Feedbag - Pie in the sky

Fritti's Neapolitan-style pizzas are still the best

There's been something of a restaurant boom happening in Inman Park, with the opening of swanky vegan eatery Lush and just-plain-swanky Rathbun's. But until recently, there were only two good reasons to dine in Inman Park: sister restaurants Sotto Sotto and Fritti.

Fritti has always been the pretty sibling; less substance, maybe, but great to look at and fun on a date. There's the patio, for one thing. When the weather's nice, giant garage doors roll up and the entire dining room becomes open-air. The space has the industrial look of a rehabbed warehouse, with rough brick walls, concrete floors and high ceilings. Fabric wall hangings help to buffer noise on busy nights. Two beehive-shaped pizza ovens preside over the dining room like giant brick Buddhas.

For such a self-consciously stylish restaurant, Fritti has a surprisingly mixed crowd. When we dined there on a recent Friday night, the next table was occupied by two rather worldly high school kids on a date. Beyond them was a family with three children, all calmly eating their pizza. They were so well-behaved, I almost felt bad for them: When I was that age, my parents took us out for pizza every Friday at Pizza Inn, where we stuffed ourselves, played Pac-Man, and just generally ran wild. Times have changed.

Everything at Fritti is executed with precision and an eye toward authenticity. The recently expanded menu of salads and starters is fertile ground for a night of grazing. Everything that's fried is exquisite, from tender calamari to irresistibly earthy wild mushrooms. The calamari, adorned with nothing but lemon wedges, are light and summery. The mushrooms, tinged with truffle oil and rosemary, feel substantial without being heavy — which is a good thing, because you won't be able to stop eating them.

Panzanella, a variation of the classic Italian bread salad, features a scattering of croutons atop a juicy mound of diced tomatoes, celery and red onion. The croutons were too crunchy to absorb much of the vinaigrette, which disappointed me, but the tomatoes were perfectly ripe, and the addition of celery gave the salad substance.

The pizzas Fritti pulls from its big brick ovens are true to the Neapolitan style — a thin and crispy crust lightly topped with sauce and high-quality ingredients. So far I haven't tried a combination that I thought didn't work; I'm particularly fond of the carciofi e olive (artichoke and black olive) and the pancetta e cipolla (pancetta, caramelized onion and hot pepper), but on a recent visit the ananas e gorgonzola (pineapple and gorgonzola cheese, drizzled with balsamic vinegar) took top honors. The pungent cheese contrasted beautifully with the sweet pineapple.

The dining landscape may be changing in Inman Park, but from the look of things, Fritti isn't going anywhere any time soon. We all crave a pizza fix once in a while: Once you've been spoiled by the real thing, there's no going back.


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