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[Photographs: Todd Brock]

Double Zero Napoletana

5825 Roswell Road, Atlanta, GA 30328 (Map); 404-991-3666; www.doublezeroatl.com
Pizza type: Neapolitan
Oven type: Wood-burning
The Skinny: More upscale Italian restaurant than pizzeria, Double Zero does a fine pie... if you order the right one
Price: Double Zero Napoletana, $14; Other pies, $11 to $21

With a name like that in lights and out front on one of Atlanta's busiest roads, it's clear where Double Zero Napoletana puts their focus. Or at least where they want you to think they put their focus. Conversations about The A's pizza scene seldom mention Double Zero in the same breath as Varasano's or Antico or Fritti or even newcomers like Buckhead's Fuoco di Napoli or Decatur's Sapori di Napoli. I think I may have seen why.

On a recent visit, I found a very upscale restaurant that just happens to have eight pies on the menu... with a seemingly-confusing, sometimes-maddening sense of pomp and snootiness thrown in. I'd certainly go back for a nice evening of high-end Southern Italian cuisine with the missus on date night, but I'd stop short of calling Double Zero one of the best pizza places in the city.

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First impressions count for a lot in any dining experience, and there was a blitzkrieg of them for me at Double Zero. First, valet parking. Okay, not your average pizzeria. Then the super-dark interior, so ritzy that one immediately feels uncomfortably underdressed. Next, the stiff suit-and-tie maitre d' walked my party past the twin fire-breathing ovens decked out in black tile, but only after making a big show of calling me "Mister Brock" and admonishing a foodrunner for passing apparently too close or too quickly in front of us. This was starting to feel less like a pizza place and more like a fancypants eatery where you might find a $450 bottle of wine on the menu. (Yep, there it is.)

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Double Zero makes a big production about not just what's in their pies (the namesake flour, DOP San Marzano tomatoes, Fior-di-Latte or mozzarella di Bufala) but also how they serve the pies. They go all bold type on the menu to inform you of some of the hard and fast rules of Neapolitan pizza. They will NOT serve your pizza cut into slices or as a to-go item. Nor can you just build your own pie with whatever toppings trip your trigger. You may eliminate a topping from the pie of your choice, but you may not substitute. (You can, however, add a farm egg, anchovy, chiles, prosciutto, or arugula to any pie for an upcharge.) I went with the flagship Double Zero Napoletana, a sauceless pie with olive oil, garlic, bufala mozz, prosciutto, pecorino, basil oil, and a whole lotta arugula. After using the supplied scissors to cut into my pie, I was rewarded with a sexy view of the inner workings of the crust's rim.

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As expected, each slice was wet enough at the point to be a two-handed affair. The cornicione was spongy and slightly doughy, if perhaps otherwise unremarkable flavor-wise. The underside showed gorgeous black char spots, but the darkly-lit dining room left me with no good pics of it. While my pie was technically very sound in its construction, made with clearly top-notch ingredients, and cooked by a skilled hand, the Double Zero tasted to me like a salad atop a pizza crust. The thin prosciutto helped, but was almost certainly added post-firing along with the arugula, and, combined with a simple oil dressing and some grated cheese, only added to the salad vibe. Yes, it's a classic combo, but for $17, I personally wanted something with more pop. Also at my table was "The American"—a tomato-based creation crowned with sausage, mushrooms, red peppers, and a mozz/provolone blend—that was much more to my liking. Looking back over the menu now, I'd order any other pie (the Affettati with its spicy soppressata, the Maiale with its bacon and goat cheese, and certainly the Margherita all look like winners) over the eponymously named pie.

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But the menu also veers away from pizzas with plenty of pasta dishes, a long rundown of small plates, and a handful of other entrees, not all of which feel exactly at home on this menu or in this setting. (I'm sure the Scottish salmon is divine, but seems a tad incongruous.) Apart from the tasty arancini above, I can only speak for the pizzas; I'd happily stray from a pie on my next visit. Maybe the key to Double Zero Napoletana is to not pay too much attention to that name out front. When I think of it as a gourmet Southern Italian special-occasion kind of destination, I do find myself wanting to go back. When I try to think about it as a serious pizza place, though, I get a little distracted by rules about toppings and maitre d's and Scottish salmon and $17 piles of arugula.

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.

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