Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday.
No, this isn’t a review of 850. A good deal has already been written about Crabapple’s newest restaurant. Here are some general thoughts on our growing Neapolitan pizza war in the Alpharetta area.
850F Bar Pizza originally planned to open in west Midtown according to blogger Eli Zandman. They backed out of the space in favor of the former Erwoods location in Crabapple. It was a smart move. At that point in the summer of 2013 Alpharetta’s Campania was getting rave reviews. They were sure to draw a competitor.
Next 850 pulled a major coup d’etat by stealing Campania’s pizzaiolo. Stefano Rea brings most of the familiar recipes with him to 850. This blogger’s favorite, the tartofu, is still around. Close your eyes and you’ll be hard pressed to taste a difference between the 850 version and that still on Campania’s menu – except that it’s a tad smaller and a few bucks cheaper at 850. But the explosive flavor combination of pancetta, garlic, rosemary and truffle oil is available in both restaurants.
What is different at 850 is the addition of calzones – deep fried calzones that is. It sounds gross but I assure these are amazing. They come out a beautiful golden brown color and not the least bit greasy. The frying gives the pizza bread an amazing texture. My calzone was stuffed with a spicy capicola. These may not be on the menu yet, but if you go, ask them about it.
But now this is starting to sound like a review.
Don’t count Campania out of the fight by any means. They were first to the market and have built a loyal following. Their staff and management are among the best and most friendly of any restaurant in town. That goes a long way. Campania’s biggest challenge from here on out will be staying creative with their menu after the loss of Stefano.
850′s got a better location in the heart of Crabapple. Their patio is awesome as is their beer selection. But the rent is expensive in these digs. The restaurant will have to fire on all cylinders to keep the bills paid. Campania’s management owns the real estate under the restaurant, something that could help if times get tough.
Nevertheless, I think there’s room in this market for both players. I personally will probably keep going to Campania over 850, mainly because city planners don’t want to make it easy for me to drive to Crabapple (but that’s another article).
And then there’s Anitco. How will their opening at Avalon shape the Neapolitan pizza fight? We’ll have to see. I’m interested to see if they try to recreate the midtown vibe in Avalon. I don’t think they can do it, especially with the communal dining. I think suburban diners would rather opt for the friendly service at a traditional restaurant like Campania or 850. Again we’ll have to see.