When I first walked into Rusto’s Pizza on Cheshire Bridge, I had an inkling of hope that Atlanta was about to have yet another respectable pizzeria to deal with. By the time I walked out (or at least shortly thereafter), I was ejecting food from my mouth post haste while debating whether to simply toss the rest of my personal sized pie or use it as a deterrent against potential muggers. I went with the former. While the food was bad enough, the true kicker was the laughable attempt by owners Russell Wooten and Greg “Somebody” to promote their business through less than honest methods.
Finding the restaurant itself will be pretty difficult for anyone not familiar with the 2100 Cheshire Bridge complex. Rusto’s is located in same arena as Little Ethiopia and Red Snapper Seafood. There’s a street level sign facing northbound traffic, but it’s not easy to spot. Even worse, if you’re heading south-ish on Cheshire Bridge, won’t see anything (unless of course you like pulling to a dead stop and/or enjoy rubbernecking). The ground floor restaurant has a sign over its windows, but that does little in the way of branding and a lot in the way of mixing messages (pizza – check, ice cream – check, pub … uh … not so much).
Okay, not a wonderful start, but there are worse sins than bad signage. Unfortunately, Rusto’s decided to make the signage the least of their worries. The interior is flat and lacks any personality. A hanging flag and a few other object’arts are a flimsy homage to the cuisine. The flat panel TV is easily the best thing inside.. To put it simply, the space has the personality of one of my grandfathers (note: it doesn’t matter which Poppy you choose, they’ve both been six feet under for more that 15-years).
The menu itself fits tightly on one page and is inviting in its simplicity. The left side offers up four pre-designed pies (two red and two white) while the adjacent occupants are the hand full of ice creams ($3.75), the salad options ($6.50), and some supplementary information (like the prices – $14 large pizzas / $7 small pizzas). In addition, you can add any number of extra toppings for $2 and $1/item, pie size dependent. With mozzarella made on site and references to all natural ingredients, there was great promise … which turned into great failure.
As I was on my way to a full on meal with Cheetah Three, I did not want to pull a Spark Plug and ruin my appetite. Thank god for that wise choice. My personal sized margherita pizza came in at roughly $9 due to the addition of pepperoni, and nothing about it was worth penny one. It took just a few minutes to prepare, but that was no surprise as there was only one other patron inside (and they were eating ice cream).
The pizza was lost in the box of cardboard, and I didn’t catch a full glimpse until I made it back to my car. What I did see was the gentleman break out the pie slicer and give my pizza a quick little once over. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t catch a better look while inside; as soon as I opened Rusto’s Pandora’s Box, my jaw dropped and my head almost hit the roof.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a piece of toast as badly burnt as the crust on this pie. That’s saying something because I once set off the fire alarms as a wee little one during a failed attempt to surprise Mamma Buddha for mother’s day. With not so much as a drop of water in sight, I mustered up the courage and dove in. If any of the ingredients were noteworthy, it would be news to me. This blow torched bread disc lost any chance of being food about 3 minutes before it was taken out of the oven. After getting not more than two bites in, I decided ditch the disc and pull off the toppings for closer inspection.
Nope … the pepperoni was run of the mill, the sauce absent of any flavor, and the cheese wasn’t worth the effort used to make it (though after what I later found out, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that it wasn’t made on site). Yes, this was the type of experience when the little things really didn’t help. The massive pizza box for my pint sized pizza and the larger than necessary plastic containers for the ice cream undermined any sense of conscientiousness in creativity.
As I left the scene of the crime, I did my best to forget about Rusto’s until a later time. Some hours afterwards, I kicked back to begin the writing of this post. I did the usual – got the address, website, etc… and then poked around to see if there was anything of note to learn. Turns out, Rusto’s is the world’s greatest restaurant and their “droves” of customers are thankfully willing to tell you just how amazing things can be. How else could you explain the seven Yelp reviews (screencap) inside of three days? As the restaurant had only been open two evenings, this was a sure sign of Yelps continued display of integrity. It should come as no surprise that I actually had to hack through customer lines as if I was Ash. Right?
Ah but still we dive deeper. Ultimately, the pièce de résistance was a snippet from wikipedia in my google search results:
Rusto’s Pizza & Ice Cream is a pizzeria and ice cream shop on Cheshire Bridge Road in Atlanta, Georgia. It is best known for using only the freshest …
Excited by the chance to learn more about Atlanta’s greatest restaurant, I clicked on the link. Alas, I was turned away by the wiki admins who deemed this jewel not worthy of notoriety (screencap). It’s a surprise, when you consider what a glowing review they had on urbanspoon, which was quickly marked for it’s shillish nature. (screencap)
I’ll spare y’all the summary and get off my soap box. Until we meet again …