Sorry for the lack of posts yesterday and today. Real life beckons when you’ve been on the lamb for a few weeks. Still, I’ve managed to get back into the foodie thing with my return to the ATL. Last night, I found myself at Fritti, the popular pizza joint that sits just outside of Inman Park. A lot, and I do mean a lot, has been said about Riccardo Ullio’s little restaurant in the past year. As such, I felt it was about time that I gave ya’ll a little taste of what to expect.
Fritti sits on one side of the coin in what seems to have been dubbed “the Atlanta Pizza Wars.” The other “contender” in this sham is Varasano’s Pizzeria. I call it a sham for one reason: These restaurants are both worthy of a following; however, I cannot for the life of me identify any other duo where people are asked to like one establishment and not the other. It’s not even important who started the debate, or how it got so widespread. All that matters to me is that people realize that Fritti and Varasano’s are different types of pizza. Neither is the “correct way” and neither is “the best X, Y, or Z.” They are simply different takes on a single culinary tradition. Some will undoubtedly find one better than the other, and that’s just fine. Hopefully, people can put down them “fighting words” at the mere mention of either establishment and just take them at face value.
Moving onto specifics, I’m still not ready to throw down a full review of Fritti. This is simple a mention of last night’s meal, with some info on a few trends I’ve noticed since I’ve started paying attention.
When we arrived at 7:45, the restaurant had a nice crowd out on the patio. That’s where we found our home. Inside, the place was sparsely populated with patrons. More often than not, there is a decent sized crowd during peak hours – though I have yet to find a massive wait on any occasion. Last night, we were seated immediately.
The service struck me as a bit quirky, and that’s not out of place. We were approached soon after we sat down and engaged by our waitress. She was very polite and as friendly as was necessary. However, in what seems unusually common at Fritti, the conversation that transpired seemed a lot like a conversation you have on a bad first date. I’m talking about uncomfortable silences where you stare across the table waiting for a response to what you just said. Too much dead air and some blank stares on the part of the server just made us feel … well … a little funny. It’s happened to me before, but we got over it.
To start, we grabbed an order of the Arancini. I’ve always found these rice balls both simple and enjoyable. Inside, you have risotto, a touch of sausage, and a hint of marinara sauce. As always, these delivered a simple and straightforward flavor. The balls responded well to the bite, dividing easily though providing you with the expected crunch. The marinara sauce doesn’t really impress me. Instead, it just does the job. It’s a little under developed and relies too much on the sugars to deliver its flavor. Still, who doesn’t like putting a fried ball in their mouth? 😉
The pizza here is always the conversation piece and in fact, they are worthy of an expanded commentary. This however, is just a brief drive by – so I’ll withhold the drawn out explanation for another time. I find the roughly thirty pizza choices to be confusing and over done. I think they would be better served to offer up a half dozen suggested pies and supplement that with a “build your own option.” That’s as subjective as one can get, I’m sure a number of readers love the excessive amount of choice. However, I think they are doing a disservice to their customer base by throwing so much at them.
In the end, we settled on the Pancetta e Cipolla (Caramelized onion, pancetta, and hot peppers) and the Ananas e Gorgonzola (Gorgonzola cheese, pineapple, 12 yr old balsamic vinegar). True to form, the pizzas came out as they always have since the Ullio hired the new Pizzaiola. These Neapolitan pizzas were decent, but ultimately frustrating. The pizza wasn’t sliced, leaving us to our own devices. With inferior cutting utensils, slicing the pizzas was an exercise I didn’t care to engage in. In addition, the pizzas got “sloppy” as we tried to hold the ingredients in place while cutting them.
As far as flavor goes – I was ultimately underwhelmed. While Fritti easily makes my Top 3 of best pizzas in Atlanta (regardless of style), I just wasn’t impressed with what we had last night. The use of a firm Gorgonzola left me fighting for a coherent bite. Ultimately, the sweetness of the pineapple, the savory of the balsamic vinegar, and the profound flavor of the cheese left my mouth fighting. I wasn’t sure which flavor to focus on as they ultimately clashed with me. Add in the fact that I had to reassemble the slice after I was forced to cut it – and I just wasn’t blowing up to have more.
The pancetta was much more successful in my mind. Still, it suffered even more from the table side knife work. The spice of the hot peppers and the kick of the pancetta were nicely offset by the sweetness of the caramelized onions. While I myself am known for taking in mass quantities of hot pepper flakes, the lovely woman across the table found the ‘za to have a nice kick. I expect that to be the reaction from most who try it. Still, the sauce did little to excite me. It was fairly run of the mill and used the sugars in such a way that I feel it was a crutch the pie unfortunately relied on. In addition, the pizza didn’t really seem to come together in a cohesive “unit.” A big part of that was the cutting, but another part of that is in the overall construction. Still, I’d call the pie “pretty good.”
Last but not least, we should mention the “char.” It was there and seemed to appear as it had intended. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is ultimately up to the dinner themselves. Unfortunately, I find the dough to be a little run of the mill. I see no reason that the pizza dough at a place like Whole Foods couldn’t be substituted, and that’s an unfortunate thing – considering that Whole Paycheck is a grocery store and not a pizzeria.
The wine list is ample and maybe a bit overwhelming. Nothing jumps out at me; instead, there are a handful of competent selections that will do you just fine.
There’s plenty more to say. As is, Fritti is fine by me and worth a visit. If you walk in ready to hate them – you will. If you walk in ready to love it – you will. If you want to just sit down and have a meal, you’ll probably be somewhere in the middle.