Way back in 2008, I remember stumbling on a pizza blog. But this was no regular blog; it was written by Jeff Varasano, a child rubix-cube prodigy who had created the most maniacally detailed recipe for pizza dough that you've ever seen. He went to Italy, became a certified pizzaiolo, and then returend to his home in Atlanta to open his own restaurant.
One thing you'll notice is that his recipe calls for a supremely hot oven. He describes that he used a pair of garden shears to clip the lock off his oven so he could cook pies on oven cleaning mode. He's really, really into pizza. When I was told I had to go to Atlanta for work, I knew immediately that I'd make time to go to the eponymous restaurant to taste this incredible dough.
The first thing I noticed when I went to his Buckhead location was that he used a gas oven. Yes, a gas oven. Apparently, the restaurant had changed locations and switched from a wood to a gas burning oven. The temperature gauge was sitting at 371C (about 700F) which is the upper end of a gas oven, and way lower than what Jeff was cooking with at home.
My heart sank, I grabbed a drink, and steeled myself for what may come.
Varasano's tasting notes:
- + Sauce was sweet (maybe too sweet)
- + Cheese was the perfect texture, and had great flavor
- + The portions were huge for a Neapolitan place
- - The crust was bland. Read that again. The crust was bland. Forgiving the texture is one thing given the oven temperature. But the lack of flavor in the crust was a mortal sin.
- - The pie came pre-loaded with Parmesan all over it. This is unforgivable.
Overall grade: B-/C+ (2 stars)
After that disappointing experience, I went to another spot that my friends told me was far better than Varasano's. Antico Pizza Napoletana was a cool spot, with a wood oven! When I was looking at the pies, the ovens, the folks preparing the pies, I got really excited!
Then the food came out.
- + Sauce was good, but could stand to be both a bit saltier and sweeter
- + The cheese was good, but also could be a bit more flavorful
- - There was Parmesan all over the pie before it came out. What is this Atlanta madness?
- - Uh... there were some inconsistencies from slice to slice. You may notice that nearly half the pie is missing sauce, cheese, and basil!
Overall grade: on the parts with sauce/cheese/basil: B. On the parts that were glorified bread sticks: D. Overall grade: C (2 stars).