Campania Pizzeria – Alpharetta

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday.

Several years ago a pizzeria opened in a cramped space near Georgia Tech. Tiny little Antico was quickly lauded by food bloggers and critics alike. The buzz was intense, vaulting their Neapolitan-style pizzas to the top of every best-of list in Atlanta.

Meanwhile, back in suburbia, we ate our New York-style pies, blissfully unaware of the changing hipster ITP pizza scene. To many in Alpharetta, “Neapolitan-style” meant getting chocolate and strawberry ice cream in one carton.

But last week’s opening of Campania Pizzeria may prove to be a paradigm shift for suburban pizza. Owners Stewart Muller and Jennifer Simmons, who also own this stripmall, have brought Alpharetta its very first true Neapolitan-style pizzeria.

Campania’s pizza toes the line on this tradition. The ingredients are few, remarkably simple and carefully sourced from Italy. From the delicately-soft double zero flour to San Marzano tomatoes to buffalo mozzarella, everything is by-the-book authentic.

The star at Campania is their oven. Imported from Italy it sits proudly on display in the dining room, emboldened with the restaurant’s name spelled in black tile. It’s fueled with a mix of oak and cherry logs. Temperatures inside reach a scorching 1000 degrees. Pizzas sit on a slab of volcanic rock cut from Mount Vesuvius.

It takes only about 90 seconds for the pizza to cook. Next the pie is slowly lifted inside the oven. Flames from the burning oak roll across the top of the oven, kissing the top of the pizza and charring the crust. A mere two seconds later the pizza is rescued from the inferno, cut and delivered to your table for immediate consumption.

Tartufo with Margherita DOC

Which pizza should you order? The Margherita DOC is traditional, with tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil and olive oil. The San Marzanos are a little sweet, the crust pillow-soft yet charred and the cheese slightly smokey. I prefer the Margherita without the buffalo mozzarella which can soften the bottom of the pizza due to higher water content. Purists may scoff, but it’ll also save you a few bucks.

Campania’s marinara pizza is amazingly simple yet surprisingly powerful with flavor. Without cheese the flavor of the tomato really shines. The pizza is topped with pungent sliced garlic and oregano.

By far the best pizza on Campania’s menu is the Tartufo. This white pizza has mozzarella and fontina cheeses, mushrooms, pancetta, sliced garlic and is topped with truffle oil and rosemary. There’s so much going on with this pizza – from pungent flavors, the aroma of the truffle oil, texture of the bread to the delightfully-salty pancetta. Amazing.

Pizzaiolo Stefano Rea is the talent at the oven. He spends as much time in the dining room glad-handing patrons as he does in the kitchen. Rea’s passion for his craft is genuine and he’ll chew your ear off talking Neapolitan pizzas. He’s past gigs include Sandy Spring’s Cibo e Beve and a brief stint at Erwood’s in Crabapple.

What’s Rea got up his sleeve next? How about black pizza dough infused with squid ink? It’s basically a black pizza topped with seafood galore. It’s, if anything, perhaps the most bizarre and intriguing menu item in Alpharetta.

Only two questions remain about Campania. First – is it as good as Atlanta’s Antico? Local foodies have been quietly beating a path to Campania’s door to get that question answered. Their pizzas are a tad smaller than Antico’s but very close to their taste and quality. The ambiance at Campania is far more comfortable and the staff much more friendly.

Campania Pizzeria Napoletana on Urbanspoon

And second – will suburbanites embrace an authentic Neapolitan pizza? Remember, it isn’t burned, it’s charred. You can’t buy it by the slice. This isn’t Mellow Mushroom and it isn’t exactly kid-friendly. Once we get past these notions I believe Campania can be a game changer. Hopefully we’re seeing the start of a budding new restaurant scene along Alpharetta’s Main Street!

Photo Credit: Mike Murphy

17 Responses to “Campania Pizzeria – Alpharetta”

  1. Elliot Garcia April 26, 2013 at 8:38 am #

    Vinnys on Windward has squid ink linguine

  2. A April 26, 2013 at 8:44 am #

    Hi Lee–I was at Campania at the same time as you yesterday (saw your tweet about it) and was really impressed with their pies. I would bring my kid there, but we’re talking older elementary age. If you have really little ones, maybe it’s not the best ambiance, but I plan to be a regular and support this local business and their great food. The lunch crowd was impressive for a new opening, and I’ll be curious if they can draw the crowds at dinner like Brooklyn Joe’s. Overall, a very welcome addition to the Alpharetta dining scene!

  3. Brent H. April 26, 2013 at 8:51 am #

    Thanks for the write-up, Lee. The missus and I are really looking forward to checking out Campania. I’m afraid we’re tragically un-hip; we’ve never been to Antico.

  4. JB April 26, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    We went the day they opened. We had been stalking them since the first sign went up. Very very good pizza with superb quality of ingredients. Very nice people as well.

    We plan to be regulars. Oh, and thanks to them for the dinosaur cup full of cheese.

  5. JP April 26, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    I’m very excited Campania is now open. I will be dining there soon – perhaps this weekend.

  6. Travis Allen April 26, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

    We checked on Campania last Friday and loved it. Not too many choices when it comes to the pizzas, but something for just about everything. Can’t remember the name of what we tried, and their website isn’t fully up yet, so I can’t look at the menu. It was essentially their version of a meat lovers pizza and it was excellent.

    I’m really hurting for a pizza place nearby that can make me a “white clam” or “white seafood” pizza, so guess I’ll be heading back whenever he’s ready with the black dough pizza.

    I’ll be back for sure.

  7. Lorri B April 26, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    Hubby and I went on Tuesday with an out of town guest and loved it. Hubby disclosed he had been earlier on his own for lunch (grumble, grumble). I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had a full bar along with beer/wine selections. I can’t wait to try their limoncello martini. Salads were excellent. We had the Caprese and the one with artichoke hearts and shaved parmesan. For the pizzas, we tried the Margherita and the Tartufo and both were excellent. Two salads and two pizzas were enough food for 3 adults and left room for a canoli and espresso. We will definitely be back to try more.

  8. B April 26, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

    Having visited Antico only once, I am looking forward to trying Compania. The folks at the register at Antico didn’t even say hello when we came in – and no one else was there in the front to order. A plain pizza and a cheese calzone were about $40. The calzone was a bit cold in the middle and the cheese was very liquidy – the bottom crust got soggy quickly. Really don’t understand the buzz about that place.

    Have heard nothing but good reviews about Compania and hope to get by there next week. I do like that they use simple, pure ingredients.

  9. Kim April 27, 2013 at 11:09 pm #

    Excited to try any new pizza place. What are the prices like? Hopefully not like Antico!

    Not child-friendly? Does that mean it is a spot quiet enough for good conversation? It sure is hard to find calm meeting spots in this area. Some of us just want to go out and enjoy quiet conversation with friends or spouse without being inundated with loud music, TVs, or excessive restaurant clatter. Does it exist?

  10. Vickie April 28, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    Fantastic! Have been there several times since opening and each time have tried a new item —- excellent! Pies made lovingly with few ingredients that each compliment the other.
    Enjoyed hearing the history of the Neopolitan pizza and the speciatly oven in which they are prepared.
    Restaurant has a cozy feel – - -like being in Italy!

  11. JP April 28, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

    My daughter and I went to Campania Saturday evening. We ordered the Margharita DOC and the Salame. When the pies came out they looked fantastic – except we received the Salame and a Mista, which was their version of “all the meats”. Unfortunately, lots of different meats on a pie is my least favorite type of pizza and I would never have ordered it. My favorite is the Margharita, so I was a bit disappointed. I would have sent it back except we had a very tight timeline for dinner.

    The good news is both pies were excellent. The tomato sauce was fantastic and the crust was excellent. My experience was slightly jaded due to receiving the wrong pie, but that won’t stop me from going back again. I’ll just make sure I speak louder next time I order!

  12. lklkj April 29, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

    this article is a bit insulting, as though suburbanites don’t appreciate good food. I live in Roswell, but I’m probably more in tune with what’s going on in the Atlanta restaurant scene than a vast majority of people who live ITP. Sheesh.

  13. Scsa31274 May 3, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    By not being kid friendly, there’s not a lot of options for kids on the menu. It’s a grown-up kind of pizza place. My wife and I have been there several times with our 3 yr old. We just bring food for him. As for conversation, the last time we went it was very busy and very noisy. Everyone talking lead to us really not being able to hear each other at the table. Not great but what can you do? Not a lot of intimate seating there(4 booths). The place is small which does lend to a cozy feeling. The prices aren’t bad, ranging from 10-15 bucks a pie. We usually get out of there for around 35 bucks for two people. I do wish they had used a lighter tile behind the oven. I know they wanted to make the oven stand out with the white tile on it, but going the direct opposite with the shiny black tiles on the walls makes for a really dark corner. My thoughts? A red maybe terra cotta tile. Now that’s Italian!
    We love Campania and will go back a lot. The owners are extremely friendly and always engage us in conversation as we are leaving. I hope they do really well there.

  14. phatnate May 3, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    I tend to agree about how dark the place was. I was there on a sunny day in mid afternoon, and the interior was very dark, I was expecting higher prices actually because of how dark it was. It should have a light and airy ambiance like the pizza. They definitely need to lighten the place up. And @JP you didn’t have time to wait for a pizza that takes 90 seconds to cook? I like that there is no need to call ahead for a pizza to go. By the time you place your order and pay your tab, the pizza is done. That’s pretty cool. Oh yeah…The Pizza was great and reasonably priced.

  15. Cool Papa Bell May 3, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    I agree it’s not exactly kid friendly as far as atmosphere. However, I’m trying to think of how a menu can have anything more kid friendly than pizza.

  16. JP May 3, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    @phatnate:

    I would have loved to stay and order another apizza. However, the restaurant was packed and I wasn’t so upset that I wanted to make someone else wait for their food. It’s all good.

  17. Scsa31274 May 3, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

    It is pizza but your usual kid friendly super cheese crust pocket transformers puffy greasy fare. I’m looking at you Pizza Hut. This is adult pizza.

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