I’m back to pizza this week, but first, I want to cite some important news in Atlanta’s culinary community. Dan Krinksy, co-chef and owner of Tierra with his wife, Ticha, is in need of a kidney donor.
Krinsky was diagnosed with polycistic kidney disease, a genetic disorder, about six years ago. He has been seeking a donor for two years and although he’s had seven offers, none of them turned out to be a match. He is now undergoing dialysis three times a week.
His blood type is O, the most common, so the competition for a donor kidney, including a cadaver organ, is intense. He prefers a living donor because, he says, cadaver kidneys are not as reliable over the long term. Recent research has concluded that donating a kidney does not affect health or life expectancy.
All donor costs will be paid by Krinksy’s insurance company. Recovery from the laparoscopic surgery is usually about two weeks.
If you want more information, consult his wife’s blog, DanNeedsaKidney.blogspot.com, or call the restaurant, 404-874-5951.
More on pizza
In researching my column last week on Varasano’s Pizzeria, I ate a huge amount of pizza at other restaurants in the Midtown area. I was motivated by the question of what really constitutes good pizza because I didn't find Varasano’s pies the ecstatic experience that others have described.
After literally seven or eight meals of pizza (followed by hours of cardio at the gym), I reached an unsurprising conclusion. Like any other food indigenous to another culture, pizza has been refashioned by the eclectic tastes of our own culture. While there are some rules, of course, that regulate the preparation of Naples-inspired pizza, I think it’s fair to say that there are many varieties of pizza in our city and all have their fans.
A notable and divergent example is Savage Pizza in Little Five Points. This restaurant makes a crust that is a lot thicker than I ordinarily like. It is quite chewy. But the restaurant makes six different sauces that make the pizza special.
During my last visit, I ordered the Cajun pizza with the sauce made of roasted red peppers. In all honesty, the pizza — piled with shrimp, chicken, andouille sausage and three cheeses (including Gruyere) — was under-sauced. Wayne ordered one called the No-Brainer with tomato sauce that had much stronger flavor. Char? None on mine — the pizza was a bit undercooked, in fact — but several completely burned spots were on his.
Grant Central in Grant Park also serves a thick-crusted pie. I usually order the white pie here, but we split a large Grecian Pie, a special, a few nights ago. It featured a pesto sauce, kalamata olives, banana peppers, red onions, roma tomatoes and mozzarella and feta cheese. I’d order it again. The banana peppers, apparently thrown cold on the pizza after it came out of the oven, added a surprising acidic, crisp texture.
We also eat pizza frequently at Stella in Grant Park. It has a thin crust that is only slightly chewy compared to Savage and Grant Central. They usually feature a pizza special every week. Most recently, we both ordered one with bacon, green peas and gorgonzola cheese. My favorite here — one of my favorite pizzas ever in this town — was their fig pizza last summer.
I’m a longtime fan of the “pizza crisps” at Everybody’s in Virginia-Highland and Emory Village. From the perspective of authenticity, a thoroughly crispy pizza is evil. But I love these. My latest order was the Key Largo, with shrimp, bacon, sesame seeds and four cheeses, including rictotta. It also included roma tomatoes with a light vinaigrette. Normally, I order a simple pizza crisp with few toppings, but I thoroughly enjoyed this (and was thoroughly repulsed by Wayne’s Buffalo chicken pizza crisp).
We also visited Cameli’s on Ponce de Leon. I love the sun-dried-tomato sauce here — and that’s why I ordered the Bourgsie Pie during our last visit. The pie was also topped with artichoke hearts, red onions, prosciutto and basil. Wayne got the McLeod Nine, made with garlic sauce, chicken, spinach, roasted red peppers and onions. The crust here is thin and tends toward the crispy. I should add that prices are way cheap, compared to most other gourmet pies in town. The single-serving pies are all $8 or under.
Dynamic Dish on Edgewood Avenue hosts Organic Pizza Night on Saturdays (and you won’t get in without a reservation). Unless things have changed recently, owner/chef David Sweeney buys his crusts from Whole Foods, so there’s nothing particularly remarkable about that part of the pies. But the toppings, all organic produce and not loaded down with heavy sauces and cheese, make the pizzas among the most flavorful in the city. The Turkish is made with feta cheese, kale and enough roasted garlic to kill every vampire on the planet. I usually ask them to cut the garlic in half.
Fritti in Virginia-Highland remains my usual stop for gourmet pizza. Although foodies have complained that quality at the restaurant declined last year, owner Riccardo Ullio has hired a new chef from Naples, Enrico Liberato, who seems to have solved problems of inconsistency. To me, this is by far the best crust in town. Almost airy, it melts in the mouth but has a slight crunch. My favorite here is the Napoli, made with bufala, anchovies, capers and wild oregano. Here’s a tip: Go to the restaurant on Monday, the day the fresh bufala arrives from Italy, and order the Napoli or the Regina Margherita.
Did this tour change my mind about Varasano’s? To a certain degree, yes. Despite the incredibly wide variety of pizza I sampled, I do find my palate, which has a mind of its own, often coming back to Varasano’s. I don’t think the kitchen (yet) displays the mastery of Fritti, but owner Jeff Varasano’s passion and perfectionism may well bring it into that league.
(Other favorites I did not get to this week: Baraonda in Midtown, Shorty’s in Druid Hills and Pizza Fortunata in Smyrna.)
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