The first slice of pizza I remember was not a flat triangle. It was slightly bitter, slightly sweet, toasted at its rectangular edge, and served to me as a child every weekend in an Emory Village bar that reeked of beer. Cooked in a pan and smothered with hard-to-find Wisconsin Brick cheese, this concoction was unlike any other pizza around. This was big-city pizza in still-growing Atlanta.
Bill Jagger, a Detroit native and Decatur resident, decided in 1972 that he'd rather jawbone about philosophy with college students over slices and beer than put his Ph.D. to use in an academic setting. In its 27 years, Jagger's won numerous awards and served a dedicated fan base of locals and students who gorged on pizza and Jagger's trademark wings.
Long after my parents packed us up and moved to the wilds of Marietta, I'd drive friends down to Jagger's. But in 1999, Jagger sold the restaurant, and in 2005, it closed. Poof. The pizza of my youth was gone.
Things have come full circle. I've moved back to the Emory area and Jagger's (1799 Briarcliff Road, 404-876-8880, www.jaggerspizzaemory.com) has returned in a new location, once again offering its trademark Atlanta-style pizzas ($8.95 for eight slices) and wings ($6.95 for 10 wings). The pizza sweats grease, a characteristic that'll show on your fingers as you eat it as well as your laptop if you write about it. Smothered in cheese, the pizza is carefully watched so it rises to just the right level, seconds from collapse. Unlike other pizzas, a Jagger's bite is a bite, not a desperate race to slurp up dangling cheese. And Jesus, it's filling. The sauce is mildly sweet, a punchy contrast to the cheese topping.
The restaurant currently offers pick-up and delivery service. Jagger – who stops in every day to taste a slice – says he misses the interaction with customers and plans to offer sit-down service and install a bar soon. I'm older and much less innocent, but I'm back to eating it every weekend.