Atlanta BeltLine: Your New Pizza Destination

Updated: May 26


The Detroit Red Top Pizza from Nina & Rafi

For decades, you couldn’t find a decent pizza in most of Atlanta. There were exceptions, like Fellini’s, but we were mostly limited to the cardboard cutouts of the big chains.

In the past few years, as the Atlanta restaurant scene overall has found its footing, so has the pizza scene become more authentic. New York style. Wood burning ovens imported from Italy. High-quality pepperoni. Pizza sold by the slice.

Nowhere is this truer than in a relatively compact section of the Atlanta BeltLine. So head on down, ditch your car, indulge in some gooey, worth-every-calorie pizza and then walk it off (some of it anyway) as you explore the trail.

Starting at Krog Street Market, here is a guide to a pizza on the BeltLine, with some info about COVID safety.

Varuni Napoli

This is authentic Napoli. Once inside Krog Street Market, head to the far end, where you will find pizza baked in real Italian ovens by real Italians. The owner, Luca Varuni, hails from Naples and brings his ingredients too - importing Double Zero flour, cold-pressed olive oil, olives, cured meats, San Marzano tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella. Especially good is the Bastardo, which is topped with pepperoni and gets its kick from nduja (a spicy spreadable sausage). Other popular menu items include the fried calzone and Porecca Piccante (made with hot soppressata, nduja, cherry tomatoes and Calabrian peppers). Order your pizza and then watch it being made in ringside seats to the open kitchen. The pizza maker behind the counter (maybe Luca?) likes to entertain kids and might slip you a sample of salami. During COVID, there is limited seating at the counter, or you can order pickup or delivery.

Other locale: Monroe Drive, next to Piedmont Park


Varuni Napoli in Krog Street Market
Varuni Napoli in Krog Street Market

Nina & Rafi

It’s hard to find better pizza anywhere than Nina & Rafi. While the owners are from NY and NJ, the star of the show is the Detroit Red Top, a thick rectangular pie with cheese baked into the crust. It’s enough to feed the whole family. But don’t miss their other pies, like the square Old Fashioned (as close as you’ll get to the Grandma pizza from the co-owner’s other restaurant, O4W Pizza) or the round cheese pie with your favorite toppings. Highly suggest their style of pepperoni. N&R has even creatively partnered with Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q to temporarily offer the Nina Fox Pie: Covered in Fox Bros. sauce with mozzarella, pulled pork, pickled red onions, hot chile peppers and Carolina-style vinegar sauce. With a red leather booth interior and “beachfront” patio seating on the BeltLine, N&R’s atmosphere is as inviting as the food. You can get slices before 4 p.m., and they serve up creative cocktails, if you want to find out what pairs with pepperoni. With limited tables during COVID, be prepared for long waits on the weekends. Or order early for delivery.

Not-pizza-dish to try: Cheese bread, a meal in itself. Wings served Rafi style (with onions and cherry peppers) or Nina style (without).


Fritti

Fritti was a pre-BeltLine pioneer, planting its flag in Inman Park long before the neighborhood became a destination. Housed in a former service station, its glass doors are raised in nice weather, giving way to an open air dining experience and front-row view of the Inman Park scene. Or for even better people watching, opt for the corner patio. The pizza is made in wood-burning ovens, and pizza is offered alongside “fritti,” or Italian snacks: rice balls filled with sausage; calamari; crimini and portobello mushrooms in a rice flour batter; eggplant and mozzarella croquettes. There is no American pepperoni here, you will find only old-world fresh ingredients, like ham and salami. Try the Quattro Stagioni (cotto ham, artichokes, mushrooms and olives), or stay simple with the Regina Margherita. Pizzas are 13" and don't leave you with a heavy feeling afterward, so you could easily order a whole pie for yourself. The atmosphere is casual and draws all kinds of clientele, from Buckhead upscale to East Atlanta grunge.

Not-pizza-dish to try: Arancini (fried risotto and sausage balls) with marinara sauce and a salad, for a complete meal.


Glide

With a walkup window in the Irwin Street Market, Glide is reminiscent of pizza you grab in a New York subway station. The slices are huge, and the ingredients are high quality. They make their own sourdough crust, and offer just a few selections, including their own Southernized pie, the Homegrown (pimento cheese, mozzarella, mushrooms and scallions). Whole pies are served with pickled peppers and ranch, which earn rave reviews. If you want to eat on site, settle in to one of the mismatched tables outside, to the left of Jake’s Ice Cream.

There’s more: Read our recent article about Glide.



Pizza Jeans

On the second floor of Ponce City Market, the main feature of Pizza Jeans is the dough. And it’s no wonder, as the owners also founded Root Baking Company, nominated for a James Beard Award, and offering counter service next door. The Margherita is light on the mozzarella - topped with shaved grana padano, olive oil and basil - all of this leaving room to really taste the crust, which of course, is delicious. They also offer a vegan option, Rossa, with no cheese. For a different take on pizza, try the Red on White, made with whipped ricotta (whole pies only). Interesting toppings include locally grown mushrooms, shaved beef and Voodoo potato chips for a little crunch. Order at the counter, separated by a plexiglass divider, then eat at a nearby table or counter overlooking PCM’s Food Hall below. Or get curbside delivery (without paying for parking). With slices, beer, wine and cocktails at reasonable prices, Pizza Jeans makes a great date night.

Notable topping: Voodoo potato chips



February is Black History Month. Read, learn or contribute in some way. Here are some ideas.


An Atlanta native, Nicole Gustin is the Founder & CEO of BiteLines, which offers walking food tours on the Atlanta BeltLine. She considers the BeltLine her backyard, and is excited to see how Atlanta is reinventing itself. The BiteLines blog features art, restaurants, happenings and weirdness on the Atlanta BeltLine. Share story ideas and pics at: contact@bitelines.com. Or follow on Instagram @bitelinesatl.


Note: We have paused our tours during the pandemic, but will ramp up again as soon as it’s safe.