484 Moreland Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30307 (Map); 404-523-0500; savagepizza.com
Pizza type: New York-style
Oven type: Gas
The Skinny: Solid pies with some unique twists in a nerdtastic comic book superhero setting
Price: Pizza Buttafuoco, $19; White on Red, $19 (both large)
When I moved to Atlanta in the early 90s, "gourmet pizza " didn't really exist yet... and "Neapolitan" meant tri-colored ice cream. Sure, there were mom-and-pop delivery joints anchoring every strip mall in town, but if you wanted to meet some friends for a night of pitchers and non-mega-chain pies, you had seemingly few options: Mellow Mushroom (when it was still a very locals-only secret), Fellini's, Rocky's Brick Oven (remember that place???), Everybody's... or Savage Pizza.
Tucked smack in the city's Mohawks-and-Doc-Martens punk rock neighborhood of Little Five Points—where it shares a parking lot with the famous Vortex Bar & Grill and the infamous Junkman's Daughter—it's easy to forget about Savage Pizza. (There's a newer location in nearby Avondale Estates, too.) But like the comic book superheroes that adorn every square foot of the place, Savage has stayed true to its mission and is still fighting the good fight after all these years.
For serious comic book geeks, Savage Pizza is like a museum, with vintage covers wrapping the front counter, huge murals painted on the primary-hued walls, and action figures everywhere. (During the city's annual Dragon*Con fantasy/sci-fi gathering, it's not unusual to see a Justice League of costumed caped crusaders at the next table.)
But there's plenty for pizza nerds, too. Savage Pizza prides itself on a collection of six house-made sauces, from the Red Tomato Sauce with visible chunks of onion to the all-day-cooked Garlic White Sauce to the Spicy Red Pepper Sauce with its Cajun kick. Use these sauces and a roster of 45 toppings to assemble your own superpowered pie... or go with one of the tried and true favorites already on the menu.
The Pizza Buttafuoco may be burdened with a hopelessly-dated moniker, but remains one of Savage's heaviest hitters in terms of popularity. This meat-lover's special is loaded with thin pepperoni and Canadian bacon—both nicely crisped on the edges and curled into cups—along with finely-crumbled Italian sausage and seasoned ground beef, all glued together with mozzarella and a pre-bake dusting of Parmesan.
Savage bakes each hand-tossed pie on a pizza screen in a Garland gas oven. I ended up with a lot more spotting underneath than I had expected, and a thin NY-style crust whose outermost shell was crackly and crisp... but gave way immediately to a soft, chewy interior. A very nice bake job, even if the bubble structure in the rim wasn't what we've programmed ourselves to hope for these days.
The Red Tomato Sauce (the one with the onions in it) offered a nice bite and the toppings were plentiful and meaty. For us unapologetic carnivores, Savage Pizza's Buttafuoco doesn't reinvent the wheel, but is significantly better than its punchline name might suggest.
The White on Red is another fan favorite, putting a subtle twist on the traditional white pie. Thyme-seasoned ricotta, Monterey Jack, chevre, Parmesan, and mozzarella draped over the kitchen's Garlic Tomato Sauce more or less equals a fancified cheese pizza, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Other standouts include the No-Brainer (basically a Supreme), the Mexican (Salsa Fresca sauce, refried beans, green chiles, and Jack), and the Cajun (roasted chicken, shrimp, andouille, red onion, green peppers, Gruyere, mozz, and Parm) for those looking to dig deeper into Savage's flavor lineup. 'Cos while Batman or Spider-Man will always get the job done... every once in a while, you need a little Silver Surfer, too.
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.