Monday, May 4, 2009

Restaurant Review: Varasano's

I didn't watch Napoleon Dynamite for about three years after it came out. When the flick was all the rave in August 2004, I couldn't help but think that I would be disappointed when I eventually saw it. I mean, every blog, magazine cover, friend and foe was talking about the flick. So I waited. And when I did finally watch it, I'll admit that I thought it was funny.

Well, I should have waited to hit up the Atlanta food talk of the town — Varasano's. Jeff Varasano and his pizza recipe took the food/restaurant blogosphere by storm, especially over the past few months as his eagerly-anticipated restaurant prepared to open. (Read some of the history here and here). To his credit, it seems Varasano has dedicated a lot of his life to perfecting and investigating his pizza craft.

I appreciate a certain modesty about food. Maybe it's that humble food under promises and over delivers. The opening copy on Varasano's menu immediately struck me the wrong way. It was something to the effect of "Jeff Varasano is the world's #1 authority on pizza." Additionally, the menu intro mentions Varasano securing a world record in the Rubick's Cube when he was 14-years-old. What does that have to do with pizza?...

The restaurant's setting below the Mezzo Condominiums (across the street from Justin's on Peachtree) was trendy, hip, vibrant, posh and maybe trying a little too hard. But how about the food? Overrated or worth the hype?

The simple menu looked to have some good options. Dan and I split a caprese salad (a favorite antipasti of ours) for $6.95 and our dining companions also split one. The balsamic drizzle was perfectly seasoned and the tomatoes ripened to perfection. A delicious opener to our meal.  We also shared a bottle of well-priced ($22) South African red (I didn't write down the name — whoops). 

For my main course, I chose the salumi pizza ($14.95). I'm a sucker for thin-sliced, cured meats — and this pie featured several plus spiced olives (another love). Dan ordered the pepperoni calzone (pepperoni, sundried tomatoes and mozzarella) for $12.95. From his last visit to the pizzeria, Derek remembered the calzone didn't come with a side of pizza sauce — so he asked for one and recommended Dan do the same. 

Our pizzas came out to the table promptly, smelling and looking delicious. We took a few bites before our waitress returned with two ramekins of pizza sauce. She warned us that because they had no microwaves on site, the simple sauce would be cold. A cool temperature I was okay with; the sauce itself had less flavor than a can of Kroger-brand tomato sauce. After tasting the sauce base by itself with my fork, I couldn't get past its not-so-inspired flavor. The crust, however, I must say was delicious. Doughy, flakey and not too heavy, every bite of the crust was enjoyable. The pies overall were okay.  

In the end, the food (not the hype) is what's going to keep a restaurant in business. Would I go back? I suppose — but I would consider Varasano's to be just another one of the decently good pizza places in Atlanta. We're also spoiled that we live so close to Shorty's

Katy rating: B - 


Ashley said...

Hey this is literally right by my condo. Whenever I'm at the stoplight turning left on Peachtree off Colonial Homes I just stare at Varasonos for a good 5 minutes and wonder if it's any good.

K_Streams_Her_C said...

Give it a shot and let me know what you think. It's nice but not the best pizza I've had in Atlanta. :)

B. Beck said...

you have got to go to Fritti, it is amazing pizza! I haven't been to Varasano's but Fritti is great. I went with my italian friends, Filo and Maria. They thought it was amazing and talked with the chef from Milan for 30 minutes over Lemoncello.

K_Streams_Her_C said...

I have heard AMAZING things about Fritti. There's a pizza war waging, apprently. Did you see Meredith Ford's AJC review today?