Jeff Varasano is the hottest name in Atlanta these days. The hype surrounding his new restaurant Varasano’s Pizzeria (2171 Peachtree Road, Atlanta, Tel: 404.352.8216) is beyond anything I’ve ever witnessed in my seven years covering the local food scene.
Varasano launched his unlikely fame through his popular website that teaches people how to make the perfect pie at home, a somewhat risky process that requires — brace yourself — clipping off the lock of your clean cycle with garden shears so that you can blister pies in under two minutes at temperatures above 800 degrees Fahrenheit.
Today, Varasano has officially moved out of the friendly confines of his kitchen at home and into the kitchen of his new restaurant, which is neatly tucked under the newly built Mezzo building, where he has a custom-built pizza oven fully equipped with the unique flexibility to control cooking temperatures for both the top and bottom of his pies.
His kitchen is even armed with an infrared gun to take surface temperatures (top and bottom) of each pie as it comes out of the oven.
Varasano’s Pizzeria officially opened tonight (3/25/09) and I was among the first eager customers. We sampled three pies between two of us without leftovers.
So, how does the actual product stand up to the hype? Well, think thin bubbly surface with perfect char around the rim and bottom. The crust is a thin layer of crispy that gives way to an airy, light center. The pie is that of a purist — the ingredients are simple and fresh but employed judiciously. In other words, the answer to your question is: Yes, it lives up to the hype and then some.
We demolished a margherita, nana’s special, which consists of a stronger mix of herbs, and finally, the oily, garlicky white clam pie showered with Italian parsley — far and away the best clam pie I’ve ever tasted.
Make sure you save room for the insanely delicious Italian doughnuts. It’s basically a warm plateful of dinner roll-sized deep-fried pizza dough tossed in sugar. It weirdly takes on a soft, creamy texture like that of French toast, and tastes similar. Call them gourmet zepollis.
The staff is fun, friendly, and eager to please. The beer and wine lists are better than need be.