Sometimes, you just want a nice glass of rye and a Glitter Pizza.
Until a few months ago, those two things would never be found together. But no longer, now that brothers Jason and Hugh Connerty have opened Ammazza in the Old Fourth Ward — the newest hot Neapolitan pizza shop in town.
Ammazza brought with it a considerable amount of buzz, due in no small part to the fact that the Connertys at one point worked for the company that purchased the out of state franchise rights for Antico. As if a pizza place can open in this town without drawing comparisons to Antico, their brief affiliation with the Neapolitan heavyweight made things even worse.
But the similarities end with the fact that they both serve pizza. And I love that about Ammazza.
If nothing else, the Connerty brothers have created a genuinely hip vibe that their competitors lack. Diners order at
the front counter and take a number back to the seating area. I was surprised when I first rounded the corner to find a space filled with exposed brick, reclaimed wood ceilings, communal tables and swanky copper-sheet lighting features. A pair of Forno Bravo ovens encased in glass sit at the head of the room, opposite the full bar, and a DJ booth is at the far end.
The cocktail program at that bar deserves a mention, as I’ve yet to find another place where I can enjoy a glass of Blanton’s bourbon and a pizza at the same time.
Ammazza lacks the “look at how authentic we are” decor — pizza peels as art, stacked cans of tomatoes or il Tricolore tacked to every patch of open wall space — that has become the clichéd standard. In a similar vein, Ammazza makes a Neapolitan-style pie, but don’t expect to find any Verace Pizza Napoletana certifications hanging on the wall. Instead, the Connertys wanted the freedom to make their own mozzarella in house, incorporate local and seasonal ingredients, and tinker with the topping ratios to make a better pie.
The Connertys’ decision to source the majority of their meats from the Spotted Trotter seems to be the best deviation from VPN standards, most obviously in the Carne ($22). Like all of the pizzas, this comes on a 16-inch, thick-rimmed crust, but piled with pepperoni, Italian sausage and sorghum cured bacon. Or start things off with a round of the Classico Antipasto ($10), a simple spread of meats and house-made cheeses guaranteed to quickly disappear. Fortunately, we enjoyed this enough to ignore the fact that the server plopped the plate on the table with no explanation of what we were about to enjoy.
Whether on a slice of Bolognese pie ($22) or in an order of polpette ($7), don’t skip out on the house-made meatballs. And don’t be ashamed if you skip the pizza entirely and order a few cast-iron skillets of the steaming marinara and cheese draped balls of Brasstown beef and pork for your meal. Lord knows I was tempted.
The deviation from officially sanctioned Neapolitan standards pays off in other ways as well, like the sweet Vidalia onions and roasted peppers on the Ammazzare ($22). And it may be gimmicky, but the kids will get a kick out of the Glitter Pizza ($6), a small cheese pizza topped with bluish edible sprinkles.
In a nod to the street food the brothers sampled during a tour of Naples, they offer the Carnosa Pizza Fritta ($16), a deep-fried flavor bomb of dough stuffed with mozzarella, fior di latte, ricotta, basil, sausage, pepperoni and meatballs. A heavy hand of marinara sauce on top may turn the golden fried crust to mush, so don’t let it linger there too long. A quick brush of a fork pushing the sauce aside fixes that.
It is some of the basics that seem to be the biggest stumbling blocks here. I love
the flavor in the rich, chunky red sauce on the pies, but there is a serious water separation problem that should be addressed. Authentic Neapolitan pies should be a little soggy in the center, but I never had a slice that could be picked up with one hand. Some slices require a swift crumple-and-stuff maneuver to get the whole thing into your mouth before all toppings hit the table. And I shouldn’t have to hunt for basil on a Margherita
($19) — with my eyes or my taste buds — but I had to search with both.
The Connerty brothers are doing a lot of things right at Ammazza, and the pros certainly outweigh the cons. With a few more tweaks, this could be one of the top destination pizza spots in town.AMMAZZA 591-A Edgewood Ave., Atlanta, 404-228-1036 Food: Neapolitan pizza Service: Nice, but plan to be self-sufficient Best dishes: Carne, Pizza Fritta, polpette Vegetarian selections: a couple of salads and veggie pizzas Credit cards: All major credit cards Hours: 5 p.m.-midnight, Sundays-Thursdays, 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Fridays-Saturdays Children: Kid-friendly early, before the DJ starts spinning at 10 p.m. Parking: ample, especially for the neighborhood Reservations: only for large groups Wheelchair access: yes Smoking: no Noise level: can get loud, especially when the DJ has started Patio: no Takeout: yes