How Ammazza, Gu’s Kitchen, and Nina & Rafi stack up against their original locations

Three restaurants rise again—but how do they hold up?

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Ammazza Decatur
Margherita pizza

Photograph by Cori Carter

Ammazza Decatur

314 East Howard Avenue, Decatur

The backstory
In 2017, after nearly five years in business, things came crashing down at Ammazza—literally. Within one month, two cars careened into the Edgewood Avenue building, and the beloved Neapolitan-style pizza joint has been closed ever since. The void in the Atlanta pizza-scape was palpable.

The comeback
Ammazza Decatur opened in November, picking up where the Edgewood location left off. (The original location is supposed to reopen this year.)

What made the original great
The brothers who founded Ammazza previously had ties to Antico over on the Westside. But unlike the fiercely Italian Antico, Ammazza offers a wide range of toppings and plenty of opportunities to customize.

How the new guy stacks up
While pizza is king here, Ammazza Decatur also offers handmade pasta such as a fresh, al dente spaghetti with tender beef meatballs drenched in a slightly sweet spaghetti sauce. As for the pizza, it’s very close to the original. The same pickled Calabrian chilis and Spotted Trotter’s spicy soppressata appear on the beloved Inferno, and the vegan pie continues to be a surprise hit, but the best bet remains the straightforward margherita. The pizzaiolos make ideal use of the restaurant’s Acunto ovens, lending the perfect kiss of char to the pizzas’ thin crusts.

Gu's Kitchen
Chengdu noodles

Photograph by Cori Carter

Gu’s Kitchen

4897 Buford Highway, Chamblee

The backstory
When Gu’s Bistro arrived on Buford Highway in 2010, it drew a cult following to its accessible (but still fiery) Sichuan cuisine. When it closed in 2015, many a ma la–loving heart was broken. A Gu’s Dumplings stall had opened in Krog Street Market in 2013, and it continues to offer some of Gu’s Bistro’s most beloved dishes. But many of them fall short of their Buford Highway forebears.

The comeback
In November, the Gu family returned to Buford Highway with a new concept, Gu’s Kitchen.

What made the original great
Spicy Dried Eggplant (like eggplant fries but slightly numbing thanks to a liberal dose of Sichuan peppercorns); flat, Zhong-style dumplings; and Chengdu noodles that struck the ideal balance between spicy and sweet

How the new guy stacks up
You won’t find a resurrection of Gu’s Bistro at Gu’s Kitchen. But the new spot does serve many dishes you can’t find on Krog Street. The Chengdu noodles arrive on a cool contraption, with the noodles draped over chopsticks seemingly floating in the air. But the dish is so cloying that it reminded me why I seldom eat at the Krog Gu’s. It’s not uncommon to add sugar to Sichuan dishes to counteract the heat, but the amount of sugar at Gu’s Kitchen can be excessive. Instead, order the eggplant, the Handmade Sweet and Spicy Thick Noodles, and the Spicy Crispy Fish, heavily dosed with garlic, ginger, chili oil, sesame oil, and Sichuan peppercorns.

Nina & Rafi
The Detroit Pie

Photograph by Cori Carter

Nina & Rafi

661 Auburn Avenue

The backstory
In 2015, the city fell hard for New Jersey native Anthony Spina’s O4W Pizza—and his square, pan-cooked grandma pie in particular. A year later, Spina closed the Old Fourth Ward outpost and decamped to Duluth. For the next two years, intown pizza-lovers were in mourning.

The comeback
Spina joined forces with restaurateur Billy Streck (Hampton + Hudson) to bring his pizza back to the Old Fourth Ward. They opened Nina & Rafi in November, directly on the BeltLine across from Bell Street Burritos.

What made the original great
Everything, but especially the grandma pie

How the new guy stacks up
Nina & Rafi sits just steps from where the grandma pie became an Atlanta culinary icon, but this new endeavor is its own animal. Grandma may pay Nina & Rafi an occasional visit, but her home remains in Duluth. Spina’s Detroit pie (thick and square but light and airy) and his Super Margherita (a classic round) are meant to grab the spotlight here. The Super Margherita has a flavor profile similar to the grandma; it’s made with the same sauce, cheese, and love. But the crust intentionally isn’t as rich. The Detroit pie is actually the one that gives grandma a run for her money: The crust is like a cross between a Sicilian and a cloud, and at its edges, there’s a raised lip of absurdly addictive, burnt-to-a-crisp cheese that will haunt you.

This article appears in our April 2019 issue.

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