I just got back from a 10 day pizzacation in the good old American south. Here’s a round of images from Atlanta, GA.
These are two of the four pies we had at Antico, one of Atlanta’s new hotshot pizzerias. The place is loud a bustling — more an open garage than a restaurant — and everyone seemed to be having a blast. I loved the place. It felt great. You stand in line, order your pizzas and the server hunts you down by calling out your receipt number about five minutes later. Seating is open and communal, so you have to scout your spot once your order is in. It’s pretty intense.
The photo above shows the San Gennaro (sausage, red peppers and onions) and the Bianca (mozzarella, ricotta, pecorino, basil). The place bills itself as “authentic Neapolitan STG” but that’s far from true. Their pizza is more Americanized in that it’s larger and stretched with more aggression. Don’t get me wrong, I actually really dig what they’re doing but it doesn’t conform to STG standards as it so claims. Solid pizza and a really fun experience, just don’t expect a quiet evening of gentle conversation.
Next stop was Mellow Mushroom. I’ve had so many people mention this place to me I just had to check it out. There are a bunch of them scattered around the USA but most are concentrated in the southeast. It’s a real family joint — there was even a family celebrating a kid’s 3rd birthday while we were there!
The pizza was fine but nothing Earth-shattering. The crust is sweet and ripe for ample toppings. We had one that was half Maui Wowie (pesto, pineapple, ham, jerk chicken, banana peppers, Applewood smoked bacon, mozzarella) and half Magical Mystery Tour (pesto, button and Portobello mushrooms, feta and mozzarella cheeses, spinach and jalapeños). It’s kind of a mess but absolutely fine for what it was.
The two folks in the photo are Jeff and Kirstin. I met Jeff a few years ago as he was getting ready to open his own pizzeria. If you’re into pizza making, Jeff’s website is the Rosetta Stone.
The big event in Atlanta during my brief visit was finally checking out Jeff’s place - Varasano’s. I would normally go more covert when making a visit like this to get a more honest experience, but Jeff’s a friend and I had no choice but to GO BIG! I invited all Atlanta-based pizza tour alumni and about 15 came out for a tasting with Jeff. He had the kitchen make 14 different pizzas plus three desserts and everything was delicious. I wish I had better pizza photos but the lighting was low and slices were cut small so I’m not going to bother.
This photo shows Jeff presenting the final pizza of the night — a super herby Sicilian — to the crew of ready-to-explode pizza eaters. Varasano’s is located in the ground floor of a fancy apartment building. There’s even valet parking, which creeps me out at a pizzeria. The vibe is totally different from Antico and Mellow Mushroom but I enjoyed the pizza more. Jeff’s crust is just killer. He got his start by experimenting at home with dozens of flours, tomatoes, cheeses and methods. He even went so far as to clip the lock in his electric oven so he could bake pizzas in the high heat of the self-clean cycle. Please don’t try that at home.
This amazing book by 16th century chef Bartolomeo Scappi (1500 - 1577) has some of the earliest mentions of pizza in history! There are a few pizza recipes, none of which resemble what we think of as pizza today. Scappi was big-time, having served in the kitchen for several popes during his career.
One recipe uses the word pizze to describe a “flaky-pastry for a day in Lent.”
"Get two pounds of flour, warmed milk made from either six ounces of Milanese almonds or else one pound of shelled pinenuts, three ounces of sugar, two ounces of rosewater, one ounce of salt and two ounces of sweet-almond oil; mix all that together with the flour and make up a dough of it that is not too firm. Knead it well for a quarter of an hour, and make a long, thin sheet of it. Brush it with sweet-almond oil or olive oil, sprinkle it with sugar and cinnamon, and roll it up like a wafer cornet. When the twist is made, make tiny wheels of it and make pizze of those wheels by spreading them out with the heel of your hand. Those pizza can be baked in a pan like tourtes, or else you can fry them in oil. Serve them hot with sugar over them.”
This recipe defines pizza as a dessert dish that has absolutely none of the ingredients we think of today. No mozzarella (too expensive), no tomato (it wasn’t brought from the New World yet) and certainly no pepperoni (that isn’t even Italian). We think of pizza as a peasant dish, but here we have the pope’s chef making it, not to mention he’s in Rome and not Napoli. The word seems to have changed meaning over the years, eventually becoming the modern version two centuries after this book was published in 1570.
Roma Foods produced this generic box over 20 years ago!
This may not be a heart-shaped pizza box, but there have been attempts at such a container from at least one of the national chains. I have a prototype from the country’s biggest pizza box manufacturer but posting it here would be legally questionable. My pizza box collection has plenty of rare gems and I’m excited to announce that I’ll be turning that collection into a super-amazing BOOK over the next few months!
The book will navigate readers through the world of pizza box art and design, a subject that usually goes straight into the garbage. I have over 250 boxes from around the world, most of which were sent to me by pizza tour guests. I document the unboxing of these gems on my YouTube channel, so take a gander if you’re keen.
Now for a call to arms. If you spot a cool pizza box, snag it! Send me a photo at SCOTT at SCOTTSPIZZATOURS dot COM and I’ll check the archive to see if I already have it. If you send me new boxes, I’ll send you a prize: up to three boxes scores you an amazing Pizza Pen, 4-6 different boxes get you a free SPT-shirt, 7-9 boxes get you an incredible SPT Hoodie! Ten or more gets you a FREE TOUR TICKET!!! These can be custom boxes from a local pizzeria, old boxes you forgot you had in your pizzeria’s storage closet or even seemingly boring generic boxes from some part of the world that barely has pizza. I’m trying to represent as wide a cross-section of the pizza world as possible and YOU can help immensely!
**Boxes must be received by MARCH 15 so get on it! Oh, and happy Valentine’s Day to all you pizza lovers.