Slice

Woodstock, GA: California-Style Toppings Shine at FireStone

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[Photographs: Todd Brock]

FireStone Wood Fired Pizza & Grill

120 Chambers Street, Woodstock, GA 30188 (Map); 770-926-6778; Firestonerestaurants.com
Pizza type: California-style
Oven type: Wood-fueled Mugnainis
The Skinny: Fun and family-friendly place in the burbs excels with exotically-topped thin crust pies
Price: Classic Margherita, $12; Mayan, $16; Key Largo, $16.50

Who knew Woodstock, Georgia was a legit pizza destination town? The tiny hamlet is on the extreme edge of what can just barely be called the metro Atlanta area: a full thirty miles from Centennial Olympic Park and admittedly way off the beaten path for most Atlanta pizza fanatics. True, this northwestern 'burb is on serious Slice'rs' radar screens thanks to the world-class pies at Vingenzo's. But about 1,000 feet away, FireStone Wood Fired Pizza & Grill is doing the California-style pie thing with similarly stellar results.

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FireStone is pretty damn proud of its ovens. The twin Mugnainis are featured prominently, both on their website and in the restaurant's layout, with an adjacent bar offering customers a front-row seat for the fiery pizzamaking action. The kitchen staff uses locally-sourced oak to keep the internal temp around 500°F, although I was told that when the place is jumping on the weekends, it might be more like 800 to 900, in order to keep the cooking times down and the pies flying out.

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But there's no point owning a mint-condition Ferrari if you don't know how to drive it. And a pair of gorgeous Tuscan pizza ovens don't mean much if the pies that come out of them aren't spectacular. Well, FireStone's are. A quick perusal of the menu shows an interesting mix of not only traditional faves, but also the exotically-topped offerings that have come to typify California-style pizza.

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We started with the Classic Margherita ($12). It's exactly what you'd expect, with a sauce that sports just a hint of peppery kick. Basil, sourced from a local farm, provides nice contrast to the sparingly applied puddles of mozz. There was nothing at all wrong with the Margherita, but if this were the only pizza by which you judged FireStone, you'd be missing out.

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For me, and others I've talked to, FireStone shines brightest when you stray from the norm. The Mayan ($16) is the first pie listed on the menu, and perhaps for good reason. Created by one of the cooks, it's become one of the more popular pizzas on offer. On top of a savory white base is steak, pico de gallo, cilantro, jalapeƱo, avocado, and lime. Not a single one of those things is one of my go-to toppings; nonetheless, this was our table's favorite pie of the night. Bright and tangy with a superb potpourri of textures and flavors, it's one I'll unquestionably order again.

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Having the goodies concentrated in the center of the pie may look strange at first—like the cooks just forgot to fan out as they assembled yours—but it allows you to really enjoy the phenomenal crust that FireStone cranks out. The dough proofs for 72 hours before being portioned out for daily use, finally tossed once your order hits the kitchen.

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Out of the oven, it's super thin, with little, if any, puffing. You're likely to find some faint spotting underneath, but the pies I had (and saw at other tables) stopped short of anything I would classify as true "char." It's a subtle crust that might seem to be there just to show off the toppings. But it is, in fact, wonderfully tasty on its own: not overly crisp like a cracker crust, but with a pleasant chew. The result is a very light pie, one you could put down all by yourself and not feel like you have to waddle out afterward in shame.

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FireStone's sizing of their 10-inch pies certainly encourage you and your tablemates to explore a bit, getting a slew of pizzas for the group and sharing. We rounded out our order with the Key Largo ($16.50) and were very happy we did: chicken, housemade bacon, onion, green pepper, sweet pepper, pineapple, lime, cilantro, and, surprisingly, coconut come together to put a beachside cookout on a pizza crust. (Truthfully, though, the coconut got completely lost. It's only when I went back and looked at the menu again that I realized it was there to begin with.)

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The more unusually-topped pizzas certainly made more of an impression. There are others to be found here, too. Crispy Shrimp, a fig-and-country-ham pie, smoked salmon...even a customer creation called The Matty (spinach, chicken, artichoke, mushroom) that's now a staple of the official menu. Of course, you can always build your own pie with the kitchen's 28 topping choices, or go totally traditional with options like the Four Cheeses, Pepperoni, Mushroom, and Housemade Italian Sausage.

Personally, though, I'd save the by-the-book pies for another place (like that killer Italian joint a block over, perhaps) and let FireStone blow you away with more unique offerings that you can't get anywhere else. Oh, and you can enjoy those pies while soaking up some live music under the olive tree in their open-air courtyard patio. Woodstock pizza crawl, anyone?*

* The Woodstock location is actually Store #2. FireStone originated and still does exceptional business in Dothan, Alabama. Which may be another whodathunkit pizza mecca, for all I know.

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 The Gaslight Anthem. Or both.

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