The Art of ZA A Greater Atlanta Pizza Party

The number of pizza joints in Atlanta is staggering! Where do you even start? What type of pizza is your favorite? Do you prefer Chicago style or Neapolitan? Thick crust or thin? Deep dish or hand tossed? Lotsa meat? Veggies only? White, red, or garlic sauce? WHAT KIND OF CHEESE, MAN?!?

After "taking one for the team," and tasting the offerings of several great za spots in the Greater Atlanta area, here are three of our favorites!

Welcome to the Greater Atlanta



...the family Pizzario Since 1959

On August 20, 1959, the first Aurelio’s Pizza opened its doors at 2041 Ridge Rd in Homewood, Illinois. This small storefront had just enough room for about 4 tables and a small kitchen with one pizza oven. In 1959, pizza was a relatively new concept. Joe would sell 6 or 7 pizzas a day, but Joe’s home cooked Italian beef sandwiches kept him going. Joe made some changes to the dough and sauce recipe and began using fresh, homemade Italian sausage rather than pre-cooking it. These changes made quite a difference and pizza sales began to grow. Joe persevered by working 7 days a week, as cook, waiter and delivery guy, while building his reputation and customer loyalty…day by day, one customer at a time.

Our first Pizza Party stop was Aurelio's Is Pizza in beautiful Marietta, Georgia. Aurelio's was our first and only experience with truly authentic Chicago thin crust pizza. Most of us are familiar with Chicago's popular deep dish variety, and to be honest, I had no idea a thin crust version of Chicago pizza even existed. I'm here to tell you, it does, and it is DELICIOUS!

Before the pizza arrived, we were excited to try a few other offerings from Aurelio's, like their Crispy Toasted Ravioli with Marinara. Many times the breading on fried ravioli can be too thick, or too crunchy and hard. This ravioli was perfect! The breading was light and crispy and simply delicious.

Next on the hit list was this super fresh and bright Italian Antipasto Salad. Perfect for lunch or dinner, this salad really hit the spot.

I will be the first to say I'm a Bolognese snob. It is my all time favorite pasta sauce and I am a true fanatic. This truly may be the very best Bolognese I've tasted to date. I LOVED their pizza, but this was my absolute favorite dish at Aurelio's. The blend of meats were perfectly selected and ground, and the sauce had several layers of amazing flavors with a texture that tasted like your Nonnina had simmered it for days. I will definitely be back for more.

...LOTS more.

Super Six Pizza

...then came the pizza.

My first experience with an authentic thin crust Chicago style pizza was fantastic. Aurelio's has been firing and serving this pizza since 1959 and you can tell they have perfected their craft!

Tomato, Spinach & Mushroom Pizza

Aurelio's offers pizzas from 6" to 18". Gluten free crust is also available in the 6" & 10" sizes.

Sausage Pizza

Every pizza was topped with the freshest ingredients and each one more delicious than the last. I am a huge fan of Hawaiian style pizzas and it was my favorite. Yes folks, pineapple DOES belong on pizza!

Hawaiian Pizza

Along with the pizzas came this delicious Spinach Calabrese. A Calabrese is Aurelio’s famous crust stuffed with mozzarella cheese and fresh spinach marinated in Mama Aurelio’s secret seasoning and special marinara sauce then baked until golden brown.

I would say this is arguably Aurelio's signature dish. As the knife slid into the calabrese, mounds of gooey, melted cheese came flowing and it was sinfully delicious!

Aurelio's also offers thick crust and stuffed pizzas, sandwiches, pastas and decadent desserts. We had a fantastic adventure at Aurelio's.

Tell 'em Joe sent ya!

For more information on Aurelio's is Pizza, visit their website listed below.

The pizza party continues at...


OUR STORY | Rize Artisan Pizza + Salads was born from a passion for people and great pizza. The dream was fueled by the vision to build a different kind of restaurant company - one that could inspire people to craft their best life while serving real food and providing true hospitality. Rize is a place to share and celebrate life's moments. It's a thriving community of food lovers - who are more like friends and family - who seek something better for themselves and each other every day.
Rize is more than just pizza and salads. When people dine out, they are sharing a moment of their lives in our restaurants and trusting us to deliver. Our dining experience must enhance that moment with great food, an energizing atmosphere and be delivered with true hospitality from the heart.

Our second stop for our pizza party was the Grand Opening of Rize Artisan Pizza in Sandy Springs.


At Rize, our passion for food and people inspire us every day. This passion defines who we are and drives us forward. It inspires the artisan techniques we use to prepare our food, to the way we care for our team, to the way every guest is treated – like friends and family. Every moment is important. Every moment is an opportunity to share our passion and create a truly memorable dining experience.

It's always fun to watch pizzas going in and out of the wood fired ovens at Rize.

Beer and wine are always on tap at Rize. What a unique treat to be able to walk in and serve yourself!

Yes please!

Our experience at Rize began with both red and white Sangrias flowing! Typically, I prefer red wine, but the white sangria was so light and refreshing, and equally as delicious.

Our first dish of the evening was the Stuffed Peppadew Peppers with whipped feta & crumbled fennel sausage, spiced walnuts, calabrese oil and parsley. We felt the need to try a second plate of these as we were assisting of course with quality control. Of course that's exactly what we were doing. Quality control. ;)

Rize has a terrific selection of pastas like this Seared Shrimp with tagliatelle, Beeler’s bacon, fire roasted tomato, white wine & butter, parsley and shaved grana padano. The freshly shaved cheese took this pasta to another level.

Orecchiette is one of my top three personal favorite pastas and it was perfectly suited for this Pork Meatball Pesto with toasted pecan pesto, white wine, calabrese peppers, toasted bread crumbs and shaved grana padano. Again with that delicious cheese!

Shaved mushrooms are a great addition to any pasta dish especially this Roasted Shiitake Mushroom Tagliatelle with white wine, baby kale, toasted bread crumbs and grana padano.

For a perfect pizza experience you must have WINGS! We were in love with these Charbroiled Wings with a spice herb rub, ginger-honey sauce and fresh cilantro. Delicious!

Rize offers a wide selection of signature pizzas as well as a stellar list of available toppings to create your own. We tasted several of the signature pizzas.

WAVERLY | prosciutto, gorgonzola, shredded mozzarella, asiago, fig jam, balsamic reduction, grana padano

ASIAN BBQ CHICKEN | chopped bbq chicken, shredded mozzarella, charred red onion, green chili sauce, sesame seed, scallion, lime zest

GARDEN | fire roasted tomato, goat cheese, shredded mozzarella, roasted artichoke, roasted shiitake mushrooms, charred red onion, zucchini, watermelon radish, toasted pecan pesto, basil, roasted garlic oil

With the delicious sangria, pizzas and other signature dishes, we had a deliciously fantastic pizza adventure at Rize Artisan Pizza.

It's our belief that the sharing of food has always been a part of the human story. Food is more than survival. With it we make friends, court lovers, count our blessings and celebrate life's moments.

For more information on Rize Artisan Pizza including hours of operation and location, visit their website below.

Our final stop in the Greater Atlanta Pizza Party is...


Our dough is made fresh daily with four simple ingredients water, sea salt, yeast and 00 flour. our DOP San Marzano tomatoes, fine sea salt, DOP extra virgin olive oil, and 00 flour are shipped in directly from Naples. we are not trying to reinvent pizza, we're simply perfecting it. great food is always associated with great memories. ~ Chef Luca Varuni

The success of a business depends on the efforts of all involved. This looks like one fantastic staff filled with success!

Our super fun & fabulous barkeeps for the evening kept our glasses filled with Negroni's straight from the tap! Not. Even. Kidding. Negroni's on tap is a thing at Varuni Napoli. Are any further reasons even needed for repeat visits?

Well, yeah, there's this guy. This guy is a great reason to visit. Y'all, meet the creator of Varuni Napoli, Chef Luca Varuni. We're kind of in immense like with him too. This guy visits Italy on the regular to bring home the freshest ingredients for his dishes. If you have a chance to stop by and say hello, give him a hug from us!

You just cannot under any circumstances beat a woodfired oven. She's a beauty!

These amazing pizzas begin with very special attention to the dough. It's made with only the best of four superior ingredients. The toppings only accent a great crust and Varuni has the market cornered on a stellar crust.

Our first pizza tasting was the Oro Bianco featuring fresh mozzarella, bufala ricotta, taleggio cheese, pancetta, Pecorino Romano, basil, black truffle oil and black pepper. This was the best white pizza we've had in a very long time. The truffle oil was just enough not to overwhelm, but to perfectly accent and balance the white sauce. So, so incredibly delicious. We fought over the last...well, the last few... slices of this pizza.

I won.

Our second tasting was the Porreca Piccante with fresh mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, hot soppressata, cherry tomatoes, calabrian peppers, Pecorino Romano and basil. The peppers were fantastic and gave such an explosion of taste. Imagine if you will crushed red pepper but kicked up several flavor notches. Again....we fought.

Again, I won. ;)

The morale of this story: Never come between a woman and her za.

Our food products do not contain high fructose corn syrup. We control the source for all of our products, and all of our meats are sourced from hormone free suppliers. Our cheese, dough and sauce contain no preservatives or additives. Our produce is locally sourced when possible and occasionally adjusted to ensure freshness and premium quality.

For more information on Varuni Napoli, including hours of operation and location, visit their website below.

What a delicious adventure exploring the Greater Atlanta area in search of the perfect pie. We'd like to thank all of our wonderful hosts; Aurelio's, Rize Artisan Pizza and Varuni Napoli, and encourage you to experience these incredible pizza spots for yourself! You are certainly in for a treat! Summertime is calling and summertime is for PIZZA!

We would like to thank Aurelio's, Rize Artisan Pizza and Varuni Napoli for absolutely delicious, 5-star meals. We would also like to thank our readers for allowing us to share our thoughts and opinions on these complimentary tasting experiences and products with you. Thank you for your confidence in us and thank you in advance for visiting and supporting these businesses. For more from the Front Porch Gourmet, we welcome you to visit our website.

Created By
Melissa Pelkey-Hass


Photos by The Front Porch Gourmet

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