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Atlanta: Find Your Inner Pizza at Your Pie
625 West Crossville Road, Roswell, GA, 30075 (map); 770-993-7944; yourpie.com
Pizza type: Neapolitan-inspired... except for that whole "ingredients applied sparingly" thing
Oven type: Gas-fired "brick-facade" oven
The Skinny: Fun family-friendly chain with a "Subway" approach to pizza
Price: 10-inch pizza, $6.50 base (some toppings +$1)
When you're a semi-professional eater, you're constantly asked for the lowdown on pretty much any restaurant that comes up in conversation. Often, what people really want is a one-line "elevator pitch" encapsulation of the place in question. Call it a byproduct of our headline-ticker, bullet-point, status-update society, but it seems that fewer words is better for many folks, and hitting the highlights in under 140 characters is often the ultimate goal. So when I find myself describing Your Pie to someone who's never been, I usually end up whipping out the same lazy analogy. "It's like Subway, but with pizza."
While that's admittedly an oversimplification—and one that would probably irritate both entities—it's one that helps most people instantly "get it." I "got it" on my very first visit. And while they're not exactly re-inventing the wheel, Your Pie has become a go-to option for me when I'm looking for something that's several notches above strip mall pizza... but less involved than a fancypants "destination" pie.
And I'm not the only one. The concept is catching on, as the franchise has grown from the original location in Athens, GA to 14 stores in four states since 2008. According to the company website, founder Drew French was honeymooning on the Italian island of Ischia (off the coast near Naples) when he fell in love with brick oven pizzamaking. Now a gas-powered brick-fronted oven flames away at each Your Pie location, helping the staff crank out consistent pizzas over and over again. I eyeballed the oven at my local shop for over an hour during a recent visit, and never saw the oven waver from its 520 target temp by more than a single degree.
But it's not the oven that makes Your Pie unique, it's that Subway analogy I used earlier. While the oven may be the sexy focal point of many a pizzeria, you'll spend far more time here hovering over the sneeze guard that enshrouds the toppings bar. You start at one end by requesting your crust type, choosing from Classic White, Whole Wheat, or Gluten-Free. A ball of dough appears instantly, getting tossed and worked by hand into a 10-inch round on the marble slab in front of you. Next, select your sauce. You've got eight to mull over—everything from Traditional Marinara to Basil Pesto to Hot to Spicy Thai. At this point, your sauced round is passed down the line to the next pizza artist (my terminology, not theirs) who's ready to help you start customizing with nine cheeses and 35 toppings.
Just like Subway, you call out what you want, and it happens. Request a little more of this, just a touch of that, and create your own masterpiece. When you really stop to deconstruct it, the build-your-own principle is exactly like any other pizzeria's: there's a list of toppings, and you tell the staff which ones you want. But although I can't really explain why, there's something very different about watching it happen in real time—at your command and under your watchful eye. Inevitably, I find myself going outside my comfort zone every time I'm at Your Pie and asking for toppings I'd never try with some mystery voice on the other end of the carryout phone. A plain cheese or standard sausage-mushroom-pepperoni has simply never occurred to me at Your Pie. On this visit, I opted for a roasted garlic olive oil sauce and topped it with gorgonzola, (sliced) meatballs, red onions, garlic, basil, sweet corn, pecans, and dried cranberries.
About 5 minutes later, it made its way to my table. My Classic White crust was thin and cracker-crisp all the way to the rim, with some spotting but no real char underneath. The difference in color between it and my wife's Whole Wheat crust was noticeable. Hers had more chew to it and, truth be told, tasted even better. The toppings were fresh and flavorful enough, even if no one ingredient jumped out as a true superstar. But then again, it's really about the custom (sometimes crazy) combinations at Your Pie, your personalized pizza as a whole.
With a full beer and wine menu and a dozen gelato flavors to choose from afterward, it's a place that encourages you to have a good time. I always do with the pizzas; I've never had the same one twice. Get creative, be adventurous, experiment to your stomach's content. If it rocks, pat yourself on the back. If it's less than stellar, you've got no one to blame but yourself. It is Your Pie, after all.
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.