102 West Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta, GA 30305 (Map); 404-704-5850; www.stgtrattoria.com
Pizza type: Neapolitan
Oven type: Wood-fired Acunto
The Skinny: One of the city's newest pizza players has raised the bar with lots to love, including dynamite dough
Price: Pomodorini, $18; Sopressata, $21
Atlanta is particularly pizza-mad these days, and the city's passion for upscale pies shows no sign of slowing down. Just when you think we've finally crowned our high-end pizza king, another place opens up with equally-impeccable credentials. And we go, watch our pies get shoved in and pulled out of fire-breathing behemoths like it's pyromaniac dinner theatre, and wonder if there's room in our little black pizza books for one more name. Well, I'll make it easy and give you just a set of initials. STG Trattoria may be the new kid on the block when it comes to fancypants pies, but they've already established themselves in my book as being among the very best.
Owner Brian Lewis opened STG (the first letters of his sons' names) in early April, and did so with a bit of a bang. After turning the Westside district into a dining destination with Bocado, he set his sights on Italian fare in Buckhead, bringing with him an all-star lineup of the city's culinary elite: the former executive chef from Abattoir, the former chef de cuisine from Sotto Sotto, the pastamaking genius from La Pietra Cucina, his own mixologist from Bocado... you get the point. The kitchen has been stocked from Day One.
But when you throw open the door to STG, you find yourself... in a wine cellar. You have to run this gauntlet just to reach the hostess stand; it can feel overwhelming if you just came for a quick meal. It's a bit of not-so-subtle encouragement to loosen up, uncork a few, and stay a while. STG prides itself on a wine list of 100+ labels, with almost every one being an Italian variety sold at "just above" retail.
The drinks menu is so exhaustive that it's on an iPad. Whether that's uber-cool or pompously tired and douchy may depend on your particular take, but the technology required just to order a drink also makes it easy to lose sight of the fact that STG is home to the only amaro bar in Atlanta. Artichoke-accented liqueur may not be my cup of bitters, but it drives home how seriously Lewis and his staff take your beverages.
The twin Acunto ovens, easily seen from the U-shaped communal bar with seating on both sides (and a metal shelf holding pies at eye level), demonstrate clearly that STG isn't playing around when it comes to pizza, either. The Pomodorini (little tomatoes) above is a prime example. A slight twist on the classic Margherita, mine featured over two dozen cherry tomatoes, with the skins beautifully blistered and popping off after a 110-second ride in the red oak-fueled oven. Rounded out with slivers of garlic, house-made mozzarella, oregano, and a few basil leaves, the pie was fresh and light... but the dough was what really jumped out.
The ultra-thin crust was soggy and floppy (those are not necessarily bad things, just fitting adjectives), with a puffy rim that showed nice bubbling throughout. But that dough... whoa, baby. Chewy and faintly tangy, it was like warm sourdough that practically melted in my mouth. Lewis himself stopped by the table to chat (my big honking DSLR with the obnoxious flash may have blown my cover), and the conversation quickly turned to his dough.
It's made daily with fresh yeast (which can be a tad tricky here in the Deep South with its often-oppressive humidity) and then worked together with a bad-ass mixer the size of a large filing cabinet, a piece of European wizardry (STG has the only one in town; told ya the kitchen was stocked) that superaerates the dough to its remarkable texture. The dough is even aged for 30 hours—as Lewis reminded me, it's a living product, like wine—for a depth of flavor that's unique to any pizza that I can recall.
As much as I enjoyed my first pie, I was blown away by my second. This one (STG's pizzas aren't named, per se) is topped with sopressata, cappicola, prosciutto, tomato, basil, mozz, and Calabrian chiles. His favorite pie right now, Brian described their take on a pepperoni pizza: It's perfect; the right amount of heat and savory, and the basil rounds it out nicely. I couldn't agree more. This was one of those pizzas where an involuntary "Wow!" shot out of my mouth upon the first bite.
Some of the city's food fanatics may be ready for the Neapolitan pizza love affair to be over. But with a player like STG Trattoria now on the scene, I'm ready for seconds.
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.