After a recent visit to New York City and stumbling into what I thought the best pizza ever at Grimaldi, and then again at Motorino, my search started for the holy grail of pizza here in Atlanta. After tasting different variations of this classic oven-baked flat bread that’s topped with tomato sauce, cheese, and other flavorful ingredients, I felt my search hit a dead end and I had to return to NYC to fulfill my craving. I couldn’t have been more wrong. After one visit to Varasano’s Pizzeria on Peachtree Road in the South Buckhead, I found it, a pizza with personality: my search was over. Fortunately, owner and master pizzaiolo, Jeff Varasano, a former New Yorker who moved south for a job opportunity as a software engineer brought with him his passion for pizza. After experimenting at home, Jeff realized that there was a hungry mob yearning for that tasty slice just like the ones he knew while living in NYC. In March 2009, Jeff opened Varasano’s Pizzeria giving all of ATL the opportunity to enjoy his take on the classic Neapolitan style thin crust pie, and what an outstanding pie it is. This is a must destination for pizza lovers!
Begin your journey to pizza nirvana by unwinding from the hustle and bustle of Peachtree Street with one of the captivating cocktails created by managing partner and master mixologist, Brett Holtzclaw. There’s the refreshing yet seductive Chilly Willy, named after the head pizza-maker. It is made with Bianca Vigna Prosecco, a splash of Breckenridge Vodka (which uses melted snow in it process) and elderflower liqueur making one delightful yet sinful bubbly to sip on. And if you really want to take the edge off and replace it with total relaxation, try the Basil Gimlet – made with muddled fresh basil that somehow didn’t make it onto one of the pizzas, Right Gin from Sweden, fresh squeezed lime juice, and egg whites topped off with soda water - this potion is down right smooth and sexy and its creamy texture makes it way to easy to enjoy. In addition to these tasty libations, Brett has assembled a well thought out beer and wine list. The 2009 Joel Gott Relative Red is a blend of several vinicultural growing regions bringing the best attributes of each together for one tremendous fruit bomb that matches well with the creations coming from Jeff’s oven.
While sipping on your newfound beverage, there are several starters worth trying. The Caprese Salad is a charming antipasto. but what makes it special is its vibrant color presentation along with its fresh flavors. The freshly made cow’s milk mozzarella, Roma tomatoes, and basil that’s served with 8-year-old balsamic vinegar and a peppery olive oil caresses the palate with excitement. Then there are the other worldly Nana’s Meatballs, which are based on Jeff’s grandmother’s recipe. These slow cooked mounds of ground chuck, aged Romano cheese and various herbs that are topped with a warm savory tomato sauce - ask for extra grated Parmesan cheese and simply enjoy the multitude of mouth-watering flavors - yum.
At Varasano’s, pizza is the main attraction and takes center stage. What makes these thin crust pies so special is their backbone - the dough. First, it is made with a sourdough culture coming from Patsy’s Pizzeria in NYC that Jeff has been nurturing for several years; this gives the dough a light and airy character and a pleasing twang. Secondly, the pie is cooked for only 2 to 3 minutes in a specially made electric oven that reaches 800 degrees making an intriguing char onto the bottom and crust, which enhances its taste even further. The Nana’s is made in a Brooklyn style with fresh cow’s milk mozzarella and a delicate San Marzano tomato sauce, so simple yet totally pleasing. The Margherita di Bufala with Hot Sopressata is a collection of zesty flavors – basil, bufala cheese, and imported dry Italian salami, all of which add a nice tangy character to this pie. The one that made me go “wow” is the Caramelized Onion with a Housemade Sausage and is sure to cure that pizza craving instantly – the jam-like sweet onions are placed over a sharp Emmenthaler cheese, and then topped with fresh thyme and a housemade fennel sausage - absolutely mind-blowing. There are another half dozen or so that can be tailored to your liking or better yet let Jeff design a pie for you; here you can’t go wrong and the surprise is worthy of another drink.
When the taste buds are about to call it quits, go ahead and liven them up one more time with the Italian Doughnuts. The same sourdough used for the pizza is deep fried creating fluffy bit size delights – highly recommend either the ones dipped in a housemade raspberry sauce or those stuffed with a decadent nutella filling, both are delicious. So whenever that desire for an amazing pizza with pizzazz needs to be satisfied, don’t fret as relief can be easily had here in Atlanta with a slice of heaven from Varasano’s Pizzeria.
LGTG FRIENDLY *****
LGTG FRIENDLY *****
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