Pizza


Shorty’s was an impulse try one evening when my wife wanted something new in our repetoire. This is a restaurant whose reputation is heavily influenced by Jimmy, who reviewed it in Eat It Atlanta’s pizza tour. In his review of the restaurant he says:

Everything was in balance though. The dough wasn’t soggy. There was a noticeable amount of sauce. You could taste the mozzarella. And the pizza with toppings tasted fresh and didn’t weigh down the pizza.

I’m mentioning this now because this comment has set my expectations of Shorty’s for a while.

And having set the scene, I’m going to diverge for a bit and talk about Shorty’s plates. They have small plates, tapas inspired, and large plates. One of the large plates has 4 falafel and those caught my wife’s eye. Turns out, this was the best thing we ate that night.

Crunchy. Delightful.

Crunchy. Delightful.

The falafel were crunchy and delightful. The restaurant in general has a good eye for ingredients and tremendous creativity in terms of their various plates and pizza combinations, pizza names for that matter. What I have never been able to do is duplicate the eating experience as in the Jimmy quote above.

Great ingredients. Hilarious names. Ordinary crust.

Great ingredients. Hilarious names. Ordinary crust.

What I get in a Shorty’s pizza (I’ve been three times, twice to the Tucker location and once to the Decatur location) is some crisp around the edges and a soggy mess in the middle. It’s frustrating. You get the impression they know about good crisp crusts, but the pizza chefs, when I’ve been there, couldn’t execute. In terms of quality, I’d say that Hearth Pizza Tavern has a better crust and is far more consistent. And it makes me want to do this to their pie sometime, to see if it’s recoverable.

So I recommend this spot with some cautions. The inventiveness and creativity of the menu makes it worth a trip, but be warned, I’ve yet to see the crust and pizza that Jimmy thought so much of.

Shorty’s Pizza
2884 N Druid Hills Road
Atlanta, GA 30329
(404) 315-6262

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Shorty’s Pizza
3701 Lawrenceville Hwy
Tucker, GA 30084
(770) 414-6999

Shorty's Pizza on Urbanspoon

I’ve not had strombolis many times in my life, but I know a good crust when I see one. I’d had mixed luck with the pizza at Cioffi’s in the past, but this stromboli is a sharp double, if not a home run, in my book.

OMG! Look at the crust!

The stuffing was pretty darned good as well.

Cioffi’s Pizza
1218 Rockbridge Rd
Stone Mountain, GA 30087
(770) 935-8822

Cioffi's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

I can’t entirely figure out what prompts someone to react to a restaurant or a location. We’ve driven past other Fellini’s Pizza restaurants plenty of times. But getting lost on the way to Miso Izakaya, and finding the Fellini’s near the corner of Clifton and McLendon Road triggered something in my wife’s head. She was determined to go back there. So yes, there we went.

Plain looking. Hardly plain tasting.

It’s pretty no frills, so no frills that a diabetic trying to avoid pizza slices should not go. There are no sandwiches at this Fellini’s, just pizza and salads. But the toppings are good, the crust is good. No, it won’t score points for the “best in town”, but most best in town choices aren’t this convenient. Further, they do well with simple concepts. The slice of white above looks plain. It doesn’t taste plain, with plenty of appropriate spicing thrown into the mix.

I liked what we had here. They have a praiseworthy thin crust, decent salads, fast service, and the price is right. Go sometime. You won’t regret it.

Notes: currently there are 7 Fellini’s Pizza restaurants in town. The Fellini’s web site gives the locations.

Fellini’s Pizza
1634 McLendon Ave
Atlanta, GA 30307
(404) 687-9190

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Step into this eatery, and 5 consecutive years of “Best of Gwinnett” awards pass you on the right. Fini’s is surprisingly good for a pizzeria on the edge of town. It is just to the east of I-85, in a mall centered by a Publix, and almost impossible to spot from Old Peachtree. These days, this is the sole Fini’s in Lawrenceville, as the other fell victim to a rent tripling scheme (*). My daughter and I went for lunch, and after having had a lot of fair to middling pizza, were pleased as punch we chose this location. Crusts here were nicely done.

Entrance.

Crusty and delicious.

The photo doesn’t do the size of this sandwich any justice. The bread and cheese were fantastic, the eggplant merely good.

Another view of the sandwich, showing the insides.

My daughter had a slice of Sicilian, and I had their eggplant sandwich. Her crust was the way a thick slice should be, and size and crusty character of the sandwich bread was totally delightful. The eggplant was wrapped in a batter, and wasn’t bad. Fini’s has an Italian sausage sandwich, and that kind of spicy meat with this kind of bread would be totally over the top.

Fini’s Pizzeria
1032 Old Peachtree Road
Lawrenceville, GA 30043
(678) 205-3872

Fini's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

(*) I know this because Tower Games also left the mall, and my contact in the gaming community, Deep Gamer, let me know all about how the strip mall was seeking to profit from expansion by the nearby hospital.

Colossus was a surprise to us, offering far better Greek food than we expected. Clearly a superior choice for dinner, I’m very tempted to claim it’s the best Greek within half an hour of Snellville. As our overall experience with Greek cuisine is neither broad nor exhaustive, I’m also happy saying take any of my claims with a grain of salt. Still, I’d have no qualms taking out of town guests to this restaurant.

It’s perhaps the largest restaurant near the corner of Five Forks Trickum and Rockbridge Road, on the right as you’re heading south down Five Forks, and located a bit before the intersection. Inside, the restaurant is longish, as opposed to square. Staff were wearing black tops and the men were wearing baseball caps when we arrived. There are tables and booths, and as the eatery is thin and one side has good windows, if you love light you can get plenty of it.

really good.

My wife ordered pizza, I ordered the Greek plate and my daughter ordered the Moussaka. We ordered salads and appetizers, some fried zucchini. The fried zucchini was excellent.

The Greek plate is a tasty meat paradise.

Moussaka. The hit of the meal.

Of the entrées, the pizza had no crust to speak of, except at the edges, just a floppy “suburban special”. But the Greek food was superior and impressive. The Moussaka was the hit of the table, something I expect we’ll be ordering again and again. The plates were enormous and we took back food from almost every entrée we ordered.

In conclusion? This is a place we’re likely to go back to. Overall, we were impressed by what we ate. This restaurant is a keeper.

Colossus Family Restaurant
5385 Five Forks Trickum Road
Stone Mountain, GA 30047
(770) 923-9852

Colossus Pizza on Urbanspoon

Reviewing Cioffi’s has been a bit like a Monthy Python skit. I would come for the pizza, and the people manning the ovens would be novices. I would get floppy pizza. I would come again. Teens were manning the ovens (or perhaps they just looked young) and I would get a “suburban special”, a pizza with too little char and stiffness, and a little overloaded with ingredients, leading to softer, wet crusts.

If you’ve spent any time in the Northeast United States, you come to quickly realize that without a good crust, then a pizza is essentially nothing. I wasn’t getting what this eatery was capable of. It was a bit too much like this bit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

Listen, lad, I built this kingdom up from nothing. All I had when I started was swamp … other kings said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built it all the same … just to show ‘em. It sank into the swamp. So I built a another one … that sank into the swamp. I built another one … That fell over and THEN sank into the swamp …. So I built another … and that stayed up.

Some years later, I’ve found a much better way to drive to this section of the world, and I gave Cioffi’s yet another try. This time, yes, I can see a pizza worth writing about. Of course, it’s my daughter eating it. With my physical issues, I’m best sticking to sandwiches these days.

A respectable crust, and more flavorful than chain pizzas.

The whole pie.

Italiano sandwich.

We came at lunch and in general found the lunch specials not all that appealing. My daughter likes meat pizzas, and my recollection was that Cioffi’s did have a reasonable personal sized pizza. I ended up having an Italiano sandwich, she had the personal meat pizza. These we ordered off the dinner menu.

Asked to rate the crust, my daughter gave it an 8, and said it actually had some flavor. The sandwich had a nice crusty bread and good meats. It was certainly worth the money I spent.

I’ll note some changes on the inside. It’s a bit more sedate, less focused on the local school. A middle aged gentleman manned the oven, and one staffer waited tables. They still had beer taps on the far side of the eatery, and the best beers provided are those on tap (a Terrapin selection caught my eye).

Veridict? A generally good eatery, but my personal experience with these pizzas has been hit or miss. I’m much better with hits when veteran chefs man the ovens.

Cioffi’s Pizzeria
1218 Rockbridge Road
Stone Mountain, GA 30087
(770) 935-8822

Cioffi's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Rather than fight traffic down Highway 78, it’s a much easier drive to get onto Five Forks and head past Killian Hills. A few minutes later, you’ll run into the intersection of Five Forks and Rockbridge Road. Turn right and look to your right almost immediately. Cioffi’s is up on a rise just past the turn.

I’ve spoken about Johnny’s NY Style Pizza before, and really didn’t expect to be talking about one of these restaurants again. But Terrapin Beer Company (@TerrapinBeerCo) sponsored what they called a Tap at the Grayson Johnny’s, and as it was just a drive down Webb Ginn Road and turn right for 1.3 miles, yes I went.

The Johnny’s is a little past the Kroger on Grayson Highway, and is impressively built. Plenty of glass and nice brick make this one of the best looking Johnny’s I’ve ever seen. As I was there to drink and eat, I spent most of my time at the bar. The bar top is three sides of a square, seats perhaps 15-20. There are tables clustered around the bar, where you can also eat and drink.

I liked this bar, as it’s friendly, very Cheers-like. They have 24 beers on tap (8 were devoted to Terrapin product this night), plenty of them quality beers, and the bartenders (there were a pair of them this day) were engaging. Terrapin staff were in the mix as well, talking with customers, handing out swag.

Terrapin's Wake N Bake Coffee Oatmeal Stout, in a tulip glass. A richly flavored beer with significant bitterness from the coffee.

Terrapin is a local brewery, headquartered in Athens, GA. Terrapin’s product, aimed at the craft beer crowd, is very American in character, tending to higher ABVs, plenty of hops, plenty of flavor. Beers such as their Hopsecutioner are very well received, and accessible. I can find Hopsecutioner at my local Kroger.

At times, though, their enthusiasm leaves people like me a little concerned. It wasn’t that long ago selling most of Terrapin’s product in Georgia would have been illegal. Being sessionable is something you see a lot of experienced beer heads concerned about.

I spoke a bit with Justin Gwin late in the day, a manager with Terrapin, about a lot of things. To some extent, I asked about Terrapin’s philosophy, a bit about their site, whether they give tours (they do, on Wednesdays through Saturdays). He tells me that they’re considering a beer with 4.5% ABV. That’s not DING’s definition of a sessionable beer, but certainly one closer to the mark.

In terms of food, I had Johnny’s meatball sub and some wings. The sub was up to standard, cheesy, meaty, with a good marinara. The wings were good, the hot buffalo sauce a milder hot. I’d show a photo but all the food photos ran bad this day, just my luck.

It was an interesting crowd overall. I got a food tip from a chef who works at Bonefish Grill, I saw the owner of this Johnny’s in the distance, the Terrapin staff were friendly  and talked knowingly of their product.

Verdict: One of the prettiest Johnny’s I’ve seen. One of the best local bars I’ve seen, in terms of how they treat customers. The food otherwise is up to Johnny’s standards.

Johnny’s New York Style Pizza
2023 Grayson Highway
Grayson, GA 30017
(770) 962-9181

Johnny's New York Style Pizza on Urbanspoon

The nature of this eatery reveals itself at the dessert counter, where the Napoleans are unlike any I’ve seen since my days in West Philadelphia. The desserts are enormous, and look fantastic. The desserts, the pared down menu, the character of staff here: efficient and no nonsense, suggests this is a real New York style eatery. That’s notable, because 100 places might claim New York roots, and perhaps 5 actually manage to pull it off.

I had a sausage sandwich here. I’m not able to eat the pizza, for which I can give a qualified optimistic note: the bottoms of crusts are satisfyingly brown, and when I asked people who were eating pizza here, they seemed to like it. This won’t satisfy the crust hounds of the Atlanta food world, I know, but some discerning foodie who can eat a slice or three does need to prowl this place and render judgement.

In speaking with customers, they would mention Northeast or Midwest roots, and generally praise the “sauce” here, the marinara. And that seems to be how it works here, to do a few simple things well. Northeast pie places tend to be that way: a few ingredients, a very well done crust. It’s far more easily said than done.

Gino’s NY Pizza
5975 Peachtree Parkway
Norcross, GA 30092
(770) 263-7000

Gino's NY Pizza on Urbanspoon

Hearth Pizza Tavern, like any respectable pizza vendor in this town, has a good nose for bread. So when I ordered their mussels appetizer recently, they added a big chunk of good crusty bread with the shellfish. They also toss a pretty decent salad as well.

The mussels come in a broth rich in garlic, onions, butter and white wine, perfect for dipping  that bread in.

Hearth Pizza Tavern
5992 Roswell Road
Atlanta, GA 30328

Hearth Pizza Tavern on Urbanspoon

In the small “L” shaped room where you order sandwiches, I’ve been eyeing Star Provisions‘ muffuletta. There is just one slice left and it’s a late lunch, so things are disappearing right and left. My wife expresses interest in an entrée item; item is gone from the shelves. As I point to the sandwich on the menu,  the last slice of muffuletta disappears. So I order Star Provision’s reuben instead.

Star Provisions is about one block south of the intersection of 17th Street and Howell Mill Road. You’ll know it by the collection of cars moving in and out of the lot and the apparent inability of there to be any parking spaces in that crowded environs. But understand, it’s more like a bee hive than a static entity, so turn in where everyone else is, and drive cautiously. An opening generally appears.

We have been there once, but far too late for any sandwiches. The sandwich shop was closed. So we headed back, to grab sandwiches and then pick up a new slice of high end cheese from Tim the Cheese Man.

The reuben was a rich sandwich, with excellent meats and good bread. Sauerkraut hung out of the sandwich as I ate. If I had been handed this on the streets of New York City I wouldn’t have complained.

The banh mi strikes me as an interpretation, rather than the whole unearthly goodness of the Vietnamese sandwich. The thing about good banh mi is timing is crucial: fresh bread drives the sandwich. Arriving even a half hour later affects the flavor of the sandwich, because the bread is older. This one, like the reuben, is being driven by excellent ingredients. My daughter, of course, loved her sandwich and the fatty chunk of pork she was eating.

This was an experiment on my wife’s part, the falafel sandwich. She gave me a small bite – emphasis small – of this ‘wich. The chickpeas were small round bits in my bite, not a paste. It was more akin to eating a clingy chunk of grain than, say, the creamy goodness of hummus.

My wife liked her pizza slice so much she was giving bits of it to my daughter. My daughter’s reaction was predictable: “This would be so much better with some pepperoni.”

Perhaps the only downside of this shop is location. Realistically, people from my neck of the woods can only get here during the weekends. That said, I’d suggest to people who love food, and just want to get lost in the rich visual delights of this shop – amazing eye candy here – should take the time to head south down I-85, exit at 17th street and then turn right.

Verdict: Perhaps the best known, best loved provisions shop in ATL, it does a fine sandwich. Highly recommended.

Star Provisions
1198 Howell Mill Road
Atlanta, GA 30318
(404) 365-0410

Star Provisions on Urbanspoon

Reviews of Star Provisions – there are many – include these: here, here, here, here, here, here, here. John Kessler’s readers discuss various banh mi options here.

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