Even before he opened his namesake pizzeria, Jeff Varasano was perhaps the most talked about pizzaiola in town.
His quest for the perfect by was first chronicled on his eponymous website, witnessed at many a pizza party in his Buckhead home and buzzed about all over the interweb. A glowing write up in New York Times, the opening of the much-loved Varasanos, and now- the crescendo- Jeff’s very own Five Questions With…
Q. Much has been made of your obsession with pizza. If you were assigned with taking an out of town visitor on a 24 hour eating tour of Atlanta- no pizza allowed- where would you take them?
A. Pasta da Pulcinella for the Mele Ravioli with apples, sausage in a sweet sage butter sauce. Definitely my favorite dish!
Little Cuba for the Vaca Frita Sandwich
Violette for the surprisingly inexpensive Coq au Vin
South City Kitchen or JCT for some great southern classics.
La Grotta, Pietra Cucina, La Tavola, Rumi’s Kitchen and Ecco are also some of my faves.
Q. Favorite Atlanta neighborhood?
A. I love Buckhead. It’s been my home since I moved here 12 years ago. I’m from NYC so Buckhead is about as rural as I can get. I do like wandering around Little Five once in a while to get my Greenwich Village fix.
Q. If your life depended on eating one of the following, which would it be: Pizza Hut’s PANormous Pizza, Domino’s “Brooklyn” Style or Papa John’s Spinach Alfredo Pizza? A. I have to admit I’ve had none of these… Based on my limited trials of them I’d rank the chains 1) Pizza Hut, 2) Domino’s then last 3) Papa John’s. I know that some people have it the other way around… I even have a guilty pleasure for some Sbarro’s once in a while.
Q. You’ve been in Atlanta for over a decade, which practically makes you a native. What advice would you give to new transplants to our fair City By The Perimeter?
A. I don’t have a lot of advice because I think that Atlanta is an easy place to live and acclimate yourself. I do recommend living ITP if you want to avoid a lot of traffic. Atlanta is landlocked so try to find a place with a pool.
Q. Which task was the most difficult: becoming a Rubik’s Cube champion, reverse engineering the perfect pizza or getting folks to leave your home after one of your legendary underground pizza tastings?
Q. We had a trick to get folks to leave the pizza tastings: stop serving pizza and start washing dishes. You’d be amazed at how quickly the place cleared out. No doubt that the pizza is the hardest. The Rubik’s cube was always fun for me and while it took a year to get my time honed, I learned the bulk of what I needed in just a few weeks. Pizza dough is much harder. Even after a decade we still have days where we scratch our head and just can’t figure out why it’s not behaving as it should.
BONUS QUESTION: Why is Varasano’s awesome?
I love it, the ultimate softball question… I run a pizza website and I get emails from people who remember a great slice they had 50 years ago. We are always trying to figure out what inspires that. On some days we are pretty close. Every day we have customers tell us that this is the best pizza they’ve ever eaten.
We definitely do things differently than most places. We are one of only a handful of pizzerias in the country that are using only a natural sourdough culture for leavening and we age our dough several days to get more flavor. Our goal is to make a crust that is paper thin, slightly crispy and charred on the outside but light and airy on the inside. It should almost melt in your mouth. Pizza as a subtle art. We try to balance the toppings just right so that each flavor compliments the others and nothing overpowers. When we hit it right, it’s a great feeling.
The Relevant Linkage
Order a professional pizza oven, here.
Check out some condos- a slice or two away from Varasanos- here.
My sentimental favorite pizza joint, here.