Two years ago, husband and wife team Alex and Jen Aton were serving their homemade pizza to friends in tattoo shops. On Monday, August 5, the doors to Junior’s, their pizzeria, will open in Summerhill.
Junior’s will be the newest tenant on the stretch of Georgia Avenue that’s home to recently opened Wood’s Chapel Barbecue, Little Tart Bakeshop, and Halfway Crooks Beer. “It was one of the few places that wanted to actually talk to a small-time operator, in comparison to all of the newer developments going in that only want to put their money behind someone that’s already fully established,” Alex says. While Junior’s will be the couple’s first restaurant, they’re not strangers to the industry; Alex worked at Fellini’s for a decade and Jen has worked at restaurants throughout the city. In their partnership, Alex is the cook and Jen, he says, “is the real boss.”
The pizza, described by Alex is, “New York style, but we kinda like to call it Atlanta style just because we’re born and raised here.” There will be a variety of traditional toppings on the menu, but their signature is the “cup and char” pepperoni. They source it from Ezzo Sausage Company in Ohio because, Alex finds, their slices curl up just right and taste the best. Good news for vegans: they’ll offer Daiya dairy-free cheese and Beyond Meat’s Italian sausage. All of the vegetable toppings are vegan-friendly, too.
The restaurant’s design is laced with ’90s-esque nostalgia. One of the zany wall murals of a pizza-themed monster, painted by Sten Moström, is a callback to the “anti-Mickey Mouse” Rat Fink, originally painted by Ed Roth. Moström is a tattoo artist who actually inked the rat on Alex, as well as a similar pizza monster with Jen’s head on it. Juxtaposing the bulging-eyed creature is a sweet unicorn eating pizza at the end of a rainbow, painted by Josh Milstead, by request of Alex’s daughter. If you love old school arcade games, don’t miss the Pizza Invaders poster hanging in the bathroom hallway made by Madison Silva. Oh, remember VHS cassettes? The Atons are using old tape covers as table markers.
There are other little details that will set Junior’s apart from other pizza joints. They’ll offer Mike’s Hot Honey (honey infused with chilies) as an option to drizzle on pizza and serve Barrel & Bottle hot sauce, made by Summerhill resident Calvin Rouse III. And if you hate green bell peppers, good news: Junior’s will have red bell pepper instead. When asked why, Alex says, “I very seldom see pizza places offering anything but green bell pepper, so I figured red bell pepper tastes better. And I think people will like it more when they try it.”