Atlanta Orders In: Ammazza closes Decatur store, but still offers terrific pizzas at Edgewood

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

Even before the pandemic, Ammazza, an 8-year-old pizzeria in the Old Fourth Ward, took a couple of serious hits.

In 2013, the nearby Edgewood Avenue Bridge spanning the Atlanta Beltline was closed for demolition and replacement. “We saw our sales cut by 60-something percent, and they never came back during that 14 months,” owner Hugh Connerty said. The day the bridge reopened, business doubled.

Then, in 2017, a pair of back-to-back car crashes took out the water main and ripped through the red-brick facade of the 100-year-old building, closing it for 22 months. During that time, Connerty opened a second Ammazza in Decatur, with an identical menu of Neapolitan-inspired pies.

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

After the pandemic hit, Ammazza offered takeout-only at both stores, to mixed success. In Decatur, sales were down 70%, ″and it never really recovered," Connerty said. On Oct. 12, he closed the Decatur store, to focus on the original Ammazza. Over time, he hopes to rehire his staff.

Meanwhile, all is not lost.

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

Thanks to a couple of thoughtful improvements, and an already well-established foothold in the vegan pizza market, Edgewood’s to-go sales have “at least tripled,” Connerty said.

In addition to its pre-existing patio, Ammazza has “wrapped” its exterior in tents, and soon will add space heaters to the covered outdoor spaces. At the same time, it has taken advantage of its proximity to the Beltline, and its large parking lot, to stage some well-received drive-in events.

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

Over Labor Day weekend, Wussy magazine and the Atlanta Pride Committee produced a three-day drag extravaganza. Ammazza provided food and drink. "You could order anything you want, and it was brought right to your car,” Connerty said. On Sunday, the Old Fourth Ward Artist Market set up shop in the parking lot, and on Oct. 29-31, the drive-in drag show returns for Halloween.

Connerty, 39, hopes to reinstate Ammazza’s dine-in service by Oct. 31, and will continue the drive-in option. For people who aren’t ready to eat in the dining room, and don’t want to sit outside in cold weather, he thinks drive-in dining is a welcome alternative.

He’s even figured out a way to keep the pizzas toasty.

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

“Napoletana, in my opinion, is the best style of pizza you can eat fresh,” he said. “I think it’s one of the worst to put in a to-go box.” Because the super-soft dough is baked at extremely high heat, the trademark thin crust with leopard charring wilts when you cover it.

If Naples-style pizza is what you’re known for, that’s not good.

Connerty’s solution is a round, vented box made from compostable sugar-cane bagasse fiber. “They are oven-safe to 425 degrees,” he said. You just rip off the lid, and within minutes your pie is pretty close to fresh-from-the-oven perfection.

“Our die-hard fans know,” Connerty said. “They just leave their oven on when they come get (their pie). And, they put it in when they go home.”

Intrigued by this notion, I tried it myself, reheating my pizzas in a 375-degree oven. Huzzah! I didn’t set my kitchen on fire. And, the pizza crust wasn’t like chewing on a toilet paper roll. The pies were every bit as good, perhaps better, as when I reviewed the restaurant in July, 2019.

After all its troubles, Ammazza hasn’t lost its edge.

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Menu: Neapolitan-inspired pizzas; the takeout menu has been abbreviated somewhat, but the restaurant slowly is bringing everything back

Alcohol: yes, available to go

What I ordered: polpette (meatballs), insalata di basil, carne pizza (red sauce with pepperoni, sweet and hot Italian sausage, bacon, house mozzarella, fresh basil), fuoco bianco pizza (ricotta base with mozzarella, pepperoni, peppadew peppers, serrano peppers, fresh basil). The meatballs were dripping with mozzarella and quite delicious. I should eat more salads, starting with Ammazza’s basil version. (Pro tip: You can take home 8 ounces of the house-made creamy basil dressing for $5.) And, finally, the pizzas were beautiful, and kind of crazy good. I loved the salty Spotted Trotter charcuterie on the carne.

Service options: takeout and delivery via UberEats, DoorDash, GrubHub and Postmates; aiming for limited indoor seating by Oct. 31; drive-in dining on selected dates

Outdoor dining: yes, on the patio, or under tents

Mask policy: must wear a mask in the building

Address, phone: 591 Edgewood Ave. SE, Atlanta; 404-835-2298

Hours: 4-10 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays


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