five seasonal “Creations” range from the mild “Gourdo,” with butternut squash and prosciutto, to the hot and spicy “Hell Boy,” with ‘Nduja, Calabrian chile and pepperoncini.
There are also a few imaginative antipasto dishes and salads, and gelato and cannoli for dessert. The beer and wine list reflects the partners’ wide-ranging obsessions, with everyman Miller High Life priced at $3.93, and a baller special 2016 Napa Valley cabernet priced at $109.93 per bottle.
As for the space and the atmosphere, it’s something like a mixtape, with seating scattered at cafe tables, booths, and long communal tables, lively music and art that reflect the trio’s histories and interests, nods to in-jokes and pop culture, and even a whirling silver disco ball.
Along with TVs, the walls display three imposing graffiti murals designed by local artist Matt Fields, also known as LETRS. One celebrates Mussman’s new nickname in a take on Ice Cube’s “Check Yo Self” lyrics: “I make dough, but don’t call me dough boy.” Another is a tribute to Team Hidi and the Giving Kitchen.
One evening last week, Mussman, Turner and Hall sat down at a communal table to sample some pizza, share some beer and wine, and talk about MTH.
“The vision was very similar to what we did with Muss & Turner’s and sandwiches,” Turner said. “We said let’s bring this community a really authentic, high-quality version of pizza, but make it a fun, casual neighborhood place. Kind of no frills, and all about the product at the highest level.”
“The menu is really straightforward,” Mussman said. “It’s 16 items plus two desserts. We have one Renato brick pizza oven that was originally Azio’s, and it works like a champ for what we’re doing. We do take the pizza seriously, but it’s a fun atmosphere, and that’s what it’s all about.”
“I had a really clear vision for the crust that I wanted,” Hall said. “To me, with Neapolitan everything slides off, and it’s too thin. New York is almost too cracker-like. I wanted the crust to have a little bend, so when you fold it over, the toppings don’t slide off.”
To achieve Hall’s vision of the perfect pizza crust, Mussman was charged with creating the perfect pizza dough.
“I spent about eight months working on the dough,” Mussman said. “Once we decided we were going to do this, I decided to really go after the dough. That’s how I became dough boy to my wife. It was a lot of fun, I did a lot of trial and error, and I landed on what I think is a great recipe.
“We go three days minimum with our fermentation, and we use King Arthur Sir Lancelot high protein bread flour, high hydration, and a little yeast, salt and olive oil. With that, you’re creating flavor and elasticity and strength, and it’s delicious.”
“You can’t argue with delicious,” Hall said. “We’re just trying to put out what we think delicious pizza is. That’s our motivation, and it all starts with the dough.”
1675 Cumberland Parkway, Suite 415, Smyrna. 678-424-1333, mthpizza.com.
Scroll down for more images from a First Look at MTH Pizza in Smyrna
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