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Sapori di Napoli restaurant review, Decatur

$-$$

$-$$

Neapolitan pizza is a tricky thing.

With little more than a few fresh ingredients and sparse toppings, the style leaves very little room for error. Perhaps the biggest misconception here in the states is the implications of the dreaded wet or soggy crust. It’s not uncommon for true Neapolitan pies to be so wet in the center that a fork and knife are a necessity, nor is that considered a failure.

Review by Jon Watson

Review by Jon Watson

For whatever reason, this doesn’t play well with our American palates and many pizzaiolos adjust their recipes to avoid it. A matter of seconds can make the difference between a soft, charred crust with a slight chew and the soupy mess that irks many diners.

Metro Atlanta’s newest restaurant touting authentic Neapolitan pizza, Sapori di Napoli in Decatur, comes to us from the team of Naples-born brothers Daniele and Ambrogio Florio. The Florios serve traditional Neapolitan pies in a fast-casual atmosphere. Diners order at the counter and take a number to one of the wooden tabletops in the small, but warm space.

All eyes quickly turn to the impressive, imported Acunto wood-burning oven powering the kitchen. This 5,000-pound behemoth fires up at over 750 degrees and adds instant credibility in the eyes of the most devout pizza-heads.

Diavola pizza (photos by Becky Stein)

Diavola pizza (photos by Becky Stein)

After sampling most of their pies, it’s unclear which style of crust Sapori di Napoli aims for. Within seconds of receiving our Diavola ($17), I peek at the nicely charred underskirt and smile as I realize that the soft, slightly crisped crust holds up well under the sweet tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella and strips of spicy salame.

In stark contrast, it seems the added moisture from the mushrooms atop our Salsiccia e Funghi ($18) may be too much for the dough, as my first slice collapses as soon as I pick it up. However, no amount of sogginess distracts me from enjoying the wonderfully fresh sauce or sweet Italian sausage.

Assorted bruschetta

Assorted bruschetta

If risking a soupy crust is too much for you, consider one of the sauceless Pizza Biancas. Then you can enjoy the roasted sweet peppers and sausage on the Sapori di Napoli ($17) worry-free. But the trade-off in flavor by passing up on Florio’s San Marzano tomato sauce isn’t worth it. Instead, treat yourself to the savory STG ($17), combining smoked buffalo mozzarella and speck that contrast the sweetness of the tomato sauce wonderfully.

While you wait for your pies to emerge from the roaring Acunto, start things off with an order of the wood-fired Bruschetta ($4). It arrives as four slices of crispy, toasted Italian bread draped in melted mozzarella with a rotating variety of toppings. Lighter fare like the Insalata di Tonno ($7) offers a nice change of pace from the mostly bread-and-cheese heavy menu. But steel yourself for a fishy punch, as the blend of tuna and black olives might overwhelm those sensitive to that flavor.

Lunch service offers the chance to order any of their pies, normally 15 inches and enough to feed two to three adults, in the more personal and affordable 12-inch size ($10). Or take the opportunity to try one of their lunchtime paninis like the Porchetta e Provola ($7), with roasted pork, smoked buffalo, tomatoes and basil, served on house-made bread.

Sapori benefits from the Florios’ focus on high quality, fresh ingredients. The tomato sauce is excellent and the array of smoked and cured meats pack a lot of flavor. The brothers Florio apply them with a light and skilled touch. But on each visit, the service took too much away from the experience.

I’m never one to rush a meal, but a half-hour wait on a semi-busy night for a pizza that requires just two minutes in the oven may frustrate some. They would do well to add a dedicated runner to the staff, as there is often only one employee juggling taking orders, serving drinks and delivering food. I can forgive watching the party behind us receive their drinks and appetizers before we get our first glass of water, but it is difficult to excuse the soggy crust on our Napoletana ($16) after watching it sit at the server’s station for five minutes before making it to our table.

Like a good Neapolitan pie, Sapori di Napoli has all of the right ingredients for a destination pizza experience, but still has a few kinks to work out first. As someone who passes through the area frequently, I look forward to returning to see if they do.

SAPORI DI NAPOLI
314 Church St., Decatur, 404-371-0001
2stars5
Food: Pizza, pasta and salads
Service: Friendly, but easily overwhelmed
Best dishes: STG, Diavola and Bruschetta
Vegetarian selections: Multiple pizzas as well as salads
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays, Tuesdays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, closed Mondays
Children: Yes
Parking: Small free parking lot, but it can get full on busy nights
Reservations: No
Wheelchair access: Yes
Smoking: No
Noise level: Moderate
Patio: Yes, mostly covered
Takeout: Yes

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7 comments Add your comment

Chris

December 15th, 2011
12:39 pm

Sweet! I’m always looking for new and amazing pizza. I see the address is on Church Street. But that can be anywhere in Decatur. Is this in downtown or in the burbs?

Sophie's Choice

December 15th, 2011
1:01 pm

Agree on the need for a runner– also think they’d do well to invest in some patio heaters, as that space goes to wate when the get busy on chilly nights. Those quibbles aside, I love their pizzas! The longer they’re open, the better they get, so I predict they’ll become a “go-to” pizza destination soon. (Chris, they’re downtown Decatur.)

Barbara

December 15th, 2011
3:10 pm

@Chris, they’re sort of near the MARTA station. I’ve eaten there once, and my favorite thing about the place was the super-friendly people. Also, they have great desserts!

Shady

December 15th, 2011
4:32 pm

Jon, I agree, the Diavola was wonderful, the sausage on it was spicy and very piggy tasting. Crust was great, just the right char. And yes, the service was slow, very friendly, but really slow. They were expiriencing computer gliches the evening we were there, part of our order didn’t go through. Salad showed up with apology. All in all I think this could be a wonderful addition to Decatur. They just need to get their act together.

Steven A.

December 15th, 2011
4:34 pm

Chris: They’re on the corner diagonal from Twain’s and across from Greene’s.

I live three blocks away and have not tried yet, but looking forward to it.

I would have liked a little commentary on their pastas, which I’ve heard some declare superior to their (still very good) pizzas.

Russell

December 16th, 2011
12:55 pm

It’s downtown, kind of adjacent to Twain’s and Greene’s.

We got takeout a couple weeks ago and enjoyed it. We got two pies – Margarita and one with a variety of meats/olives. Both were good – I’d probably just go with the Margarita next time.

The Bruschetta was very good as well.

The people there were very friendly, it had a cool vibe, and the place was hopping on a Friday night. Would probably be a fun place to dine in.

Caffeine

December 18th, 2011
1:08 pm

I’ve heard good things about this place so I was suprised to see a 2 star review, once I started reading and saw that you refer to the cheese as buffalo mozzarella, I stopped reading.