591 Edgewood Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30312 (Map); 404-314-7300; ammazza.com
Pizza type: Neapolitan-style
Oven type: Wood
The Skinny: Everything about this hip and hot newcomer glitters, and most of it is top-notch... save for a few nitpicks
Price: Margherita, $19; Bolognese, $22; Glitter Pizza, $6; Carnosa Pizza Fritta, $16
As the build-up to the hotly-anticipated opening of Ammazza reached its crescendo in late September, this was the thing that seemed to make for the most buzzworthy tease.
Yes, the city's pizza faithful were eager about a new pie palace in Atlanta's hot-and-happening Old Fourth Ward, and rightfully psyched that it would come from two brothers with ties to Antico. There was talk of the funky/weird/cool warehouse space and the asymmetrical layout that would have customers order up front in an all-but-empty lobby, and then walk down a loooooong hallway, and then turn to hit the dining room with its communal tables built from reclaimed wood. But it almost always came back to wondering with bated breath, "What is glitter pizza???" The answer, I discovered, sort of sums up Ammazza in a nutshell for me.
The twin wood-fired ovens are behind glass at one end of the dining room. While the impression at times is that of an exhibit at the zoo, it seemed to me to actually encourage gawkers (in a good way) more than a true open kitchen concept. Without that window pane, it's easy to feel like you're intruding on the pizzaioli at work and more than a little in the way of the foodrunners. But the glass makes it clear that what's happening on the other side is a show that's meant to be watched and observed, from the hand-stretching of the dough to the saucing (there are two sauceless varieties) to the baking, which seemed to hover around the three-minute mark for the pies I watched.
Ammazza means "amazement," a lofty adjective for food to live up to. The Margherita ($19) did have some surprises, though not all of them hit that mark. On the plus side, the crust is stellar. The rim had a nice bubble structure, and the underside sported lovely char (no decent pics, sorry), even if the topside ring looked somewhat monochromatic. The daily-made dough starts with San Felice 00 flour and boasts sour notes within its chewy makeup. I also loved the chunky sauce, as well as the gooey housemade mozzarella.
I deducted points for the basil: not nearly enough of it for my tastes, and what was here was burnt and shriveled. And while I enjoyed the flavor of Ammazza's crust, all of the pies I tried were so liquefied in the center that it was impossible to pick up a slice one-handed.
The Bolognese ($22) features Italian sausage (the kitchen brings in meat from The Spotted Trotter) and housemade meatballs, along with mozz, basil, and ricotta. It's a 16-incher, like all of Ammazza's grown-up pies, though this one was more oblong in shape.
The meats are spectacular, with nice spice all around. The meatballs in particular are worth seeking out, with a dense, meaty chew that helped make this my favorite pie of the evening. But then there's this:
That's a Pizza Fritta, which the menu describes as, "The real street food of Naples." There are two to choose from; the Carnosa ($16) has the same Italian sausage and meatballs, plus pepperoni folded up in the kitchen's dough and fried to a lovely golden brown. It's topped with that chunky tomato sauce, and despite some minor leakage issues on the tray, exploded with flavor in the mouth (once you figure out how to attack it) with a crisp outer shell and chewy, gooey goodness inside.
Fried pizza hasn't permeated many of the pizza menus in Atlanta (actually, I can't think of anyone else in town doing it, although someone must be...), and the sensation of a stuffed state-fair elephant ear may turn off some, but I found it to be a nice change of pace and something I would definitely order again.
But what about that ballyhooed glitter pizza? The owners' pedigree, the big-time bar, the high-hip factor of the food, and the high-end prices of everything left many to assume that glitter pizza would be some super-cheffy revelation that would turn the Atlanta pizza scene on its cornicione. Turns out, Glitter Pizza ($6) is just the kids' pizza.
Does it succeed in getting the young, hip family crowd in? You bet. Ammazza is totally child-friendly (ask for a mini Etch-a-Sketch at the counter), but with a serious pizza-snob menu that makes Mom and Dad happy, too. But the initial oohs and aahs at multi-colored flecks sprinkled over a 12-inch pie won't disguise the fact that this is, simply, a cheese pizza with edible sparkles. Here's the one-liner from my nine-year-old: "I mean, it looks cool and all, but the glitter doesn't taste like anything."
There's a little bit of that style-over-substance thing all over at Ammazza. Did I like it? Absolutely. Was I amazed? Hmm. It's still new, and there's a trendy you-gotta-go-because-it's-new-and-quirky vibe to it. (A DJ! Circular sugar-cane pizza boxes that elevate takeout pies off the bottom! You have to go get your own plates and silverware, only no one will tell you that!) And while there was an awful lot that I also found to be cool and all, much like my daughter and that glitter, I wanted all the details to live up to the hype. (Slices I can pick up! More tableside attention! A Margherita pie—with basil I can taste—that's not $19!) But as the hype and the newness taper off, the kinks will be worked out, the expectations will be more realistic, and I believe Ammazza will find itself on the shortlist of the city's top pizza joints.
...And maybe even find a way to make glitter pizza taste like something.
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.