While it is commonplace around the globe, pizza-making began hundreds of years ago in the narrow alleys of Naples, Italy. Pizzaioli (pizza makers) in Atlanta continue the tradition, with the same simple ingredients used in the past, cooked in ovens that are the heart of their pizzerias.
Jeff Varasano, Varasano’s Pizzeria
If it’s not too hectic, Jeff Varasano will make diners a four-flavors pizza tasting, walking guests through the history of pizza while creating flavor combinations that are earthy, citrusy, spicy, meaty or vegan. His natural sourdough starter ferments for 4 to 7 days, and his quest for the perfect pizza-making methodology made his recipe an online sensation. “I never would have opened the restaurant if not for that,” he said. His three-tiered Swedish oven produces a light, airy, crispy-yet-chewy Neapolitan crust, imbued with subtle smokiness, in less than 3 minutes. And, Sicilian or New York-style pies slide out with the same precision.
2171 Peachtree Road. NE, Atlanta. 404-352-8216, varasanos.com
Alessio Lacco, the Atlanta Pizza Truck
“I’m very proud to be from Naples and bring this tradition to the States,” Alessio Lacco said. And he really brings it. His custom, Italian-built 900-degree wood-burning oven is attached to a vintage blue Piaggio Ape vehicle, and is the first mobile pizzeria certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. Lacco studied under famed pizzaiolo Gaetano Esposito (grandson of Raffaele Esposito, who first created the Margherita pizza). “I stay true to authenticity,” Lacco said. “The right Italian flour, fresh yeast, hand-crushed San Marzano tomatoes from Italy and a 24-hour rise.” He makes Neapolitan pizzas with soft, foldable dough and house-made mozzarella in 90 seconds.
Pizza in Atlanta
The Spring Dining Guide from The Atlanta Journal Constitution is devoted to the best pizza pies, pizza places and pizza makers in metro Atlanta.
- AJC Dining Guide: 2022 Pizza edition
- 15 classic pizzas to try in metro Atlanta
- Meet the pizzaioli of Atlanta
- 6 Atlanta pizza parlors that have stood the test of time
- 15 new places to try pizza in Atlanta
- For an original bite of Atlanta, try a pop-up pizzeria
- 5 places to try pizza by the slice
- 5 pan pizzas to try in metro Atlanta
- Save room for these desserts from five Atlanta pizzerias
- In metro Atlanta, you’ll find pizza with flavors from around the world
- Try these spots for gluten-free pizza in metro Atlanta
- Where to find vegan pizza in metro Atlanta
- 6 other ways to enjoy pizza dough and garlic
- Play dough: 4 Atlanta pizzerias that keep kids occupied
Anthony Spina, O4W Pizza
When asked what sets his New Jersey-style pizza apart, Anthony Spina said, “I don’t do anything special; it’s just plain old pizza.” Yet, metro area residents will drive miles for a pepperoni or a grandma pie. His slow-rise dough, with very little yeast, ferments for 36 to 48 hours, then gets stretched to fit a rectangular sheet pan, slicked with garlic butter and topped with dollops of Wisconsin mozzarella and fresh mozzarella made in-house. The grandma is crowned with marinara, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkled with pecorino Romano and baked. Then, it’s topped with fresh basil, just like he learned at his uncle’s pizza place when he was age 13. “There’s no room for error — you can’t rush it,” he said.
3117 Main St., Duluth. 678-587-5420, o4wpizza.com
Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee
Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee
Luca Varuni, Varuni Napoli
The light blue to-go boxes manufactured especially for Varuni Napoli are emblematic of the love that chef Luca Varuni puts into his pizzas. What is important, he said, is “quality, consistency and culture.” He uses imported 00 flour, filtered water and his fresh yeast “madre,” which he has been cultivating since opening his flagship Midtown location in 2014. The native of Naples tops his dough with San Marzano tomatoes, imported mozzarella di bufala and extra-virgin olive oil. He cooks in two brick ovens made in Naples. He said the ovens’ blue color was inspired by the SSC Napoli professional soccer club jersey, as well as his wife’s eyes.
1540 Monroe Drive NE, Atlanta. 404-709-2690; and 99 Krog St., Atlanta. 404-500-5550, varuni.us
Giovanni Di Palma, Antico Pizza Napoletana
Since opening Antico in 2009, Giovanni Di Palma has established a group of businesses that he calls Little Italia. The New York native, who cranks out 700 to 1,000 pizzas a day, trained in Naples. “That’s where science and art came together for me,” he said. He has three imported Acunto ovens that were built by hand with bricks that retain the high heat needed for a quickly cooked, consistently charred crust. He uses imported flour and puts three cheeses on each crust. “It’s that scent out of the oven, the cheese plus dough,” he said. “That’s what makes Antico different.”
Multiple locations. littleitalia.com
Massimo Andreozzi, Vesuvio Pizzeria Napoletana
At age 20, Massimo Andreozzi began learning the craft of Neapolitan pizza in Naples. And, 24 years later, he opened his own pizzeria, bringing with him techniques honed after a decade in Italy, then Spain, Miami and Atlanta. His blue-and-white tiled Manna oven, made from volcanic Italian bricks, maintains a constant 900 degrees, in order to make the crunchy, yet soft, charred crust in just 90 seconds. Any topping that’s not house-made or garden fresh comes directly from Italy, including flour, San Marzano tomatoes, Parmesan, salami, prosciutto and large cherry tomatoes grown in the soil of Mount Vesuvius.
2893 N. Main St., Kennesaw. 770-702-8168, vesuviokennesaw.com
Daniele Florio and Ambrogio Florio, Sapori di Napoli
Brothers Daniele and Ambrogio Florio of Sapori di Napoli trained in many pizzerias in their hometown of Naples. When a Margherita pizza comes out of their Acunto oven, Daniele said, “you can taste the sweetness of our tomatoes and the freshness of our bufala mozzarella, with a touch of char from the wood-burning oven.” Imported Caputo flour helps the fermented, hand-stretched dough withstand the high heat of the domed oven. The brothers are quick to mention pizzaiolo William Blackborough, who has been with them since they opened in 2011. “He’s a very big part of our success,” Daniele said.
314 Church St., Decatur. 404-271-0001, saporidinapolipizzeria.com
Michael Bologna, Vingenzo’s
The savory, crisp crust of New York native Michael Bologna’s pizza comes from his pâte fermentée, older fermented dough added to the final dough, which gives it a depth of flavor and improved texture. The self-described “perfection fanatic” trained at the Culinary Institute of America, then traveled to Italy to learn from pizzaioli there. He not only sources flour, San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, salt and mozzarella di bufala from Italy, he also watches pH levels in the water used (which he also imports from Italy). Other cheeses and sausage are made in-house. His tiled, wood-burning, Italian-designed ovens were built to deliver pizzas at 825 degrees in 90 seconds, just like in Italy.
105 E. Main St., Woodstock. 770-924-9133, vingenzos.net
Greg Grant and Stephen de Haan, Amalfi Pizzeria
Greg Grant and Stephen de Haan spent a month in Naples, and along the Amalfi Coast, training by day and working apprenticeships with top pizzaioli by night. “We wanted to bring the love, culture and the art form of technique they put into their food to Atlanta,” Grant said. Their two imported Stefano Ferraro ovens — built of clay from Mount Vesuvius and each weighing 6,000-pounds — were dropped into the kitchen of their circa-1911 building in downtown Atlanta by crane. Their dough ferments 48 hours for added flavor.
17 Andrew Young International Blvd. NE, Atlanta. 404-228-7528; also 3242 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta. 678-993-0903, amalfiatl.com
Biagio Schiano Moriello, Taste of Italy
Many of Biagio Schiano “Gino” Moriello’s pizza-making skills were learned from family in his birthplace of Naples; his chef father, who worked in Brooklyn restaurants; and his cousin from New York, who taught him after he moved to North Carolina. Moriello makes both New York-style thin crust and softer crust Sicilian-style pizzas in gas ovens. His signature is a New York-Sicilian hybrid square bruschetta pie that has a slightly thinner crust than traditional Sicilian, and is topped with imported San Marzano tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella, Parmesan and extra-virgin olive oil.
8265 Ga. 92, Woodstock. 770-928-3764, tasteofitalyga.com
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