Archive - November, 2013

Campania Pizzeria – Alpharetta

We’re taking the week off from writing to spent time with our families this Thanksgiving. Please enjoy best-of Foodie Friday article.

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.

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

Collet French Pastry Cafe – Alpharetta

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

Francois Collet has a deep resume. The second generation French-born chef trained across the pond in addition to tutelage at the Culinary Institute of America. Past gigs have included Epcot in Orlando and the Buckhead Bread Company.

Collet apple pieBut you’re not likely to meet this cafe’s namesake in Alpharetta. Much like Sweet Tentations on Holcomb Bridge Road, Collet French Pastry is a retail arm of Monsieur Collet’s wholesale business. Located on Peachtree Industrial, Collet crafts delicate French pastries for five star hotels and restaurants.

Instead you’ll meet Catherine Taylor. Herself French-born, Taylor recently relocated from Florida where she retired as a culinary school instructor. Even though most of her products are made elsewhere, she’s certainly got a grasp of technique used to craft these works of art. And I could listen to her pronounce the names of French pastries all day.

Make your first visit for breakfast and try the apple pie. While not graced with a French name, these pies are beautiful and equally delicious. Thinly sliced apples are carefully arranged over a rich custard and held together by a pastry shell. Dusted with powdered sugar, it’ll satisfy your sweet breakfast tooth.

Or you can’t go wrong with a simple croissant. Collet’s is large and golden brown on the outside. It’s flaky exterior yields to a buttery soft and delicate texture inside. A chocolate-filled variety is available for a bit more.

Lunch options include quiche, sandwiches and soups. It’s a small menu at this point but could compete with places like Mittie’s Tea Room for ladies seeking a dainty yet delicious meal.

Collet’s cooler is home to a dizzying array of pastries, from tarts to eclairs. A flourless chocolate cake, who’s French name unfortunately escapes me, was outstanding. Velvety smooth chocolate is hugged by several chocolate shells. It’s adorned with edible gold leaf on top.

And you can’t go wrong picking up some cookies to go. They didn’t last long when shared with my co-workers. Neither did the coconut macaroons. Slightly crispy on the outside yet moist in the middle, they exploded with coconut flavor. You’ll eat every crumb.

Collet French Pastry Cafe on Urbanspoon

Collet is a keeper. The location is a bit of a challenge to find, but is certainly worth seeking out. Au revoir!

Collet French Pastry Cafe is located at 2225 Old Milton Parkway in the Sabri Guven building.

AMC North Point Mall 12

Today we feature a post from Mike Christensen. Follow Mike on Twitter @SCSA31274.

AMC has given me a new reason to go back to the mall.  Well, not the mall itself, but the theater.  We’ll get to that later.

AMC logoAMC North Point Mall 12 is the new theater on the block in Alpharetta.  It blends a new theater experience with the classic movie shows of old.  There are plenty of new things to talk about.

Let’s start with the seats.  Huge, red, leather and electronically reclining.  How’s that?  Every theater has them except the IMAX which features a rocking style seat. The leg room is outstanding.  I couldn’t even reach the ones in front of me with my feet.

The larger seats do lead to another quality.  Each theater has a reduced capacity, normally around 65. Expect more sell outs. They make up for that by offering reserved seating.  This is new for us here in Alpharetta.  When you buy your seats online or at one of the six kiosks outside a map of the theater will appear and you can choose the seats you want.  The rows and seats are marked just like any other venue would be.  Pretty neat.  None of this “everyone scoot toward the center to make room for everyone else.”

The concession stand has been redesigned and turbo charged.  It is set up so you order at one counter and pick up your popcorn at another counter.  It’s supposed to reduce traffic and people crowding around waiting. But there is no real traffic flow.  You order and end up working your way back through all of the people waiting behind you.  There are two display cases with drinks that funnel moviegoers to the two center registers.  They trap people in there making it even more difficult to get out.  They also cause people to forget that there are other registers to go to.  Between the two counters are four of the fancy Coca Cola Freestyle machines.

New food options like Philly Cheese steak or chicken sliders are far from the normal popcorn.  Calorie counts are posted as well.  If the prices weren’t enough to keep you away, those certainly will.  For more adult patrons, a full bar is available.

The majority of the area outside is covered and there are several drop off lanes right in front to reduce car traffic.  Great ideas.

As awesome as it all is there, North Point Mall 12 isn’t without some flaws.  Some are pretty major.  The bathrooms are small.  The theaters are a long distance from the concessions.  The AMC Avenue Forsyth has all the theater entrances right off the lobby.  North Point has you walk down longer hallways like in older theaters.  You will miss a lot of the movie to refill your soda or get another beer.

The theater is located on the backside of the mall near the Von Maur.  Very low visibility.  You won’t see it from the road unless you know it’s there.  And there’s no mall entrance.  There’s an entrance near the box office but you have to go outside first.  It seems that the merchants in the mall would want people to come shop and eat and hang out before or after a flick.  They are missing out on a lot of business. It’s getting people to the theater and not necessarily the mall itself.

Ticket prices range from an average $12 to a staggering $18 for the IMAX 3D.

The nearly 25 year old AMC Mansell Crossing 14 theater down the street will remain open for now. However it may close once its lease is up.

I’m a sucker for all the new fangled stuff so AMC North Point Mall 12 just might become my go to theater.  I’ll see you at the movies.

Rosati’s Pizza and Sports Pub – Cumming

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday. Today we feature a review from Mike Christensen. Follow Mike on Twitter @SCSA31274.

rosatis logoI love Chicago style food.  Pizza, hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, it’s all good. But I’m conflicted over Rosati’s Pizza Pub, the Chicago chain that recently opened their first Georgia pizza pub across from The Collection Forsyth. The food is fantastic, however my experiences there have been less than stellar.

The space inside is, well, cozy. Booths and tables are crammed in wherever there is or perhaps isn’t room.  It’s an odd shaped place, with a dining area in the front, a bar area in the middle and restrooms miles away in the way back.  Adapting to a previous restaurant may not have given them a choice in a layout.  When it’s crowded it’s very difficult to navigate.

Speaking of crowded, it’s very loud during peak traffic times.  Besides all the conversations, there are a ton of TV’s providing sports and other entertainment.  One neat touch is a personal TV supplied in each booth.  In a world of distractions, they fit right in.

Enough about atmosphere, let’s talk turkey, er, pizza.  If you’re familiar with Chicago, you know about thin crust, deep dish and stuffed pizza.  Each location of Rosati’s has a slightly different menu.  The Cumming location doesn’t have the stuffed pizza which was made famous by Giordanos in Chicago.  I was pretty disappointed.

The thin crust is a type of paradox.  It’s a cracker crisp crust yet it’s able to support a good amount of tomato sauce and toppings.  It’s very tasty.

The deep dish just didn’t do it for me.  It was a mess of tomato sauce, just too much stuff and not enough to contain it. If you’re considering the deep dish, take my advice and call ahead.  It takes around 45 minutes to prepare.  If you time it right, the pizza will be ready when you sit down.

There’s a ton of pastas on the menu in a build your own format.  Choose a pasta, then a sauce, then additions.  My wife asked for a to go box as soon as the food hit the table, the portions were so huge.  The pasta was cooked very well and the sauces were flavorful without being too heavy or rich.

rosatis dough nuggets

Rosati’s dough nuggets

My all time favorite Chicago fare is the Italian beef sandwich.  My gold standard is Portillos in Chicago.  The Italian beef sandwich from Rosati’s is the closest to Portillos that I’ve ever had.  It was fantastic.  Huge, juicy and delicious.  The bread is toasted just enough to give a crust on the outside and slightly soggy on the inside as it absorbs all the juice from the meat.  I was in heaven.  It’s been hard for me to not order it every time we go.

Another shining star on the menu is an appetizer called Rosati’s dough nuggets.  It’s a huge tray of pizza dough bites covered in garlic butter sauce.  It comes with marinara sauce for dipping.  The best way I can describe them is pizza doughnuts.  Addictive.

I really want to like Rosati’s, but there are some details that have bothered me.  Some of the prices on the online menu are different on the in store menu.  For instance, the Italian beef sandwich online is $5.99 and $8.99 inside.  The difference I believe is the in store menu states the cost includes drink and fries.  I just wish they would say that online.  Slight let down.

And watch the bumpy and uneven pizza platforms. They have a tendency to slide the pies off the other side.  Pizza down!

The service has been extremely uneven, probably from new staff learning the ropes. I’m willing to overlook it for now. Be patient as the issues get ironed out over time.

Rosati's Pizza on Urbanspoon

But the food at Rosati’s is good enough to get me back into the door, or maybe the to-go window.  Not sure I want to come in and hang out.  Rosati’s is real deal Chicago cooking. If they get a few things polished, they will become a go to place for anyone who is craving Midwest favorites.

Moving Dirt – Construction projects in Alpharetta and South Forsyth

If you’re looking for signs of the recovery, this might be it. From small to giant, new retail and entertainment projects are sprouting up everywhere. Here’s an overview.

Shopping Centers – Long vacant stripmalls are starting to find tenants. On the corner of Old Milton and North Point Parkways you’ll find the first new stripmall to be built in recent memory. It’ll be called Twin Oaks and will be anchored by the growing breakfast restaurant chain First Watch.

In downtown, developer Penn Hodge is renovating the “Alpharetta Beach Houses.” You’ll know these as the two old dilapidated buildings on the corner of Old Milton and Roswell Street. They are starting to look nice! Expect at least one new restaurant to occupy this space. This stretch of Roswell Street has the potential to develop into a miniature restaurant row. Pure Taqueria is almost next door and a new tenant is rumored to be coming to the empty restaurant space at 45 Roswell Street.

top golf logoEntertainmentTop Golf is making great progress on their fancy driving range along Westside Parkway. And a short dogleg right of here will be bowling alley Main Event. They’re renovating the former Home Depot Expo Design Center. And we’re still watching for Three Strikes Entertainment. That’ll be the name of the bowling alley on North Point Parkway. They’ve not started construction but have been going through the motions of getting their building’s elevations approved with the city.

Convenience storesQuikTrip is making great progress on their new store on Old Milton at GA-400. Once complete they will likely close their older location on Old Milton and Cotton Creek.

Racetrac is building near The Collection Forsyth (fka The Avenue). They’re nearly finished grading the land. Expect both Racetrac and QT’s new stores to be the next generation model of store with expanded offerings like frozen yogurt.

Big Box Retail – Construction on Forsyth’s third Walmart is quickly moving along. Look for them on Peachtree Parkway just a little north of the Target near the Brookwood/Mathis Airport intersection.

Rumors are circulating that the new Costco Wholesale location in Cumming might be revived. Negotiations for the land off exit 15 went sour earlier this year. While Alpharettaians may not visit this location, the hope is that it will cannibalize some of the crowd from the Windward store.

Oh, and there’s that big thing being built on Old Milton and GA-400. You know, with the huge PR and social media push.

Alpharetta Restaurant News – November 2013

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

37 main logo37 Main – A Rock Cafe will plug in some new amplifiers in Johns Creek. Named for the address at their original location in downtown Buford, this restaurant, bar and music venue will open a second location in the former Barnacles space on Medlock Bridge Road. Expect a menu that resembles your typical casual American restaurant along with a steady stream of tribute bands.

Alpharetta will finally get a locally-owned doughnut shop. A new joint called DaVinci’s Donuts will open around the first of the year on 131 South Main Street. Their menu will feature only cake doughnuts with a huge variety of toppings and glazes. Pre-made doughnuts are available or customers can create their own to-order. And I’m told “hot now” will be offered. Look for DaVinci in the Alfresco shopping center at Main and Old Milton.

Looks like someone will finally fill the old Erwoods space in Crabapple. It’ll be 850°F Bar Pizza. Eli Zandman first reported on these guys and their plans to open in Midtown Atlanta. Looks like that’s fallen through and they’ve spied this location in Crabapple. It makes sense as the space already has a brick pizza oven capable of making Neapolitan-style pizzas. With the success of Campania and the promised arrival of Antico at Avalon, Alpharetta’s about to be overrun with Neapolitan pies. Not that this is a bad thing, but can this area support it?

And speaking of Campania… a restaurant called Kickshaw Grill will open in the same shopping center at 800 North Main Street. I’m told it’s a chef out of Clearwater Florida who plans a menu of Kobe-style beef and seafood.

Artuzzi’s on Windward is rebranding, becoming Annie’s Italian Kitchen. This was the last location for the struggling chain. It makes sense for them to buck the chain look and do something on their own.

blind murphy logoGrowler store owner Dave Sheets has sold Blind Murphy Craft Beer Market in downtown Alpharetta. He will instead focus on his hard soda business. Sheets was instrumental in crafting Alpharetta’s growler ordinance a few years ago. Who’s the new owner? We’re still in the dark.

Famous Original Pizza is now open in the former Mama’s Pizza location on Old Milton Parkway. And of course Salt Factory, eleven months in the making, is now open in downtown Alpharetta. Expect all sorts of buzz.

Rosati’s Pizza is open and busy near The Collection Forsyth. Don’t be in a hurry as their pies take forever to bake. And next door to Rosati’s used to be Laredo’s Mexican Grill. They’re a goner.

It’s hard to keep up with the ever-changing Indian restaurant scene, but I’ll do my best. Om Hyderabadi Indian Restaurant (formerly known as Zafraan) on has been bought by Sri Krishna Vilas. You might be familiar with their south Indian cooking on Windward Parkway. This Peachtree Parkway location in south Forsyth will be their second restaurant. And a little down the road is Myzenes Indian Coastal Cuisine which opened recently.

And Alpharetta’s quadruple restaurant row is now complete with the opening of Corner Bakery Cafe on Haynes Bridge. The lunch crowd at these joints is crazy. Do yourself a favor and hit Mama’s Pizza instead. It’s outstanding and just around the corner.

Restaurants Coming Soon

Collet French Pastry - Soft opening is next week for Francois Collet’s new joint. Look for them next to Sabri Guven Jewelry on Old Milton.
Great Harvest Bread – Still no word on when they open on Windward next to Mambo’s Cafe.
Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe – Expect an opening next week on Windward next to Ichiban.
Jose’s Mexican Grill – Mexican joint coming to North Point and Webb Bridge.
Urban Spice – Mexican/Indian fusion concept that Azul Agave will become.
Sweet Monkey Frozen Yogurt & Cupcakes – Froyo coming to The Collection Forsyth.
Tower Burger – South Main Street in a former Sonic Drive-in.
Dunkin Donuts – McFarland and Hwy 9 location is open. Peachtree Parkway near Dutch Monkey Doughnuts is next.
First Watch – They will anchor the new shopping center being built on Old Milton and North Point.

Final look at DeRito/Mitchell campaign money

The September 25th campaign financial disclosures are in for the DeRito/Mitchell race. They offer a final glimpse into these campaigns going into the election Tuesday.

Doug DeRito has done no real fund raising to speak of. He’s funded his campaign through a $8,000 loan to himself.

Donald Mitchell is on track to double or possibly triple the campaign spend of his opponent. He’s raised about $20,000 in total, about half of which came in the form of a contribution from himself. The usual suspects of downtown business owners contributed earlier in the campaign.

But recently real estate interests have kicked in to Mitchell’s coffers. The first was shopping center mogul Penn Hodge. More recently it was a $1,000 contribution from the Atlanta Board of Realtors.

Al Holbrook contributed $1,000. He’s behind Solomon Holdings and was granted the contract to build the first (and failed) attempt at the City Center development. Holbrook may be eying another bid at the project, based on participation lists filed with the city.

And Jack Peevy contributed $1,500 to Mitchell’s campaign. Peevy owns property between Avalon and City Center, an area that may develop following completion of these projects.

DeRito has hired Fred Hicks with HEG LLC to be his consultant. Hicks has had the golden touch recently in the campaigns he’s worked on in Milton. Will the same hold true in Alpharetta?

Mitchell has hired Eamon Keegan who two years ago worked for DeRito in his failed mayorial bid.

Chili Cookoff for Alpharetta’s Public Safety Foundation

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

Chili_cookoff_Football 2013A unique chili fundraiser is growing and will be downtown this year. The event, previously held at a fire station in the Spring, raises money for the Alpharetta Public Safety Foundation. The charity provides funds and support for the city’s police and fire fighters.

For a small donation you’ll try dozens of chili samples made by firefighters and police. Kids can enjoy hot dogs, inflatable jumpies and face painting. The Georgia – Florida game will also be on the big screen TV.

What - Alpharetta’s Chili Cookoff
Who - Benefits the Alpharetta Public Safety Foundation
When - Saturday November 2nd 2:30 pm
Where - Old Roswell Street behind Smokejack
Cost - $10 for adults, $5 for children

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