estled in the heart of downtown Atlanta, on a sloping stretch of Andrew Young International Boulevard just off Peachtree Street, Amalfi Pizza is billed as “a traditional Neapolitan pizzeria.”
Surrounded by office buildings and hotels, it has become a fixture for tourists, as well as convention and business travelers. And, its adjoining speakeasy-style cocktail and cigar bar, Red Phone Booth, has remained equally popular since the symbiotic spots opened in 2016.
But, as happened with similar places, operating partners Stephen de Haan and Greg Grant had to find creative ways to deal with the pandemic, as well as last year’s protests and shutdowns.
“It’s been challenging with COVID, and challenging with our physical location,” de Haan said during a recent phone call. But, in phases, Amalfi has gone from running a fresh market and doing takeout and curbside pickup, to currently offering limited full-service dining.
For de Haan, a vital part of the solution was installing a Needlepoint bipolar ionization system, to purify the air inside the restaurant and bar. He said it virtually eliminates static SARS-CoV-2.
Another milestone was the return of trade shows at the Atlanta Apparel Mart last summer.
“It was a smaller version, but, oh my gosh, the sense of reward, to have these guests walk back into your building was amazing,” de Haan said. “That’s when we started to think, maybe it’s going to be OK. Maybe we’re going to get through it. We’re still nowhere near our pre-COVID numbers. But, what’s interesting is that, on the weekends, we will routinely exceed pre-COVID revenue, which is wonderful to see.”
Of course, longtime regulars have continued to support Amalfi. The heart of the operation is two 6,000-pound wood-burning brick ovens imported from Italy. Besides excellent Neapolitan-style pizzas, there’s also an array of appetizers, salads, pasta dishes and desserts.
Favorites include the signature carnevale-style pizza, with a star-shaped crust that’s stretched and stuffed with creamy fresh ricotta. Other bestsellers range from fried calamari and clams bianco, with a white wine garlic butter sauce, to fresh-made burrata, and several styles of risotto.
Included in my recent order was Nonna’s spaghetti and meatballs. The moist and tender meatballs are made with a blend of veal, ground beef and pork, and are served with a fresh San Marzano sauce that flavors the pasta without overpowering it. Altogether, it’s a big, old-school bowl of comfort food.
Soon, you’ll be able to find all that at a second Amalfi Pizza and Red Phone Booth location in the former Gordon Biersch space on Peachtree Road in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood. Construction started in September, and it’s slated to open in late May or early June. Look for a bigger fresh market component within the restaurant, with meals to go for two or four, pizza kits, pasta, wine, cheese, aged meats and more.
And, Red Phone Booth now is being franchised, with locations in Texas and Florida in the works.
As for the future, de Haan said he’s been feeling more optimistic. “I really feel like everyone that’s coming out of it on the other side is going to be stronger, as a result of how they’ve had to evaluate their operations,” he said. “We’re hopeful that June will be when we cross the next threshold.”
Menu: Italian, featuring Neapolitan-style pizzas
Alcohol: full bar for dine-in; beer and wine to go
What I ordered: Margherita carnevale-style pizza, stuffed with fresh ricotta; roasted beet salad, with goat cheese, arugula and candied walnuts; Nonna’s spaghetti and meatballs, with house-made meatballs and San Marzano sauce; crunchy, creamy cannoli, with candied lemon and chocolate chips. It all traveled well and really hit the spot, but the carnevale-style pizza is an Atlanta treasure.
Service options: dine-in; order online or by phone for takeout; curbside pickup; delivery from DoorDash, GrubHub, Postmates, UberEats
Outdoor dining: no
Mask policy: employees wear masks; customers wear masks when not seated
Address, phone: 17 Andrew Young International Blvd. NE, Atlanta; 404-228-7528
Hours: 11:30 a.m.- 9 p.m. Mondays-Wednesdays, 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Thursdays, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 4-9 p.m. Sundays.
This article was originally published by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.