Avellino’s is a pizza joint for the neighborhood


Avellino’s Pizzeria is a neighborhood joint, through and through. Both of them, in fact. One location overlooks the railroad tracks in Decatur. The other, in the Brookhaven area, is plunked between a dry cleaner and a scrubby empty field. Both are tiny holes in the wall, usually with a crowd at the door and plenty of inviting outdoor seating.

But, in ways subtle and not, these two Avellino’s are different.

“The one in Decatur is more New York-style,” said Mitch Frohman, front-of-the-house manager at the Brookhaven location. At the Decatur location, they cook on stone in a gas deck oven, he said. “Here in Brookhaven, we have a wood-burning oven shipped from Italy.”

In other words, this mini-chain gives its locals what they want. And, in Brookhaven, apparently, what they want is an unapologetic combo of haute, delicate 12-inch pies strewn with arugula, fior di latte and pancetta as well as greasy, cheesy goodies straight out of the deep fryer.

The first oily app we opted for on a sunny Sunday evening was the arancini — balls of creamy, toothsome rice studded with pancetta bits and amply breaded. They came in a pool of marinara and they were crispy and rich. An upgrade on fried mozzarella sticks.

But, then, on table after table on the patio (where we sat because we couldn’t resist all the sunburst-orange umbrellas and the comfortable backyard party vibe) we spotted something mysterious and intriguing.

“What,” I asked one of the cheerful, casual servers, “is that?”

“Oh,” she said, her eyes lighting up. “It’s the garlic cheese bread. It’s by far the most popular appetizer here.”

The crusty, fluffy, oil-rich bread is stuffed with gooey, oregano-flecked mozzarella, then sliced and splayed along the edges of a round platter. The spiny, crescent loaf looks remarkably like a whole, fried fish and, in yet another miracle, is ridiculously delicious. Drizzled with a garlic-thick sauce and served with a cup of fruity marinara for dunking, it’s lick-your-fingers decadent, super fun, and the most flavorful thing we ate all night.

Which is another way of saying the pizza at Avellino’s is very fine, but not mind-blowingly good. The crust is thin and nicely charred by that wood fire. It’s also a little dry and lacks that salty, sweet, yeasty, chewy suppleness that makes pizza crust truly special.

Toppings are also good, but not great. On our red-sauced quattro stagioni, the artichokes were more leaf than heart, and smoked pancetta tasted more like crisped breakfast bacon. Combined with kalamata olives and cremini mushrooms, there was plenty of flavor, and a nice intersection of textures. But, the toppers didn’t have that high-quality sumptuousness that makes you say, “Wow.”

Similarly, on our white ricotta and salsiccia pizza, piped whorls of ricotta had a lovely, garlicky creaminess. The hard nubbins of Italian sausage? Not as lovely.

If you compare these Neapolitans with some of Atlanta’s more celebrated versions, they fall short. But, for a convenient neighborhood joint, Brookhaven’s Avellino’s is a respectable and reliable draw — as much an easy, happy gathering spot with plenty of beer and wine as it is a dining experience.

Measuring with this same bar, I can recommend the spaghetti and meatballs. The sauce is a little chunky and strikes a nice balance between sweetness and acidity. The pasta is cozily thick and a perfect al dente. The meatballs — though tightly packed enough to give them a rubbery quality — are also packed with savory flavor.

I also can give a thumbs-up to the melanzana panini, despite the puzzling fact that its bread is a folded pita with a slim channel of melted mozzarella in its crease. Stuffed with thin, crisp slices of eggplant, this is a wafer of a sandwich, not a luxurious double handful. With its shredded basil and more of that fruity marinara for lubrication, it’s a nice, light dish.

There are a couple of items I’d steer away from — a romaine-free Caesar salad with thick, gummy dressing served on the side, and a heavy platter of cheese tortellini.

But, the truth is, Avellino’s is a place full of neighborhood regulars. They surely have learned to opt for one of the lighter, springier pastas. They no doubt insist on ordering that fish-shaped cheesy garlic bread every time. And they see the pizzas for what they are — creative and tasty enough to be worthy of regular rotation, even if they’re not top-of-the-line.

Plus, the regulars know that this is a joint that was shaped just for their own locale. In a dining landscape where even small chains can be a bit too efficiently generic, that’s as pleasing as great food.

Avellino’s Pizzeria

4-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays and Sundays, 4-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays. 1328 Windsor Parkway N.E., Atlanta. 404-500-3841, avellinospizzeria.com/avellinosbrookhaven.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Food

‘Froyo’ and ‘Siracha’ are now in the dictionary. What took so long?
‘Froyo’ and ‘Siracha’ are now in the dictionary. What took so long?

This is the life cycle of a food trend: First, it starts bubbling up in cool boutique shops in New York or Los Angeles or San Francisco, and then every city in America has it. It goes mass-market, then there's a backlash, and then a backlash to the backlash, and eventually, if it's something truly enduring, it ends up where froyo finds itself today...
Bob Townsend’s Beer Pick: Monday Night Han Brolo Pale Ale
Bob Townsend’s Beer Pick: Monday Night Han Brolo Pale Ale

Monday Night Brewing is celebrating two major milestones this weekend. This year’s annual “Tie One On” party will not only mark its sixth anniversary, but the grand opening of The Garage — its second location along a recently completed section of the Atlanta BeltLine in the West End. The festivities run from noon-10...
Here’s how you could pay 64-cents for a steakhouse dinner at Marcel
Here’s how you could pay 64-cents for a steakhouse dinner at Marcel

Here’s how you could pay 64-cents for a steakhouse dinner at Marcel. Photo credit: Marcel. You may actually eat a hearty dinner instead of just looking at one on Instagram. Marcel will offer shrimp boullettes, fried frog legs, USDA Prime meat and more for 64-cents beginning at 11 p.m. (drinks available ...
After Irma, USDA grants free meals for Tampa area school districts
After Irma, USDA grants free meals for Tampa area school districts

Students across Florida returned to school Monday, still reeling from power outages and food shortages caused by Hurricane Irma. To help families still in a bind, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that students in 48 school districts across the state, including those in the Tampa Bay area, will receive free breakfast and lunch until...
Nestlé targets high-end coffee by taking majority stake in Blue Bottle
Nestlé targets high-end coffee by taking majority stake in Blue Bottle

In 2002, James Freeman gave up on being a professional clarinetist and began pursuing his other passion, roasting coffee. Freeman started out in a 183-square-foot potting shed in Oakland, California, and named his newborn business Blue Bottle Coffee, after a storied Viennese coffee house. Fifteen years later, Blue Bottle has grown beyond a one-man...
More Stories