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March Pizza Madness: Experts name Varasano’s among nation’s best

Nucci pie at Varasano's

Nucci pie at Varasano's

The nation’s two top pizza mavens — Adam Kuban and Ed Levine of the Slice blog – traveled the country for “Every Day with Rachael Ray” magazine in search of America’s best pizzerias. The result, which hits newsstands next week, are now online.

Varasano’s Pizzeria — former software engineer Jeff Varasano’s labor of obsessive love — was named one of the top eight in the nation. The top prize was awarded to Phoenix’s storied Pizzeria Bianco.

Kuban and Levine organized their meals in 64 of the nation’s top pizzerias like the N.C.A.A. brackets, with four divisions. Representing Atlanta in the South-Southwest division were Antico Pizza Napoletana and Varasano’s. Other top scorers included Di Fara Pizza of Brooklyn, Pizzeria Mozza of Los Angeles, and Flour + Water in San Francisco.

Kuban and Levine are answering lots of questions over at Slice.

(Disclosure — I did accompany Levine on his pizza-eating swing through Atlanta and am still digesting.)

41 comments Add your comment

vincent coppola

February 16th, 2010
7:02 pm

Interesting, not one Italian among the “expert” judges.

Fishawk

February 16th, 2010
7:18 pm

Pizza wasn’t invented in Italy. It’s American.

Childhood obesity

February 16th, 2010
7:27 pm

Varasano’s isn’t even in the top 8 spots ITP. Please never rank anything in this city again. Varasano must have paid them to eat that garbage and give a thumbs up.

mike

February 16th, 2010
7:47 pm

As if someone born with vowel at the end of their name has superior pizza tasting skills. It’s the best pizza in America, not Italy. If some moron has an Anglo Saxon or Germanic, he’s not more qualified to judge hamburgers than me.

Saul Good

February 16th, 2010
8:18 pm

Since when is Rachel Ray’s magazine known for “good food”…. look at the CRAP she has her name on in the supermarkets. I’ve never had a REAL slice of Pizza in GA….or should I say ANYWHERE outside of NY. On the other hand… I’d dare say I ever had GOOD BBQ in NY as well. Just what it is….

itsmeagain

February 16th, 2010
9:29 pm

Fishawk; pizza originated in Naples, Italy… Do some research

anastasia beaverhausen

February 16th, 2010
11:18 pm

Come on, people – a local establishment gets national accolades and you whine and moan…throw the guy some props. I ate at Varasano’s for the first time on Saturday. I thoroughly enjoyed the wickedly thin,crisp crust and spots of “char” riddled across the edges. Ingredients were top notch and applied in a manner as to not cause any soggage. It’s definitely a top 3 in this area – along with Vingenzo’s in Woodstock and Antico near Ga Tech. I’m pleased to have a place like Varasano’s here in town. Then again, I have to remember, you guys are all the same people that proclaim Chin Chin the best Chinese food you’ve ever had!

Saul Good

February 17th, 2010
4:48 am

Yes, he sure figured out the “secret” to making pizza alright….cook it in a REALLY HOT oven! ;-)

sansho1

February 17th, 2010
8:11 am

Q: What local pizzeria owner was seen arguing with the Colonial Homes Apartments laundress over her refusal to wash his restaurant’s linens?

Glenn

February 17th, 2010
9:10 am

How unfortunate Antico had to go up against Pizzeria Bianco in round 2. If not for this inopportune draw, I have little doubt Antico would have ranked much higher. This round robin should have been double elimination!!

Steve

February 17th, 2010
9:51 am

Varasano’s is amazing. All you haters on here probably hadn’t even been to the restaurant. Every time I pick up a dime piece, the first place I’m taking her is Varasano’s. That place is a aphrodisiac for sure, you can take this cat’s word for it.

SP

February 17th, 2010
10:33 am

I would never rate Varasano’s above Antico. And I can’t stand Rachel Ray so no surprise that they choose my least favorite pizza place in Atlanta. Best pizza in Atlanta is absolutely Antico Napoletano. Steve, take your “dimes” there… unless your “dimes” come from the corner of Boulevard and Ponce.

vincent coppola

February 17th, 2010
10:59 am

Is this a joke? The “nation’s top “pizza mavens,” a Yiddish word by the way, dream up a clever marketing scheme to build buzz and make money and in the spirit of inclusiveness declare an Atlanta place run by a former software guy top pizza maker? I’m not saying a vowel at the end of one’s last name confers any special gift, but I will say there were brick-oven pizzarias in Brooklyn, 50 years ago. What was pizza like in Atlanta then, boiled collards on white bread? Antico is a great place, but go to Naples or Rome, you’ll find its equal on every other corner, without people fawning over it. Sure, putting any old crap on pizza–pineapples, chicken wings, sushi, doesn’t make it extraordinary, but laughable. Same eternal chip on Atlanta’s shoulders wanting to be good at everything.

Steve

February 17th, 2010
11:51 am

And now, without further delay….. The douchebag of the day award goes to……. vincent coppola. Congratulations vincent. Hopefully you’ll take your award and head on back to Italy.

Spring

February 17th, 2010
2:11 pm

If your going to voice a negative opinion about a restaurant or it’s food, you might want to comment on the ingredients, taste, atmosphere, ect. and not on the nationality of the judge, the previous employment of the owner, or the location of the restaurant. Your guess that Atlanta’s go-to food is boiled collards and white bread solidifies your ignorance of culture here in Atlanata and most certainly around the world.

mamiefone

February 17th, 2010
3:13 pm

I love both of the pizza spots on their bracket… One that I feel is missing is Gallas! Their pizza isn’t as fancy… but its delicious!

mamiefone

February 17th, 2010
3:13 pm

but the best pizza in atlanta is antico, hands down

GadgetGeek

February 17th, 2010
3:23 pm

Good going Jeff and crew. See you soon…

.

Miller

February 17th, 2010
3:58 pm

I have to say to Saul Good that you obviously never ate at Antico in ATL and I completely agree with Glenn that if Antico were up against any other Pizzeria (besides Pizzeria Bianco) their ranking would have been a lot higher. Let’s all remember too that Antico has only been open for 5 MONTHS!!! Way to go Antico. Your climb to top national recognition has just begun.

Siobhan Hudson

February 17th, 2010
4:15 pm

My husband and I have eaten pizza all over the country, quite literally, and in a couple of places outside of it as well – no, Italy wasn’t one of them. That said, we fell in love with Varasano’s at first bite. While we’ve heard good things about a couple of other places in Atlanta, we just can’t bring ourselves to bypass Varasano’s to check them out. We’ve tried most of what is on the menu and while we have our favorites (the Nucci pictured above is mine – mmm!), we’ve never been disappointed in anything we’ve ordered. Jeff is more than just a name on the door and it’s fun to chat with him, the staff takes great care of us, and the atmosphere is comfortable. It’s unfortunate that Atlantans feel such a need to tear others down, but I’ve kind of gotten used to that in the AJC comments, so on behalf of the rest of us Varasano’s, congratulations on well deserved recognition.

Good lord

February 17th, 2010
4:37 pm

Verasanos has good pizza. All of you are entitled to your own opinions – maybe you like pizza in Naples or NYC better. But your one negative opinion doesn’t mean that Verasano’s pizza isn’t good when general public perception and this award indicate otherwise. The negative opinion just means that it doesn’t fit your taste, not that the pizza is definitively bad.

Moreover, all of you saying how good pizza in Naples and NYC need to start paying attention – the nominees for the award are American (sorry Naples) and divided up by region. NYC can’t have all 8 nominees. Basically the nomination for this award mean these people believe Verasano’s has the best pizza in the southeast. Maybe that’s right, maybe not. There are definitely a lot of other great pizza joints around. But talking bad about Verasano’s only makes you look like a troll. Let them have their moment.

Puke

February 17th, 2010
4:40 pm

I’m not sure if Jeff Varasano is a-hole, a d-bag or a combination of both.

Saul Good

February 17th, 2010
6:45 pm

Yes, I’ve dined at Antico…. again, it’s “okay” but far from being world class (which AGAIN leads me to say that “top picks” and ratings from something and someone as mundane and middle of the road as Rachel Ray’s magazine are literally worthless when it comes to fine cuisine). What sets apart pizza in NY (as well as their bagels) compared to other regions is the WATER! You can use the same exact ingredients and even import an oven used from a NY pizzeria…. but you’ll never get that “taste” they have up there…because the WATER they use is far superior to the crap down here. NYC’s water supply comes from several reservoirs located in Upstate NY…and unlike the cesspool called Lake Lanier… they don’t discharge into their reservoirs… nor are there even homes (with septic tanks) located on any of their banks…they are ALL on private property owned by the city and there are acres and acres of undeveloped and pristine land that surround them all… the water quality here sucks…period. So unless they import their water from NYC…they’ll never match the taste.

Kelly

February 17th, 2010
7:09 pm

No way. Hearth Pizza Tavern in Sandy Springs has the best pizza hands down! They have a regular menu along with their special pizza menu pretty much every week. Crust is not too thin and not too thick, slight char on the bottom. Best kept secret in the ATL! It’s in the Whole Foods shopping center off of Roswell Rd, go check it out.

Bob from Accounttemps

February 18th, 2010
9:23 am

@anastacia beaverhouse – well said and agreed; congrats to Atlanta for making a national list and agree or disagree whether it’s the best in Atlanta, it’s hard to argue that it’s not one of the best.

@Kelly – I’m with you and while I wish them all the success they deserve, I’m just a little happy the secret isn’t entirely out yet so we can still get a table. Great beers and bar, too.

anastasia beaverhausen

February 18th, 2010
9:54 am

@Saul

If you are so unhappy with everything here – you’ll find the road that brought you here also leads in the other direction…the rest of us would be more than elated to help you pack your bags!

Keep Georgia beautiful – put a New Yawker on a bus!

Substance Over Style

February 18th, 2010
10:15 am

was at Antico last night

place was bumping in the back

feels like a true Italian pizzeria

varasanos’ has the atmosphere of hospital waiting room

vincent coppola

February 18th, 2010
11:40 am

@Steve. Thanks buddy, an award! I was starting to feel unloved. A douchebag, translation, Southern crockpot!

Vincenzo D'amico

February 18th, 2010
12:05 pm

I am from Napoli, Italy. Home of the pizza. My holy grail in to the US was to find a pizza that was just like home. In 20 yrs, have not found it. Been to both Verasano, and Antico Posta (btw there is no such word in the Italian dictionary Antico, and both do not even come close by 1 million miles as being authentic Neopolitan true pizza. Yet, they got certificates saying such and are advertized as such. Not even close. Yes, the pizza is good. But please do not sell it as Neopolitan. Its an insult to us.

Rachael Ray

February 18th, 2010
1:24 pm

I’m pretty sure I was wasted when this came out. To me, good pizza is a can of tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese served over a Pilsbury biscuit……With a BIG glas…Bottle of wine.

vincent coppola

February 18th, 2010
1:29 pm

Bravo Vincenzo. How do you go about describing buffalo mozzarella that is so fragile it must be eaten within a few hours of being made, san marzano tomatoes, olive oil green as grass, fresh herbs, ancient wood-burning ovens, but most of all the feeling of Italian pizzarias. It’s not snobby, expensive or upscale (with fake critics doing silly taste-offs)just fun and family-oriented. Kids crawling around. Grandparents. Goodlooking girls and handsome guys on motor scooters; liters of good wine for just a few dollars. It’s so great because it’s not a big deal. That’s what cannot be captured or turned into a brand.

Saul Good

February 18th, 2010
10:57 pm

Anastasia…sorry but I live in the USA…. stop whining about that war from long ago…sorry your family didn’t get to keep other humans as slaves…

If you read my posts above, I said that the BBQ up North does not compare to down here…but I’ve yet to eat a slice of pizza or a bagel down here that compares to what they have up there…and it’s because of THE WATER.

Bob from Accounttemps

February 19th, 2010
9:21 am

@Saul – I agree on the bagels, but believe it or not, try Bitchin’ Bagels off exit 12 of 400 – yes, it’s an odd place to have a bagel shop, but believe me – the best bagels I’ve yet had outside NYC (and I’ve been to Essa Bagel many, many times).

anastasia beaverhausen

February 19th, 2010
10:14 am

@Saul – I too am from the USA – “United” we stand – in other words we don’t lift ourselves up by putting others down – especially if we’re both representing the same faction.

Dishing Donna

February 19th, 2010
10:36 am

Get your HALF OFF dining cards for Varasano’s at: http://www.dishingwithdonnashow.com

Saul Good

February 19th, 2010
12:05 pm

@anastasia…. and I represent that the pizza in THIS part of the “United” states… is weak compared to other ‘United” states… why would ANYONE take such offense at that? Feel free to tell me that the fried chicken and Okra available in NYC is pale in comparison to what one can purchase down here and I’ll agree! If I wanted a “real” Philly Cheese Steak…I’m not going to find one that’s even close that what I can purchase in Philly or South Jersey…

laidback Sally

February 21st, 2010
8:22 pm

I must say I was very excited about trying Varasano’s pizza but was heavily disappointed as I sat down and read the menu to which I was very confused about just ordering a simple cheese pizza. I feel like I was punked and that my real pizza never came out becuz someone decided to play a cruel joke on me and my family, especailly on a day in which we were VERY hungery. The pizza was thin, brittle and the sauce tasted and looked as if it had been watered down. The meal was over priced and I would have done better just eating cheese and crackers at home. But you live and you learn. The service was good and and all the wait staff was cacausian and look like Malibu barbie but that is neither here nor there. I think I will stick with fellini’s Pizza.

BentonArsenic

February 22nd, 2010
6:38 pm

Looks like these two Rachel Ray bloggers believed the hype! Varasano’s got a doctoral dissertation on his website about good crust, but that doesn’t mean he makes good pizza. Best pizza in Atlanta? That’s easy: Pizzeria Vesuvius on Edgewood. Next up: Blue Moon (two locations OTP). And coming in at a respectable Number Three: Savage Pizza in L5P.

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