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Atlanta Orders In: Try new sandwiches at Varuni Napoli’s Krog Street location

Amori Mio pizza with fresh mozzarella, roasted artichokes, salami, mushrooms, black olives, Pecorino Romano and basil.
Courtesy of Bob Townsend
Amori Mio pizza with fresh mozzarella, roasted artichokes, salami, mushrooms, black olives, Pecorino Romano and basil. Courtesy of Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

When Varuni Napoli opened in the spring of 2014, it was greeted with excitement by many Neapolitan pizza lovers — including Atlanta Journal-Constitution dining critic John Kessler, who declared that chef-owner Luca Varuni’s pizzas “can be spectacular.”

Varuni is a Naples native who trained at the famed pizzeria La Notizia in the city. He became known in Atlanta for his turn at Antico Pizza Napoletana. And, when he went on to open his own restaurants here, first in Morningside, then at Krog Street Market, Varuni did it with plenty of panache.

The Goodfella sandwich (left) and meatball Parmesan sandwich are new at Varuni Napoli on Krog Street. CONTRIBUTED BY BOB TOWNSEND
The Goodfella sandwich (left) and meatball Parmesan sandwich are new at Varuni Napoli on Krog Street. CONTRIBUTED BY BOB TOWNSEND

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

His menus go beyond pizza, offering appetizers, salads, calzones and desserts. And, he uses a combination of local produce and high-quality imported Italian products. Recently, Varuni added sandwiches to the menu at Krog. And, he’s been offering do-it-yourself pizza kits, too.

Last week, I caught up with Varuni, who was in Italy for the funeral of his 90-year-old grandfather.

“It was not COVID-related,” Varuni said on the telephone, “but my family was a mess, so I decided to surprise them and come.”

Of course, COVID-19 was and is related to the operation of his businesses. In March, his response was to close both Varuni Napoli locations, and switch to takeout only.

ExploreMore Atlanta Orders In
Mercato Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, wild baby arugula, tomatoes and balsamic reduction.
Courtesy of Bob Townsend
Mercato Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, wild baby arugula, tomatoes and balsamic reduction. Courtesy of Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

“Luckily, we have a nice window in the side of the building on Monroe Drive, and that’s where we’ve been operating our takeout business,” he said. “To be honest, it’s a totally different model, but we do work a lot with third-party delivery, so I was able to maintain my kitchen staff, because we stayed busy with that.”

By the middle of June, Varuni was able to reopen the dining area in Morningside. But, it took two weeks of cleaning and sanitizing, then repainting parts of the restaurant, and adding plexiglass shields and sanitizing stations.

“To be honest, it’s not the same amount of people I used to see in the restaurant,” he said. “The majority of people want to sit outside on the patio, so it’s always full and busy out there.”

The Krog Street location was a bigger problem, especially because the Varuni stall is located at the back of the market, away from the parking lot and the main entrance.

“It was more dramatic, because, in the beginning, the market was closed, and there was just one door open for takeout, so we got a little bit penalized,” Varuni said.

ExploreIntown Atlanta dining news
Classic Cannoli at al Varuni Napoli at Krog Street Market.
Courtesy of Bob Townsend
Classic Cannoli at al Varuni Napoli at Krog Street Market. Courtesy of Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

Adding new items has been helpful, he noted. Sandwiches were something customers had been asking for, but, being a perfectionist, he had to search for the right bread. He finally found a bakery in New Jersey that provided the perfect artisanal rustic quality he was looking for.

The pizza kits were equally difficult, because Varuni was reluctant to part with his dough. “That’s my baby,” he said, laughing. However, it’s proved to be a very popular pandemic item for families with children.

“It has our dough, the extra virgin olive oil that we import from Italy, with a can of San Marzano tomatoes from Italy, flour, basil, pecorino Romano, buffalo mozzarella,” he said. “I just wanted to do something a little bit different, and the response has been amazing.”

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VARUNI NAPOLI KROG

Menu: takeout or dine-in, with starters, salads, pizzas, calzones and desserts

What’s new: do-it-yourself pizza kits; sandwiches at Krog only

Alcohol: soft drinks for takeout and delivery; full bar for on-site dining

What I ordered: mercato caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, wild baby arugula, tomatoes and balsamic reduction; the Goodfella sandwich and the meatball Parmesan sandwich; Amore Mio pizza with fresh mozzarella, roasted artichokes, salami, mushrooms, black olives, pecorino Romano and basil; classic cannoli with chocolate chips. The salad was super fresh and nicely arranged in a bowl. The sandwiches were generously stuffed inside crispy rustic bread. The pizza was loaded with quality ingredients and had a classic black and brown blistered crust. The cannoli was big enough to share.

Service options: order by phone or online with credit card for takeout, curbside pickup, and delivery options; walk-up for on-site dining

Safety protocols: adhering to CDC guidelines, plus Krog Street Market protocols, and O4W’s Pledge to Public Health, which follows safety measures that go “above and beyond” state guidelines

Address, phone: 99 Krog St. NE, Atlanta; 404-500-5550

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays; 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays

Website: varuni.us/krog-market