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Varuni Napoli stealth report

Luca Varuni

Luca Varuni

Over the weekend I found myself at a “friends and family night” for a new restaurant.

Ever been to one?

It happens usually on the eve of a grand opening, when the owners invite a roomful of sympathetic souls to eat and drink so the kitchen and service staff can experience a packed house in the new space.

I didn’t realize that’s what was going on when friends called me and my wife on the spur of the moment and asked us to join them at Varuni Napoli. This new Neapolitan pizzeria in Morningside comes from Antico Pizza Napoletana alum Luca Varuni. Fans of that latter restaurant will surely recognize Varuni as the former star pizzaiolo. It was a merry free-for-all, with much wine and unbidden food arriving at the table, many toasts, and Varuni’s father walking through the dining room singing opera arias.

You may be asking, “Is the world ready for yet another Antico clone?”

To which I would respond: Duh.

But I would also aver that Varuni is no clone. The space is larger, more elegantly outfitted and built for a different crowd, with a spectacular marble counter wrapping the open kitchen. The menu features any number of small plates —  sausage-stuffed peppers, arancini, marinated eggplant — as well as pizza.

If this restaurant at first pass reminds me of any place, it’s 2 Amys in Washington, D.C., one of my favorite places in my hometown. Both restaurants are situated in residential areas, and both feel supremely kid friendly early in the evening but drinkier as the night wears on. Both give clean, simple options beyond pizza — food you can relax into.

With its free parking next door, Varuni has the makings of a major hit.

- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog

12 comments Add your comment

Bill Thicke

April 22nd, 2014
10:37 am

Brick oven pizza places are the cupcake shops of today.


April 22nd, 2014
11:59 am

What’s up with the menu not being on the website? What’s the point of the website?

It's a pizza place

April 22nd, 2014
1:02 pm

Assume they have pizza. And any number of small plates — sausage-stuffed peppers, arancini, marinated eggplant.
Call them and ask them to fax you a menu so you can plan your visit there.


April 22nd, 2014
5:20 pm

I’m really hoping this will be a comfortable normal restaurant rather than a torture chamber like Antico. It’s always been too bad that Antico is such a miserable dining experience given that its products are superb.

Also interesting that Besha had no love lost for Atlanta restaurants except for Antico.


April 23rd, 2014
12:21 am

I like Antico, I guess it just fits my personality. Definitely going to try this new place, I bet the sausage and peppers are good!

@BT – Brick ovens have been around a lot longer than cupcakes



April 23rd, 2014
1:46 pm

I’m looking forward to trying this.

Antico’s quality has suffered over time. The dough no longer has that sour ‘bite,’ among other problems. The last ‘pomodorini’ pizza I had there had no sauce! And now they expect you to walk across the street for the cannoli? Major failure. Antico’s been phoning it in for a while

Bubba Sparx

April 23rd, 2014
2:08 pm

Chris….you are a first rate moron, and you can use the exercise stop whining like a child


April 23rd, 2014
2:14 pm

Bubba’s recipe – Add hominem and stir. Name calling is no substitute for informative discussion.

Your Minivan

April 24th, 2014
12:18 pm

I’m with Bubba. Antico is as good as ever, but it has competition now.
And seriously, do you have to eat a cannoli every time you go there?
And is it really that big of an inconvenience to walk for it.
Chris, there is a Burger King right there at Northside and Hemphill. I’m pretty sure you can get a Whopper and a milkshake without even getting out of your minivan. Enjoy!

Ned Ludd

April 24th, 2014
12:29 pm

Where can we see a menu?

Steak Shapiro

April 24th, 2014
2:12 pm

The menu is posted at .
Be sure to check out Atlanta Eats on Talk Radio 640 WGST from 11AM to 1PM on Saturdays all summer long.
Eat well,

Bill Thicke

April 25th, 2014
10:29 am

No kidding brick ovens have been around for a long time. My point is that they are everywhere now and most of them will be out of business in 3 years.