Baraonda Ristorante & Bar
710 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta, GA 30308 (map); 404-879-9962; www.baraondaatlanta.com
Pizza type: Neapolitan
Oven type: Wood-fired
The Skinny: Excellent pies that are often—and wrongly—overlooked when talking about the city's pizza scene
Price: Margherita, $8 ($9 at dinner); Fra Diavolo, $9 ($12 at dinner)
Baraonda Ristorante & Bar enjoys a primo location on a busy intersection smack in the heart of Midtown, less than 500 feet from Atlanta's historic Fox Theatre. As you might expect, whenever some big-time Broadway-caliber production rolls through town, the place is packed with pre-curtain and post-show theatergoers getting their Italian on. But a visit to Baraonda shouldn't be an only-when-we-have-tickets-to-Les-Miz kind of occasion, because they're doing some mighty fine pies that are more than worthy of an encore performance.
Inside, you have three distinct dining areas, each with its own unique feel. The wine room is a fine dining experience, the covered streetside patio is a springtime afternoon well spent, and the bar is a fantastic spot for a quick weekday lunch where you can get an eyeful of the attractive pizzas coming out of the wood-fired oven.
The Fra Diavolo pictured at the top of this post was cooked in 90 seconds flat. The quarter-sized slices of "spicy salami" that topped it showed some sexy charring and curling from the heat of the oven, but truthfully didn't bring a lot of heat of their own. If you're staying away from the Fra Diavolo because you're fearing a flamethrower of a pie, rest assured that you can all but ignore the word spicy in that description; this was for all intents and purposes, a pepperoni pizza. A damn good pepperoni pizza, but maybe not quite the fancypants affair that spicy salami might suggest to some. Mozzarella is proportioned nicely at Baraonda, letting their mild and slightly sweet sauce shine through. The yeasty-tasting crust was thin and pliable—but not at all soggy in the center. The rim showed some large puffed-up pockets of air and a few choice blackened spots. The underside was freckled beautifully, giving it a charcoal-tinged flavor profile that I happen to love.
My wife got the Margherita, which I found to be superior to my Diavolo. The basil, which appeared at first glance to have been applied a bit too stingily, actually worked its magic on the entire pie, giving every bite that superb sweetness. I'm usually a toppings kind of guy who often errs on the side of overload, but Baraonda's Margherita reminded me that sometimes, less is way more.
Baraonda's lunch menu features four other pie varieties along with a build-your-own option using twenty ingredients. The dinner menu ups that toppings list to 27 and the pizza count to twelve; of particular interest to me is the Americana (veal meatballs, marinara, mozz, and Parm) that I saw go to a nearby table and the Gamberi (sauteed shrimp, pesto, mushrooms, and tomatoes) that's available only at night. Both looked spectacular. I won't wait until Jersey Boys comes to town to find out.
About the Author: Todd Brock lives the glamorous life of a stay-at-home freelance writer in the suburbs of Atlanta. Besides being paid to eat cheeseburgers for AHT and pizzas for Slice, he's written and produced over 1,000 hours of television and penned Building Chicken Coops for Dummies. When he grows up, he wants to be either the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys or the drummer for Hootie & the Blowfish. Or both.