Perhaps it was the early inconsistencies of the pies. Or maybe the intense char of the crust just doesn't work for everyone. The initial, crazy hype could be to blame, too. Who knows – it could even be that the public was put off by the restaurateur's apparent arrogance.
Whatever the case, one thing's clear: Jeff Varasano's pizzas, no matter how delicious they are, have not been met with universal adoration.
The under-performance of a still-pretty-good pie wouldn't be such a big deal, had Varasano not published on his restaurant's website a list of "Fake Pizza." The list includes the deservedly popular pies at Fritti, which the site described as "pathetic tasteless cardboard."
Such jerkiness might still be forgiven – had the hyperbole of the insult been met with hyperbolically delicious pizza, the likes of which Atlanta has never seen.
But few casual observers, let alone professional critics, have described Varasano's pies as the best ever – especially not in the first few months after the Midtown pizzeria opened in late March. Though tasty, and certainly above Atlanta's average, Varasano's pizza ain't exactly the second coming.
"The flavor is good," food blogger Blissful Glutton reported on May 6, following a few less-than-impressive initial visits, "but I doubt the perfectionist in Varasano is satisfied if one tenth of the articles about him are true."
"There's a problem with hype," the AJC declared in its two-star review the day before the Blissful Glutton's post. "Too much leads to inevitable disappointment."
"Not since the Obama administration has something been so hyped, so highly anticipated as Varasano's Pizzeria," CL wrote in its three-star review that same month. But the review states that, despite Varasano being a victim of his own hype, "his pizza is, for the most part, blatantly delicious."
Not only has Varasano failed to win over the majority of the city's vociferous critics, but he's also had a hard time getting diners to comply with something as seemingly simple (to him at least) as eating a slice correctly. Thus the restaurant has placed instructions on every table urging patrons to fold the slice in half and eat it by hand. But still, there are those who blaspheme his pizza with a knife and fork.
Varasano is a former Rubik's Cube champ whose at-home pizza recipes became Internet legend, propagated in part by the AJC and New York Times. And he's smart enough to admit that, for a while, things went slightly awry.
"Consistency has been a problem, especially early on," he told AtlantaCuisine.com last month. "I think that the pre-opening hype eliminated the normal grace period for reviews.
"I think we made our worst pizzas by trying to be all things to all people."
Does that mean the best is yet to come?