When the hood of a car plowed through the front wall of Ammazza in June, no one could have predicted that another car would crash into almost the exact same spot of the building nearly a month later.
The popular Neapolitan pizzeria sits at the intersection of Randolph Street and Edgewood Avenue, a site that has earned two “no turn on red” signs and a whole lot of recent attention. On the morning of June 10, a nearby driver’s blood sugar plummeted, causing him to become dizzy, disoriented, and accidentally steer his car into a fire hydrant, continuing on into Ammazza’s century-old brick foundation.
Hugh Connerty, Ammazza co-owner and managing partner, was at home with his kids when he heard the news. He sprinted to the scene to find a crushed hood and a steady stream of water that would flow from his restaurant for hours, leading some passersby to think that Ammazza was being used as a film set. The driver was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital for chest pain and low blood sugar, but no one else was injured in the accident.
If an eight-inch steel pipe hadn’t stopped the car, Connerty believes the vehicle would have shot even further into the restaurant. But what that fire suppression pipe saved in impact damage, it made up for in water damage. Between water from the broken hydrant and the pipe, Connerty and his 30-member staff, which he’s retained in its entirety, were forced to remove everything from the restaurant, icing the cake of what he calls a “perfect situation for such a mess.”
Then on July 6, a two-car accident sent a Ford Fusion into the same wall—about eight feet to the right of the first hit and about 40 feet away from Connerty. He had been sitting in a plastic fold-out chair, patiently awaiting a UPS package when he heard two “booms” and felt the “thud” of something jamming into Ammazza’s front door. Connerty was shocked to find another car in his wall, but at the same time, he says, “you kinda knew.” The driver in that accident was taken to the hospital for neck pain, but just as with the first incident, no one else was injured.
The “funky T-shaped intersection” at Randolph and Edgewood has never been completely immune to accidents, Connerty says. He’s seen his share of close calls, as well as a few crashes that pitted bicyclists head-to-head against car drivers. He’d like to see the city install some indication of the intersection’s abruptness, perhaps a reflective guardrail, as well as a measure to protect people on foot, since pedestrians were in close vicinity of both incidents. Connerty says these precautions are critical because traffic could increase with an expanding BeltLine, which lies about a block from Ammazza.
“We’re definitely not [going to be able to] open this year,” says Connerty, who’s frustrated but undeniably optimistic. Ammazza had recently grown to occupy the rest of its building—an additional 7,000 square feet—where Connerty had planned to incorporate two more ovens, a space for to-go orders, and an event room. But rather than letting misfortune foil his plans, he’s looking at the accidents as an opportunity. “It’s making us think,” he says, “how would we [redesign the restaurant] if we could?”
Ammazza still plans to open a second location across from Kimball House in Decatur, a space it claimed in 2016. But plans for this location have been further delayed due to the Edgewood wrecks as well as pipeline project negotiations between the City of Decatur and DeKalb County.
Not to mention, the Decatur Ammazza is also too small to generate its own supply of aged dough, a problem Connerty planned to remedy by expanding the dough room at his Edgewood location. “We’ve gotta get Edgewood fixed or find some other solution [before the Decatur location can open],” Connerty says.
While Ammazza remains a mess of blue tarp and building chunks, Connerty counts his blessings. The timing was troublesome, but neither accident was fatal. And while Connerty knows that his regulars are disappointed, he’s received an outpouring of support, including one of his favorite customer inquiries: “Where am I gonna eat?”