Buckhead’s pizza scene is among the best

All my life, I’ve only ever had two real complaints about Buckhead.

#1. It’s too far from any coast

#2. There is no good mom-and-pop Italian eatery

I do not think that complaint #1can be remedied. Short of an earthquake coming and splitting Georgia in half—don’t laugh, the Brevard Fault Line runs right smack dab through Atlanta, we will most certainly remain five hours from the coast.

But what about #2? The whole spaghetti conundrum. How else will I get my fix of carbs heaped with cheese, oregano, and red sauce? Yes, we have splendid high-end Italian mainstays like LaGrotta and Pricci. Their well-curated offerings never disappoint. But sometimes, my simple little soul just wants that swirl of skinny pasta with unadorned red sauce. You know the kind, where inevitably one clump of the spaghetti sticks together like a miniature haystack. I adore that clump.

I’m thinking the word spaghetti left our lexicon circa mid-1970’s when fine restauranteurs like Panos Karatassos and Steve Nygren entered the food scene. And so maybe therein lies my problem, Buckhead’s eateries are only getting better and more sophisticated. So I suppose I’ll keep relying on the next best thing: pizza. The good news is Buckhead is not short on phenomenal pizza.

I’ve quietly become a pizza freak. Thursday mornings during ALTA tennis seasons are my favorite time of year because they give me a legit reason to have a slice of “za” before eight a.m.. It’s the quintessential carbo-loading. When people ask me which pizza is my favorite, I give them the same answer as when they ask which one of our sons is my favorite. The answer is this: Whichever one is with me. Duh.

And just like each son, every pizza place offers something great and different to our world. Isn’t that the goal? It is. No two pizzas are alike and, surprisingly, none of the following restaurants have a whole lot in common even though they all serve the similar fare. In order of lowest to highest cost, here are the merits of Buckhead’s best slices.

Fellinis, 2809 Peachtree Road, Garden Hills

Slices as wide as go-cart tires. This generous fast-casual spot is continually consistent. They get so much right: fast service, freshest ingredients, free parking, self-serve Coke machine for bottomless sodas (Thank you, Jesus), large shakers of dry spices—think oregano, garlic powder, parm, and red pepper flakes. Order at the counter. It’s one of the last places to get a tasty $15 meal. Tipping is your best chance at dragging a smile out of the staff, but don’t wait for it. Maybe try it closer to the weekend. Maybe? Dunno. There’s headbanging music that you’ve never heard before but just might like; the vibe is so real there. It’s the only late-night pizza spot in Buckhead, open until midnight. It’s also one of best and biggest porches to sit and watch the busy world go by. Or to sit and read a good novel. You’re allowed to loiter there. What’s not to love?


Mural at Piu Bella

Piu Bello Pizzeria, 3330 Piedmont Road

Hands down the widest selection of ready-made slices in Buckhead. They have no less than ten options at any given hour. Their topping combinations are wide-ranging. Many pre-made vegetarian options are available also. The interiors remind me of a beloved pizza spot at 42nd street and Fifth Avenue, across from the New York Public Library in Bryant Park. Both spots have that kitschy, quintessential, bucolic painting of old Italy adorning their wall. Trust the decorum anyway; it’s great quick pizza. They do a steady business all day, so fresh pies are forever coming out of the oven. Go in and check out the many choices. Try a topping you’ve never eaten before. A super cheery crowd works there. And so does another self-serve Coke machine. Oh, such joy.


Blue Moon Pizza, 325 East Paces Ferry

Best red sauce around and super tasty crust. They do not scrimp on ingredients either. Grab their lunch special of slice, salad, and drink. The only pizza joint in town with curbside parking so you can run right in and grab your grub. They do a thriving takeaway business. If you dine in, there are many TVs playing sports channels. Go when a game is on. Or better yet, if you’ve been to Fetch Dog Park with your furry child, walk a block over to Blue Moon and dine on their porch. They are super pet friendly and bring bowls of fresh water out to Fido. The walls are adorned with artwork for sale, painted and drawn by one of their talented employees. Be sure to check out their Take-n-Bake options. They are the only ones in town who offer that.


Peros Italian Restaurant, 3521 Northside Pkwy  

Not much has changed at Pero’s over the decades and sometimes this is a good thing. I believe they are the last vestige of spumoni in town. This is the pizza you grew up on, the one with the buttery, airy crust. You’ve got to love a place that still serves French, Roquefort, and 1000 Island salad dressings. Oh, and believe it or not, they actually have an option called the Yankee crust, it’s the thicker one.


Pala Bakery, 1264 West Paces Ferry Road

Antico Pizza had a son and this is it. And it’s really, really scrumptious. Antico Pizza’s Gio Di Palma passed the torch to a second generation, his son Johnny. And Johnny has three rules: No add-ons, no substitutions, and no half-toppings. But don’t let any of that stop you, he knows what he’s doing. So get this, Pala’s has no triangle slices. They only have circles and rectangles. The circle feeds 1-2 people. The rectangle is a massive 10” X 14.” Basically, that’s the size in between a standard pillow and a king pillow, which makes her the queen of pizzas. Her name is Alla Pala (pronounced “al-a pal-a”). Whichever shape you decide upon, you’ll taste the brightest tomatoes a pizza sauce has ever had. BTW, Johnny left out a fourth rule: each bite must be dipped into their garlicky vinaigrette.


Fresh basil for the meatball & besciamella Pinsa Romana at Pala Bakery

Amalfi Cucina & Mercato, 3242 Peachtree Road

One of the rare spots in Buckhead where you can still order a cannoli. Their menu harkens back to old-school Italy menus. Two trained chefs, ten pizzas. They have the biggest menu of all the restaurants listed here. A menu for carnivores, vegetarians, and seafood lovers, there is something for everyone.


Taverna, 280 Buckhead Avenue

The best place for big groups and families, especially those with varying palates. Taverna is so much more than pizza. Even though the size of their pizza is perfect for just one person, this is a terrific spot to order many different dishes and share. They have the best all-season porch with a wide view of the Buckhead Village. This happens to be one of those rare and gracious restaurants that never seems to mind if you linger a bit longer. So do.


Yeppa & Co., 306 Buckhead Avenue

Located only twenty steps from Taverna, yet a very different feel. Yeppa is cozy and loud, and the oversized circular bar in the middle of the restaurant makes you feel like you’re home. Pizza is the smallest section of their menu, but it must be mentioned. Their pizza is a fat, oblong rectangle cut into squares, and there is nothing like it. The pizza is both crunchy and chewy, which makes it incredibly satisfying. You have to love a pizza that they throw arugula onto after it’s been baked. They elevate pizza and you must try it.


Varasano Pizzeria, 2171 Peachtree Road

There is a reason why their pizza is so loved. It’s different. Each pizza is made with a natural sourdough yeast that’s fermented for several days. The pies are very thin, flash baked in only about 2 1/2 minutes, and sparingly topped. This is all by design. The eating of it comes with explicit instructions. The chef insists we eat it with our hands, no utensils required. Just pick it up, fold it over itself—creating a more narrow V, and then chow down. Everyone else will be eating with their hands also, so there’s no judgment. How refreshing! 


What I wouldn’t give for a fat piece of garlic bread tossed haphazardly onto a bowl of steaming spaghetti right now. But my New Year’s resolution is to be where I am. So no big dreaming of anyplace else. Which puts me right back here in Buckhead’s pizza world, and it’s such a lovely place to be.

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