Stepping into the small pizzeria in a nondescript strip mall for the first time, I do a double take. I turn and peek back out the front door to make sure that I’m still in Gwinnett County, and hadn’t teleported into Little Five Points.
Situated near I-85 and Indian Trail Road in Norcross, Manhattan NY Pizza bursts with more personality than its unassuming storefront suggests.
The walls, reminiscent of an unfinished basement except for a mural of the Manhattan skyline, are covered in customer graffiti, sports memorabilia, street signs, posters, and Polaroids of smiling regulars. A disco ball hangs from the ceiling above a miniature living room, complete with a plaid couch and coffee table, and a pair of “Guitar Hero” controllers sit in front of a large flat-screen TV, waiting for the next pretend rock star to take the stage. They even have an old-school Atari system on hand, in case a game of “Pong” or “Space Invaders” is in order.
Owner Kyle Boyce — aka “The Pie Guy” — has one mission at Manhattan NY Pizza: Take back the pie!
What does that mean? In a world where a pizza is merely a phone call and 30 minutes away, he seeks to bring the quality back to pizza making. You can see the pride in Boyce’s face when he describes how he slices every ingredient by hand, to order. In fact, because of this individualized care, you should always budget for about 20 minutes of prep time for your order. Calling ahead is a great option if you are tight on time.
Pizzas are available by the slice, 8-inch personal pan, and 12, 14 and 16-inch sizes. In keeping with their Manhattan namesake, Boyce makes all of the pies with hand-tossed dough, yielding a slightly crunchy yet chewy crust. However, the similarity to classic New York-style pizza stops there.
The list of specialty pies is anything but traditional, and in many cases, anything but reminiscent of New York. One of Boyce’s more unique offerings, the eye-popping tandoori chicken pizza ($4/slice), explodes on the plate and on the palate. Topped with fiery red hunks of tandoori masala chicken, green peppers and onions, this pie crackles with Indian spice and packs a lot of flavor.
Imagine this scene for a moment: After a long night at the bars, a pizzaiolo stumbles into the kitchen to whip up a pie, despite not having all of his wits about him. What do you get? That would be the Take Me Drunk I’m Home pizza ($8/8-inch). Too much dough (read: thicker crust) and an over-the-top helping of toppings tossed on before the sauce or cheese makes this reverse pie a hearty indulgence. Continuing the partying motif, the Chili Cheese Fry Pie ($14/12-inch) sports an artery-clogging mound of french fries, bacon, ground beef and cheddar cheese.
Those in a Mediterranean state of mind should look to the Pizza of the Gods ($16/14-inch), which brings together an intriguing mix of gyro meat, feta cheese, onions, Kalamata olives, spinach and a side of tzatziki sauce. Or try the aptly named Vampire Repellent ($4/slice), a garlicky tour de force consisting of roasted chicken breast bathed in garlic butter, tomatoes, green peppers, onions and some extra fresh garlic for kicks.
While pizza dominates the menu, Manhattan NY Pizza carries some solid options on the “Not Pies” section of the menu as well. The gyro wrap ($7) is among the best that one can find in the Atlanta area. Though messy and sometimes unwieldy, the fresh pita bread and flavorful meat leave you with a tzatziki-smeared smile on your face. Fans of chicken wings ($7 for 10 wings) won’t be disappointed either. The crunchy garlic Parmesan Vampire Repellent wings need no dipping sauce, but a breath mint might not be a bad idea afterward.
Unfortunately, no alcohol graces the menu due to the restaurant’s proximity to a school. Instead, Manhattan NY Pizza offers an impressive collection of root beers, providing the base for my favorite dessert, the root beer floats ($3.50).
In a landscape riddled with chain pizza joints, Manhattan NY Pizza is an oasis for the true pie lover, and the walls still have room for a few more regulars.MANHATTAN NY PIZZA Indian Trail Road, Suite 115, Norcross. 770-381-9255 Food: Pizza, wraps and salads Service: Friendly and engaging, but expect at least 20 minutes of prep time, as each dish is cooked to order. Best dishes: Tandoori chicken pizza and the gyro wrap Vegetarian selections: Multiple vegetarian pizzas and salads Credit cards: Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays, noon-10 p.m. Saturdays, closed Sundays Children: Welcome Parking: Ample parking in front Reservations: No Wheelchair access: Yes Smoking: No Noise level: Usually low, but could get noisy when crowded Patio: No Takeout: Yes