Varuni Napoli: Atlanta, GA, USA
I had wanted to try this for a little over a year after friends told me that chef-and-owner Giancarlo Pirrone from the infamous Antico’s had left and started his own joint in Midtown. My weekend in Midtown ATL proved to be fruitful eating as two friends were also willing to join me for more than just pizza at Varuni Napoli. A mere 10-minute drive from where I was located, we feasted and feasted well on the following:
- cuoppo: combination of arrancini and panzerotti
- porecca picante pizza
- pappa gone pizza
- pistachio cannoli
- nutella cannoli
Cuoppo: Arrancini are essentially stuffed or mixed rice balls, usually made with risotto and cheese, rolled in panko breadcrumbs and then fried. Panzerotti are supposed to be pastries but V.N. puts a twist on it and makes it into a potato croquette with pecorino romano cheese.
- very filling, perfect to share for three since there are three of each appetizer
- came out hot and fresh instead of sitting under a heat lamp: so hot that my friend burned his mouth on an arrancini ball
- not overwhelming in sauce regarding the arrancini, good balance of flavors
- too much fried things overall. The dipping sauce (marinara I believe) helped a lot to take off that edge, but I ended up drinking a lot of water because of it and that filled me up really early on.
Porecca Picante Pizza: spicy! spicy salami, spicy sausage, with fresh buffalo mozarella. This is definitely one dish for you heat lovers out there. I can’t say that this was a favorite of mine. There was a bit too much meat for my liking, but it wasn’t a bad pizza.
- really good, not that spicy! For all the hype about the spice, it’s actually got a good amount of heat
- ingredients not evenly dispersed: some slices barely had any toppings
- not enough cheese
Pappa Gone: I ordered this pizza because it was the closest to the pizza that I absolutely adore at Antico’s. I can’t even remember the name, but I know the one ingredient that keeps me going back there, and those are the peppadew peppers. These peppers have a moderate amount of heat, but more importantly, they are sweet. This goes well with the heat and also helps break up the saltiness of the cheese and sausage. In addition, it helps cut a bit of the acidity that comes from tomato sauce. Ingredients include: Fresh smoked mozzarella, buffalo mozzarella, caramelized onions, peppadew peppers, Prosciutto di Parma, Pecorino Romano, basil (as taken from the Varuni Napoli menu).
- peppadew peppers!
- ingredients are more dispersed than the porecca picante
- less salty in general compared to the Antico version and the porecca picante (this is big for me because salt means more water intake)
- not as much cheese
- came out LATE: I believe they had forgotten about this order, and we had to remind them.
Pistachio Cannoli: I really had high hopes for this dessert as I love pistachio. It came filled to the brim too!
- definitely shareable: this thing is bigger and longer than two churros put together.
- way too sweet: even with the amount of cream that was stuffed in there, the filling was just ridiculously sweet. You can taste the pistachio for sure, but at this point, I don’t know if it’s flavoring or essence because it is SO sweet.
Nutella Cannoli: mmm hazelnut! If you’re a chocolate lover, please take this section of the review with a grain of salt because I am not a dessert lover. In fact, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth despite random cravings from time to time. If I do have a dessert, it has to be small, and it’s usually fruity in some form or another.
- very chocolatey: decadence is definitely a great word to describe this cannoli. They didn’t skimp out on the chocolate.
- less sweet in terms of intensity compared to the pistachio cannoli: maybe it’s got a little less sugar content, or maybe it’s the bitterness of the cocoa, but this sweetness was a little more tolerable.
- not really any if you like creamy chocolatey goodness.
Tiramisu: this was actually recommended by a friend who had eaten here before. I would have to say that this dessert, while full of cream, is more up my alley because it is less sweet than the other two desserts. In addition, there is coffee. I like coffee…a lot.
- generous with their coffee liqueur: some places skimp out, and some are a little too heavy handed with the booze. This was a really nice combination.
- definitely like the dark cocoa powder dusting: that bitterness really helps cut into the already mild-sweetness of the whipped cream.
This was by far one of the biggest meals of the weekend for me. We had so much pizza I could take some of the pappa gone back with me. I did have one complaint though: there isn’t too much of a break between the door and the rest of the room and so any cold air that comes in cools the pizza significantly. I think at one point, our cheese got a little chewy and the pizza had maybe sat on our table for about five minutes? It was pretty chilly that day. Given how popular V.N. is, the line can easily go out the door, and I definitely forsee the door being opened for extensive periods of time. Another thing that I took off brownie points was for water refills. We actually had to take two bottles from vacant tables because people rarely came to check in on us. I think this also resulted in our pappa gone pizza never really making it until we were almost finished with our porecca picante pizza. All in all a summary:
- cuoppo: ***.75 (3.75 stars)
- porecca picante pizza: ***.35 (3.35 stars)
- pappa gone pizza: ***.5 (3.5 stars)
- pistachio cannoli: **.85 (2.85 stars)
- nutella cannoli: ***.25 (3.25 stars)
- tiramisu: ***.85 (3.85 stars)
If you had to ask, I think I would still prefer Antico’s even though V.N. has much less salt in their pizza. They are more generous with the peppadew peppers and those sausage meatballs were MUCH larger. Not to mention, there was way more mozarella as well. Service is much better as well. Admittedly though, V.N. has much more ideal seating compared to Antico’s. Parking is also much easier to find with V.N. having a shared parking lot in the back of the building. So tough! I think I’d have to go back to Antico’s and try their pizza. It’s too bad there was that whole illegal immigrant fiasco though. That kind of makes me not want to support an establishment for the sake of human rights. What’s a foodie to do?
You can find Varuni Napoli here:
1540 Monroe Dr NE, Atlanta, GA 30324
Let me know what you think! It’s definitely some of the best brick oven pizza in town.