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Pizza is part of us

Pizza is the no-hassle, all-occasions, affordable food. It can feed a crowd and travels well. It is a meal unto itself, and it is satisfying any time of the day — even as cold breakfast leftovers.

We’ve long been a pizza-loving nation, but no more so than during the pandemic. In 2020, the number of pizza restaurants across the U.S. hit a record high of more than 78,000, and they generated more than $46 billion in sales.

Pizza delivery, which had plateaued between 2011 and 2018, also has been in demand recently, as we scarfed down slices of this timeless comfort food from the safety of home. We shelled out nearly $20 billion on pizza delivery in 2021, an increase of more than $5 billion from the year before.

In metro Atlanta, nearly two dozen independent pizzerias opened their first or second locations since COVID-19 struck, and pizza features prominently on the menu at 10 other area dining establishments that debuted during the pandemic.

Plenty of operators have taken budget-minded approaches with their business models — from pop-ups, such as Phew's Pies and Dolo's, to ghost kitchens, like Brasiliana Pizza. And, G's operates from the same address as Italian restaurant Il Giallo in Sandy Springs.

Pizzerias also are dishing out pies in practically every style, be it Neapolitan, New York, Detroit, Chicago or Buffalo. In some cases, you'll find two under the same roof. Two Cities in Suwanee is built around the disagreement between owners Zach Greves and Sean Spurlock over which is No. 1, Chicago deep-dish or the foldable slices of New York.

There are establishments that aren’t afraid to tinker with tradition (head to Rice N’ Pie for a slice of India). Other pizza-makers, including Luca Varuni of Varuni Napoli, wouldn’t dare mess with the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana’s exacting rules regarding size, appearance, ingredients, oven temperature and more.

The fact that devotees are willing to pay for — and go out of their way to get — a pie deemed “authentic” to the traditions of its place of origin tells you just how far pizza has come since its creation in the late 18th century. Back then, the flatbread topped with tomatoes was a poor man’s sustenance.

"Pizza was born out of necessity, instead of pleasure," Enzo Coccia said when he visited Varuni Napoli in April. It was the first time that the renowned pizzaiolo, whose La Notizia was the first Michelin-rated pizzeria, had visited the pizza joint opened by his protégé in 2014.

This dining guide recognizes pizza as both a necessity and a pleasure. It commends pizza every which way, as well as the people who make it, bake it, and even deliver it by electric bike (Glide Pizza, for all you intowners). At a time when we find much to disagree about, let’s celebrate our shared love of pizza.

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