“When the moon hits your eyes like a big pizza pie, that’s amore…”
Varuni, a brick-walled, long wood table-laden, buzzing with charm Midtown restaurant, claims not to be reinventing pizza, but rather, “perfecting it.”
Truth is, we thought some menu items, like the eggplant parm, Caesar salad and desserts, beyond the pizza, were most memorable. Consistently mentioned as Best Pizza by Atlanta voters and publications, Varuni Napoli does a fine job of assembling the pieces that make it neighborhood-y, unpretentious, welcoming, and evocative of Lower Manhattan’s Little Italy, bordering the Lower East Side, long before it got all kitschy and touristy. Still, that familiar Dean Martin corny crooning, along with the fresh hydroponic basil growing in the entrance, and the pies sliding in and out of the glowing ovens, fill the olfactory with much promise.
Menus are divided into craft your own, red, or white pizza, calzones, starters, and salads. Diners are greeted at the front register where the order is placed; and pretty pronto, a server matches the order number to one’s choice of tables. We anchored directly in front of the acrobatic dough spinner, who treated each disc as a cross between a shot put and Frisbee with great agility. Our guy said he learned to spin years ago, and the secret is double zero flour and elasticity. The doughs are all constructed the same size, while other workers decorate the toppings: dollops of cheese, and olive oil on the marble block counter.
Pizzas typically cost around $21. What would constitute a return visit is the Caesar salad with fleshy white anchovies. Why oh why, do some fine eateries leave them out? If you don’t fancy anchovies, then order a house salad. We also had the Arugula salad , which was farm fresh with lemon-infused olive oil, but on the plain side. The eggplant parmesan, with crusty ciabatta bread, was melt-in-the-mouth goodness because the eggplant was thin, yet soft, with none of the pounded, heavy breading that overpowers the main ingredient. The rich tomato sauce…more amore. The biggest surprise of the night was two very sharable desserts: creamy cocoa/mascarpone-laden tiramisu and a very complex pistachio cake, contrasting and worth stabbing forks over. Foodies know that the former means “pick me up.”
As the mind behind Varuni Napoli, veteran maestro pizzaiolo Luca Varuni brings his passion for Italian heritage, vast culinary experience, and extensive Neapolitan cuisine. Eponymous Chef Varuni, a native of Naples, was born amongst Neapolitan food and a passion for cooking. Varuni began his life in the kitchen at age 14, and, early in his career, trained under the renowned maestro and legend, Neapolitan Notizia – the first Michelin-rated pizzeria in the world.
Chef Varuni, who was recently featured on ABC’s, “Good Morning America,” announced that his Neapolitan pizzeria is partnering with online food ordering platform ChowNow to expand local delivery. The new extension of the Varuni Napoli brand, Varuni Casa, services a six-mile radius from the flagship location in Midtown.
He said, “I’m thrilled to begin offering our frozen pizzas and other Italian market items used in our kitchen, to stock pantries around Atlanta. Since launching our frozen pizzas nationally on Goldbelly last fall, we’ve heard customer after customer inquire about easy access to our frozen pies locally. You asked, and we listened!”
Those on the hunt for imported, specialty ingredients can buy market items sourced from Naples. Items are then delivered via cargo ship straight from Italy twice a year. Selection varies, but includes many imported favorites like: La Molisana Pasta Spaghetti; Caputo Chef’s Flour – Italian double zero; carnaroli rice; fresh mozzarella and ricotta; Italian Calabrian peppers; peppadew sweet piquanté peppers; quartered artichoke hearts; San Pellegrino products; even Nutella!
That’s amore…as the tune goes, and as the eggplant parmesan goes at Varuni. 1540 Monroe Drive. Free parking behind the back patio entrance.
- Marcia Caller Jaffe
- Italian food
- Varuni Napoli
- Little Italy
- Lower East Side
- Luca Varuni
- Neapolitan cuisine
- Neapolitan Notizia
- Michelin-rated pizzeria
- Good Morning America
- Varuni Casa
- La Molisana Pasta Spaghetti
- Caputo Chef’s Flour
- Italian double zero
- Italian Calabrian peppers
- San Pellegrino products