Atlanta: The Ultimate Local's Guide
Brick-oven pizza with new takes on the classics
Todd Mussman, Ryan Turner, and Chris Hall have proven with restaurants like Muss & Turner’s and Local 3 that they know how to do food. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that their new brick-oven pizzeria is rising like its high-protein, 72-hour-cold-fermented dough, which makes the light and crisp crust upon which supercharged flavors are delivered. Don’t let it bother you that they don’t do slices (16-inchers only) or substitutions (you can take stuff off your pie but can’t add anything). They have solid, stepped-up takes on the classics, including a roasted ‘shroom, pecorino, and ricotta funghi with crisped thyme, or the “My Tenderoni (P.Y.T.),” which is basically a pepperoni pie, but with the meat cut fresh from a slab. There are also chef-driven pies like “Jimmy Two Times” with fennel sausage and fennel salami, and “The Hell Boy,” which brings spice from Calabrian chilies and spreadable spicy salumi.
Artisan pies, craft beer, and hip-hop culture
The Nashville-bred “Pizza Beeria” takes its artisan pies as seriously as it takes craft beer and hip-hop culture, all of which you’ll see tastefully curated at the Howell Mill location, and its soon-coming second setup near the Atlanta University Center. The three main partners are all HBCU grads, and are particularly interested in giving back to gentrifying African-American communities through jobs and student scholarships, but all of that is only possible because they make good money making really good pizzas, proven recently by winning a televised “Best Cheese Pizza” contest on Good Morning America. Adding to all that goodness is how they name their ovular flatbreads, like the all-meat “Cee No Green” and the spicy margherita “Red Light Special.”
True Neapolitan pizza, with the certification to prove it
It’s one thing to serve Neapolitan pizza; it’s another to be included in the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, which identifies and promotes “true Neapolitan pizza (verace pizza napoletana), i.e., the typical product made in accordance with the characteristics described in the AVPN International Regulations.” Amalfi is the first to receive the recognition in Georgia, and when take your first bite, you’ll understand how they earned it (operating partners Stephen de Haan and Greg Grant studied at two highly respected pizzerias in Italy under pizzaiolo maestros). The pies are made with ingredients from Italy’s Campania region, and baked at 900+ degrees in one of their 6,000-pound Italian brick ovens, so they’re done in one minute flat.
Old Fourth Ward
Detroit-style pizza from the folks behind O4W
O4W Pizza is incredible, but it’s in Duluth. Unless you live in Duluth, you’re probably more likely to visit this more central intown location from O4W pizzaoli Anthony Spina and partner Billy Streck (of Cypress Street Pint & Plate, Hampton + Hudson, etc.). You can get the “Super Margherita” in round or thick square Detroit format -- and both are good, but it's crazy to not get the Motor City versions, particularly if you’re a meathead. The “Toni Pepperoni” is outstanding, but the Detroit-style “I Love Pepperoni” takes it to a whole new level with its deeper dish and crispy-cheesed crust.
Old Fourth Ward
A dingy neighborhood classic for humongous slices
Don’t let that terrible photo on their website fool you; this dingy, graffiti- and sticker-splashed O4W pizza den has outlasted lots of neighbors because they do a great job at their namesake. You can get whole pies, but most folks do fine with the huge, unevenly cut slices. These slices are not beautiful, but they are wonderful in their way. Also, your pizza won’t be fast, and you should park somewhere very, very visible. But these are all minor inconveniences when you get inside and find community, cheap beer and pizza. The classics here are the jalapeno, bacon, spinach, green pepper, and sliced tomato-topped “Hangover,” or the ridiculous-but-still-delicious “Soul Food,” with fried chicken, collards, mashed potatoes, and gravy instead of marinara.
An affordable, dependable Atlanta classic
Not including Fellini’s in a list of Atlanta’s best places for pizza amounts to a diss, and dissing Fellini’s is damn-near like dissing OutKast. Sure, it may not be the absolute best, but Fellini’s slices are still sizeable and super-affordable -- you’ll pay more for that overrated slice at your local mall food court, and feel less happy when you’re done. Whether you’re out on the patio at Howell Mill, Ponce de Leon, South Buckhead on Peachtree, Roswell Road, or wherever, you can’t deny that the balance of properly baked crust and pie, with fail-proof red sauce and a modest but sturdy selection of toppings, makes for an authentic lunch or dinner that’s low-brow enough to remind you that Old Atlanta is still very much alive, and loves you. Never hate on Fellini’s.
Old Fourth Ward, Decatur
New York-meets-Naples pizza and an extensive craft beer selection
The Edgewood location survived two head-on collisions (we'll never understand how two cars hit a very noticeable brick building on different occasions in the same place). It took a while to reopen, and more than a few places came around in the time it took to get back to the business of making pizza. But Ammazza is back, and opened a new Decatur location, and didn’t lose a single step in saucing, cheese-ing and baking their NY-meets-Naples style of pie. You can tell that’s still The Spotted Trotter’s meats, you can taste the balance of Caputo 00 flour, water, yeast, and sea salt that makes the dough that becomes perfect crust once heated in those beautifully tiled 900-degree ovens on the other side of the kitchen’s looking glass, and you can still match your desired pizza with a great selection of craft beer, whether you prefer Georgia or regional, or even something from as far as Sweden, Switzerland, or Quebec. Get here immediately and have the red-sauced Amarena (black cherry sausage, peppadew peppers, caramelized onions), the white-sauced Terra (sauteed wild mushrooms, goat cheese, truffle oil), or even the green Springer Mountain chicken pesto. Just take your time parking, please.
Great wood-fired pizza in a veritable nerd heaven
Not just a great beer bar, an analog arcade or comic book bruncher’s dream palace, EAV’s nautical-themed watering hole is home to way more than wooden sea creatures and owl murals. The wood-fired oven at the back of the joint slings tantalizing pies like the roasted garlic, asiago cream sauce-based Butternut Pie with black truffle honey pancetta; or the pepperoni/grass-fed beef/house-made sausage Mutiny on the Bounty, which according to the Beastie Boys is "what it's all about."
Neapolitan-style pies from two brothers who grew up on the Amalfi Coast
Two brothers from Naples, who grew up spending weekends in a small country town on the Amalfi Coast named Agerola, moved to Decatur and started make the bossest pies in the suburb. That’s really about it. If you like Italian meats, San Marzano tomatoes and all that other Neapolitan tradition, you’ll be just fine here, especially if you order the Carnosa, which also includes bufala mozzarella, Italian sausage, spicy sopressata salame, and cotto ham.
A pizza so good you'll visit Brookhaven
Take a great neighborhood pizza pub that started in Decatur, combine it with people who have impressive sauce skills, and you have the best place in Brookhaven for your pizza fix. They seem to specialize in spicy pizzas, but the bravest among you will try the legendary Alla Diavola, or “deviled” pie. They require you sign a waiver for that one.
The pizza that beat the crowd to the Neapolitan boom
Little Italy is now a thing just outside of Georgia Tech’s campus, and it began with Antico. Though there have been lots of Neapolitan places that have sprung up since its success, Antico still has a loyal following and multiple locations now, including Avalon, The Battery at SunTrust Park, and even Miami. They still won’t let you build your own pizza or make any mods, but the sausage and sweet red peppers are still perfectly deserving of the line that forms out the door every day.
Reasonably sized hand-tossed happiness that's been around but still feels brand new
Perfectly puffed crusts lie just beneath sauce and cheese (and pesto, and salami, and beef, and ricotta, etc.). Seriously, with approximately 30 houses recipes, you’ll have to take your time getting through all of these.
Krog Street Market
True Neapolitan pie makes KSM's wait well worth it
It didn’t take long before folks noticed the lack of pizza at Krog, but things were made right with the introduction of Luca Varuni’s beloved recipe of all-Naples-sourced ingredients. With a stretched 800-square-foot counter stand that lets you see the action going in and out of the tiled ovens, Varuni Napoli offers a faster version of its heavily praised Morningside location’s pies, letting you choose toppings to build your own from a margherita or bianca base; or order a few standards from the menu like the buffalo mozzarella Nonna Mia or the pepperoni and pork sausage Bastardo. It’s also hard to not love a pizza you can order with a tapped Negroni Reserva cocktail.
Show-stealing pizza in a flossy Italian restaurant
That wood-fired pizza oven puts out one of the tastiest pies in the metro area -- one that’s actually worth the drive to the Avalon shopping center off 400 North. The crisped crust makes a fantastic margherita or even prosciutto pizza, which comes with ricotta, pickled baby bell peppers, fontina, and garlic, and you’ll enjoy it enough that you might not try their upstanding duck ragu pappardelle, lump crab, and shrimp farfalle, or other pasta dishes.
Consistently good crustiness from hot coals
Those who remember Max’s will tell you it’s worth braving the traffic around Marietta Street in order to get a boxful of these quick cooking pies. There are 18 topping choices (capicola, crimini mushrooms, etc.) and 10 steady menu options, ranging from the four-meat salumi to the arugula and prosciutto pie, which is dressed with lemon pepper arugula. They keep things quality by the use of what they say is “the only genuine coal-burning oven in Georgia.”
Little Five Points
The OG of L5P that makes one of ATL’s greatest pies
It’s hard to say exactly what makes Savage so good, because it predates most of the pizza spots that are doing the Neapolitan thing. It’s just always reliable, simply delicious, still the same ol’ pizza that has an honesty you don’t need to double-check. You can still get a 9-inch small with four slices, a six-slice medium 12-inch, or go large on 16 inches and eight slices. They don’t kill you with cheese, they don’t slop you with sauce, and they don’t collapse with the crust. This is how you quietly survive almost 30 years of whatever “pizza wars” you’ve been hearing about in ATL.