Saturday, April 16, 2011

Varasano's Pizzeria–Pizza Engineering 101

Jeff Varasano seems like a controversial character in the Atlanta pizza scene. For years, he reversed engineered his favorite pizza from Patsy's trying to perfect it. He also threw many private pizza parties at his house, showing off his creations. 

Back then, Jeff didn't think he would open up his own restaurant. He had his software company. He made pizzas as a hobby. 

He did have a website. It documented in great detail how he made his pizzas. It also had reviews of many pizza places around the country. He was brutal in his reviews of Atlanta pizza places. At first, it didn't matter; he was just another Internet guy giving his opinion.  But he started to become a "celebrity" in the Internet pizza making community, and his reputation started to grow. 

Then he decided to open up his own pizza shop. So the Atlanta pizza wars began. Antico popped up. Fritti upped their game. And people were licking their chops to see if Jeff can stand up to the best in Atlanta. 

I think to this day, people are still resentful of Jeff's opinions. It did give him a lot of publicity though. I guess any publicity is good publicity. But even today, you can still sense people's bias when you read their reviews.

Truth be told, Jeff was right. I went around various pizza places in Atlanta before Varasano's opened.  I craved a great Neapolitan style pizza. But nobody in Atlanta, at that time, made it well. Fritti didn't, and Baraonda didn't. They all sucked, like Jeff said. 

Now it's different. There's Antico, Varasano's, and other places that probably serve decent pizza. People even told me to try Fritti again, telling me they've improved a lot. Atlanta has some decent pizza now, and we're all better off because of it. 

I have a feeling Jeff did learn a lot from opening his own place. He took down the negative comments in his website, and he did tell me making good, consistant pizza in a restaurant is harder than making it in his house. 

Can the Pizzas Live Up to The Ridiculous Hype?

Anyway, I love Varasano's pizzas. They are thin crust, Neapolitan style. I have tried all of Varasano's pizzas, and my favorite are the simple, traditional styles: The Nana's and the Margherita di Bufala. These two really accent his crust, cheese, and sauce well. 

Nana's with roasted peppers–roasted peppers not included.

My other favorite is the New Haven Clam–another classic style in Connecticut. Traditionally, they eat it with white sauce. But I like it both in either red or white sauce. It has a strong flavor of garlic and clams. If you don't like seafood or garlic, don't get it. But I like clams and garlic, so I usually get this.

New Haven Clam with white sauce–very garlicy and clammy
I like the other pizzas, but I like the Nana's, Margherita, and the New Haven Clam better so I never get a chance to get these.

Caramelized Onion-very oniony
Fontina Mushroom–very mushroomy

Chica Bella–very arugula-y

Nucci–very arugula-y and meaty
Salumi–very uhh... thinly sliced cured meaty
The pizette is the bomb. It's like gourmet Hot Pockets. It's not on the menu now, but he is planning to add it. If you went to Taste of Atlanta, you might have had a chance to taste it.

Pizzette–Hot Pockets that actually taste good. 
Varasano's offers a few desserts. The Italian Doughnuts seem to be popular. They make it with pizza dough with powdered sugar and filled with something sweet. It's very simple, but very good. 

Italian Doughnuts–Just his pizza dough with some powdered sugar. So simple but so good. 
Not Your Everyday Delivery Pizza

If you like the traditional, American Deep Dish pizza with a ton of cheese, 5 different type of meats, and vegetables, Varasano's might not be for you. In contrast, Varasano's simpler, traditional Neapolitan pizza is what makes it great. So you should at least try it. Maybe you'll be surprised how just dough, a bit of sauce, some basil, and some mozzarella cheese constructed correctly can be so delicious. Mr. Kitty gives this place 5 paws up.

Varasano's Pizzeria
2171 Peachtree Rd
Atlanta, GA 30309
Varasano's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

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