In all my years of covering Atlanta restaurants, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. Not at any other pizza joint — that’s for sure.
I am talking about Varasano’s Pizzeria Perimeter Mall (4400 Ashford Dunwoody Rd NE Unit 2090, Atlanta, Tel: 404.352.8216) which, in my opinion, is a clear statement by owner Jeff Varasano that he never plans to open your typical rock-n-roll pizza tavern.
This place is all tricked out like an LA hot rod bouncing its struts at a red light on Hollywood Boulevard.
Inside this 5,200 square foot pizza palace, there are like a gazillion televisions and — my favorite — a wall of real live growing herbs. The smell of fresh basil is everywhere.
There is a hip lounge area with sleek modern couches. If you look really hard, there are secret doors and hidden passageways. And if you know the right handshake or, which two cheese graters to move simultaneously, you might even find yourself in a dim lit speakeasy-like piano cigar bar, rubbing elbows with beautiful people.
Food wise, the pizzas are the same and every bit as good as the ones in Buckhead — just cheaper. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Varasano’s pizzas, he makes a tasty upscale pie that is a style all unto itself — a perfect mix between New York and Neapolitan.
They boast a handful of new toppings at the Perimeter Mall location, like spicy mussels.
And with those new toppings, you’ll find a few more pizza offerings alongside your favorites, new pies like the simply dubbed vegetable pizza with thinly sliced eggplant, earthy mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, sweet peppadews and strewn bits of broccolini over the top.
Simply put: it’s the best veggie pizza I’ve ever eaten. The flavors and textures are vibrant and complex. From sweet to salty in an instant, then slightly earthy and all that gives way to a fun play on textures from warm and mushy to crispy and crunchy.
Almost everybody goes crazy over the spice blend and San Marzano tomato sauce of the Nana’s pie — it’s been a crowd please since day one.
And if you’ve never sampled the Nucci, you really should. Fruity Emmenthaler cheese is topped with roasted garlic and olives then covered with fresh bitter arugula and capicola.
I have no earthly idea where Varasano got the idea to use Emmenthaler cheese on pizza, but it works surprisingly well, even on the sweet caramelized onion.
Varasano’s Pizzeria Perimeter Mall is an amazing place that should be a hit with trendy hipsters and food nerds alike. This mall space is all at once hip, geeky, surprising and just plain fun.
I don’t know how you feel, but I like the fact that Varasano stayed true to the food despite getting edgy with decor and ambiance — making good with geeky food people (and longtime fans) like me, who generally don’t get invited to hangout in secret backroom bars filled with pretty people.