Varasano’s Pizzeria: The Man, The Myth, The Pizza [Guest Blogger] 7

Posted by adam.harrell on April 15, 2009

Food is like a religion in many respects. Foodies worship at the table of various high priests, inspired by their personalities as much as the cuisine which they promote. The examples are numerous— the locavore inclinations of an Alice Waters, the authentic Italian flavors of a Mario Batali, or the balanced French & Japanese fusion of a Soto Soto. These people are not just chefs. They’re prophets who espouse a viewpoint that colors the way you view the world. You’re either with them, or against them. The hype they generate rarely lives up to the food they serve.

The high priest of Varasano’s Pizzeria is a man by the name of Jeff Varasano. He is the leader of a movement expounding a scientific approach to pizza. Equal parts Alton Brown & Cooks Illustrated—Jeff Varasano believes that perfection of a seemingly simple dish such as pizza is not only possible, but just around the corner. In his eyes—the perfect pizza is easily recognizable. Crisp yet fluffy. Thin yet substantial. It’s a pizza that brings forth child hood memories, but is sophisticated enough that it inspires the respect of the culinary elite. 

His wants everyone to understand that his pizza is the process of years of experimentation. The fruit of numerous travels to the best pizza restaurants in the world. It’s the product of a single minded determination towards improvement of a single item. Anyone that reaches the top in any field (even a Rubik’s Cube competition) possesses the ability to focus intently on their craft. It is this dedication that is most apparent when you first meet him.

Once he realizes where you’re from, conversations will revolve around pizza joints in your home town. The next topic will be the pizza resting on your plate. The bubbles in the crust and black markings signify that the oven is at the proper temperature. Thank god he says. They were having trouble with maintaining a proper temperature just last week. The basil leaves are from a new supplier, but he’s still not happy with the quality. He’s contacted a new farmer to grow his herbs. An important items like basil can’t be left to chance. The conversations are a bit forced and awkward. Almost like he’s trying to prove his expertise to a skeptical audience.

The stresses of opening a restaurant for the first time are clearly visible in his eyes. And the insecurity that comes from being presented with direct criticism is noticeable. In what occupation other than the restaurant world is the judgment so sudden and so harsh. The hype this little pizza place has generated may be great for business, but it also means that expectations are set so high; disappointment will often be the result.

Asked about the response he’s gotten from some of the local community, he seems baffled by the vitriol that he’s inspired. Why would someone be angry that they couldn’t place a to go order by phone—after all, that’s what the Tavern at Phipps does? What right does someone have to judge me after just a single meal? These question arise from the part of the mind that helps rationalize failure. They help to plaster over the doubt that starts to seep in the mind of one who is criticized suddenly, and harshly for something that everyone else has praised him for throughout his life.

But, enough about the man. Even though this restaurant currently seems to be more about Jeff and his story, than the food he serves. The focus will eventually shift—and the food will have to stand on it’s own. Luckily for Jeff, it does. The reality is that Varasano’s Pizza serves a damn good pizza. Whether or not he deserves the hype associated with him shouldn’t be the question of the day. The question should be, does he serve food that is worthy of being noticed, discussed and enjoyed. And on this question, the most important question, the answer is clearly yes. And for that—he deserves our respect.

While Jeff may think he needs the confirmation he currently craves, his insecurity will soon pass. Before long he will gather enough true believers in his approach that his beliefs will be validated. The life of a prophet is never easy. Some people will always view you as a heretic. Even if all you’re preaching is a different approach to pizza.

Varasano’s Pizzeria Restaurant Address & Information:
2171 Peachtree Rd NW, Atlanta, GA 30309 // P: 404.352.8215 // Varasano’s Pizzeria Website // Varasano’s Menu

About The Author

This guest post was written by Adam Harrell, a local foodie and interactive marketer. You can find him at www.neboweb.com/blog/

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  • LazySam

    So, another blogger review that does nothing but glorify this guy and skips the whole “review the restaurant” thing???

    I don’t care that Jeff is a god in your eyes…HOW WAS THE FOOD?

    What dishes did you get? How was the service? So the only memorable thing about your visit was seeing the owner??? I hope you got his autograph.

    I still have not seen an actual positive “full” review of this place.

  • Adam harrell

    The purpose of my post wasn’t to glorify him. He deserves respect. Not worship. The problem is that he’s created a persona that is more hype than substance. Eventually that hype will dissipate. The food is good. They’ll make it on that fact alone. There is a certain manic insecurity that comes with entrepreneurship. That’s what i wanted to convey. I didn’t want to write a food review. I don’t consider myself a critic in that regard. You should give it a try and then submit a review. I imagine if it’s well written; then it will get published

  • Meh

    It’s a meaningless piece.

    Adam you never disclosed…how do you know him? Is he your friend? Have you been to his house? Have you shined his shoes?

    By the way, I’ve been several times and it’s average at best.

    Sorry it is.

  • adam.harrell

    I actually never met him till eating there. Never been to his house. And, I think the pizza is solid. I’d eat there, or fritti depending on what type of pizza I’m in the mood for.

    Does it live up to the hype? No. Nothing could. But, it’s better than 95% of the pizza places out there. At the end of the day the piece wasn’t meant to be a hagiography. If it came across that way, that’s my fault as the writer.

    I should’ve been more explicit about the my belief that the way he approaches the world is based on his insecurity. The discussions about pizza joints, and oven temperatures were a bit awkward and forced (hell, he picked up the pizza off my plate to look at it), the reason he talks about those topics is that he’s trying to prove a level of expertise. He wants to be seen as an expert. And his approach means he views everyone as a skeptic. .

    Anyway, I appreciate the criticism. It’s the only way I can improve at my own craft. If you feel the food was “meh”— then write a blog about it. Pick up the sword and put your words to paper. I’d love to read what you have to say. And thanks for the feedback.

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  • Chris K.

    I stopped in 3 weeks ago and really enjoyed this place. It’s a modern space with an electric vibe. Seems like a great place to go to with old friends or to just hang out and meet/talk to new friends. Full bar is a plus. The crowd was ecletic.

    I was seated quickly at at the beautiful granite bar and Tony the bartender recommended a great Cabernet. I ordered the Nana pie and it came out in less than 10 mins. That oven is cranking. It was one of the best pizzas I’ve had in a long time. Fragrant herb topping, light sauce, fresh mozzarella and the crust was blistered perfectly, very light with great structure.

    The crust flavor reminded me of some of the best breads you’d want to have with a nice California Cabernet, Merlot or Barbaresco, Amarone, Barolo or even just a nice Chianti Reserva. Not overpowering but just good. This crust has depth and flavor.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the Nana pie and decided to try another when who walks up? Jeff V. himself. He was sincerely interested in my impression of his pizza and service. We had a nice conversation and I asked him to recommend another to try. He recommended the white clam pizza. Another winner. Very light and flavorful.

    Service was very attentive and professional. Everyone I came into contact with was eager to serve.

    To sum up, the price is right, the place is rocking and the food is great. That’s just what I was looking for.

    Chris

    • http://www.foodiebuddha.com foodiebuddha

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Chris. When his clam pizza is on … it’s my fav …


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