Review: Sunnyside in Sandy Springs has potential as a neighborhood pizzeria

Every neighborhood deserves a decent, family-friendly pizza place, and Sunnyside Pizzeria fits the bill.

Open since July in Sandy Springs, this venture by first-time restaurant owners David Ge and Sunny Sun focuses on Neapolitan-style pies.

Even if you don’t live in Sandy Springs, Sunnyside’s hot honey char pizza is worth a drive. Topped with a balanced tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, Parmesan and pepperoni, along with dabs of ricotta and hot honey, every bite offers a highly satisfying combination of savory, sweet, salty and spicy.

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Credit: RYAN AARON PHOTO

Credit: RYAN AARON PHOTO

About half of the dozen or so pizzas on the menu feature familiar topping combinations on red (Margherita, pepperoni, veggie) and white (four-cheese) pies.

Less typical combos were hit or miss. Besides the hot honey char, other hits included a pie featuring white wine-poached pears, thin strips of prosciutto and a shower of Parmesan; and a pizza reminiscent of Indian butter chicken and cauliflower. A server encouraged us to try the pistachio pizza, but its sweet-nutty notes (also with hot honey) overpowered the sausage, Parm and peppery, fresh arugula.

Does Sunnyside conform with the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana’s requirements to be considered true Neapolitan pizza? Sometimes, sometimes not.

Sunnyside’s roundish, 12-inch pies were the right size, and they featured a raised edge that is “swollen and free from burns” — except for one instance that had burns too acrid to classify as char. Were the pies soft and fragrant? Check, except for a takeout order in which the intoxicating aroma was absent.

After 90-second sessions in Sunnyside’s custom, wood-fired, 800-degree oven, the flavor of most of the crusts I sampled was not remarkable, but most of them did offer the visual and textural hallmarks of a Neapolitan pizza.

My takeout experience was disappointing, though. After having ordered online, I arrived within the prescribed pickup time window, only to find barely warm pizzas. Back in my car, I grabbed a slice of Margherita. The crust was overly soggy, and the undercarriage had collapsed and lacked the slightly crispy character I expected. Hardened mozzarella kept slipping off the slice.

Best, then, to dine in, where you’re guaranteed to get a hot pizza seconds after it’s yanked from the blue-and-white-tiled oven, a focal point in this inviting, 36-seat space with a clean, minimalist look.

Tables run the length of one side of the narrow interior, and a perch on the comfortable banquette that lines the wall gives a view of the open kitchen, separated from the dining room by a counter lined with high top chairs.

Once seated, you’ll barely have a moment to scan the beverage menu before a server will ask for your drink order. Luckily, options are uncomplicated, with three to four choices each among sparkling, red and white wines (all available by the glass and bottle) and a handful of craft beers.

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Credit: RYAN AARON PHOTO

Credit: RYAN AARON PHOTO

Staff will be ready with suggestions when you’re ready to order food. Pizza might be the main draw, but a manageable menu is rounded out by appetizers, salads, sandwiches (lunch only) and pastas. A starter brought three sturdy, yet juicy, golf ball-sized meatballs under a thick marinara, but fried Brussels sprouts lacked crispiness and tasted heavy with oil.

Salad and pizza always are a good pairing. I’ve got no gripes with Sunnyside’s arugula or sesame ginger salads, although, if there’s one dish that felt out of place, it would be that latter Asian-inflected mélange.

The restaurant gets fresh pasta from a local maker and does it justice — be it with thick, meaty Bolognese clinging to pappardelle, or mushroom and chicken in a creamy pesto tossed with tagliatelle.

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Credit: RYAN AARON PHOTO

Credit: RYAN AARON PHOTO

You can finish with nubs of fried pizza dough showered with powdered sugar and drizzled with Nutella and caramel sauce. A portion easily serves four people, making this $8 dessert a heck of a bargain.

Sunnyside has a gelato machine, but Sun and Ge said they won’t be offering that dessert until they get their starting eight recipes exactly right.

“Baby steps” is how Ge described their progression, with a menu that will see pizza, pasta and sandwich additions in the coming weeks.

Operating a restaurant may be new to the pair, but they are on the right track with Sunnyside. And, once some of those kitchen kinks get worked out, customers should be all smiles — whether dining in, or grabbing takeout.

Credit: RYAN AARON PHOTO

Credit: RYAN AARON PHOTO

SUNNYSIDE PIZZERIA

Food: Neapolitan pizza and pasta

Service: enthusiastic, quick

Best dishes: meatballs, pasta Bolognese, hot honey char pizza, pallino (fried dough dessert)

Vegetarian dishes: mixed olives, Brussels sprouts, salads, spaghetti marinara, various pizzas (Margherita, veggie lover’s, marinara, four formaggi, pesto mushroom, Truffle C), various lunch-only sandwiches

Alcohol: wine and beer (mimosas and bellinis on weekends)

Price range: $$-$$$

Credit cards: all major cards accepted

Hours: lunch, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays; dinner, 5-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays

Parking: free lot

MARTA station: none

Reservations: not accepted

Children: yes

Wheelchair access: yes

Noise level: average

Outdoor dining: none

Takeout: order online or in person; delivery via DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber Eats

Address, phone: 220 Sandy Springs Circle, Sandy Springs. 404-343-0585

Website: sunnysidepizzeria.com

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