Atlanta: Best Pies on the Square at Marietta Pizza Co.
Marietta Pizza Company
3 Whitlock Avenue, Marietta, GA 30064 (Map); 770-419-0900; www.mariettapizza.com
Pizza type: New York style
Oven type: Gas
The Skinny: Popular neighborhood joint does good basic pies, with the Sicilian being better than most
Price: SMP, $19.05; Sicilian Hawaiian, $21.50
Where I live on metro Atlanta's northwest side, life seems to revolve—as it does in so many charming little burghs—around the city square. The Marietta Square has been the emotional heart of this town since the land was made a city park in the late 1840s. Now it's home to a weekly farmers' market, arts and crafts fairs, an annual 4th of July blowout, horse-drawn carriage rides, ghost tours, historic buildings, and is one of the most photographed spots in the area.
The Square features an eclectic mix of restaurants, shops, and businesses within walking distance, and I've always thought that the tenants of these primo patches of real estate must need to make an absolute killing to afford the rent. If my recent visit to the Square's resident pizza joint is any indication, I'd say the landlord has nothing to worry about. And the pies happen to be pretty darn good, too.
That's Marietta Pizza Company in the background of that photo, the black storefront at the far end of the sidewalk, on the southwest corner of the Marietta Square. And there are plenty of times when this is about as close as you can get without risking life and limb. MPC is bonkers on weekends, when it becomes the place in town for families with kids. Scoring a streetside table and dining al fresco during any non-winter month requires serious planning and forethought. And if you want to grab a slice here while watching the Independence Day fireworks, you'd better sign up now.
Even on a nondescript Monday, seating is at a premium. At 11:40, I had my choice of tables. By 12 noon, it was standing room only. (MPC has even taken over the space on the other side of its kitchen as an overflow dining room, which was also maxed out on this lunch hour.)
Marietta Pizza Co is, at its heart, just a basic pizza parlor. There is no singular standout pie that brings them in in droves. Sure, there's a handful of specialty creations to choose from, but mainly, it's a matter of picking your toppings from a list of 19 usual suspects, and enjoying the friendly vibe, bright paint scheme, and local artists' works for sale on the walls while you wait.
That's the Sausage-Mushroom-Pepperoni that my kids requested on a large 16-inch crust. The dough is made fresh in-house, as is the red sauce, which has a noticeably tangy kick to it. Very basic 'roni and 'shrooms, but our server pointed out that the sausage is on the spicy side. He was right. It's not so hot that my kids were turned off, but the large shavings brought a welcome punch.
The crust was unspectacular, nonoffensive. The underside had no real char to speak of after its ride in the commercial gas ovens, and a less-than-impressive bubble structure. I found the pie to be on the greasy side—a complaint I've heard before about MPC—but ultimately, I really enjoyed it despite these flaws. It's solid, unpretentious, neighborhood pizza... and if it didn't require circling the block looking for a parking spot, I'd be fine with it being my go-to Friday-night pie.
The real surprise came when I went Sicilian. It's a pizza variety that seems to be fading in popularity, and that's a shame. It's a nice change of pace, especially when you find a topping combo that really works on the thicker crust. The Hawaiian did that for me. I'm not sure how the ham, pineapple, and gobs of "xtra" cheese would hold up on MPC's standard dough, but the dense, chewy slab that's the base of this 16-inch square is the perfect foil to the Hawaiian's salty/gooey sweetness. This is a hearty pizza, to be sure; just two triangular slices effectively killed my dinner plans for six hours later. So I love that MPC also sells by the slice, even Sicilian-style. (But there's nothing wrong with beaucoup leftovers. Just sayin'.)
Marietta Pizza Company isn't reinventing the wheel here. But they don't have to. They're the only pizza place on the famed and historic Marietta Square, and that alone keeps them rolling in business. The fact that they also happen to dish out a good pie is a lovely bonus. And the fact that their square Sicilian is just noteworthy enough to warrant a special trip to the Square means I'll be back for sure.
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.