Zucca, Smyrna GA

Every year, our friend Neal turns his birthday into a week-long celebration called The Festival of Neal. We asked him, a couple of weeks in advance, before he got completely booked, whether we could schedule some time to take him to supper somewhere. He selected a place near him in Smyrna called Zucca. This was one of those places that I’d been figuring that I’d get around to for many, many years.

Zucca opened its first of four Atlanta locations in 2003. There’s the one in Smyrna, which we visited, one near us in Kennesaw, one a little further up the road in Woodstock on Towne Lake Parkway, and one in Decatur. I’m of the opinion that Atlanta is completely packed with amazing pizza restaurants. Does Zucca have a chance at breaking into my personal top five of Vingenzo’s, Varasano’s, Fritti, Everybody’s and Labella’s?

Marie wasn’t able to join us Wednesday night. She needed more sleep than I do back before the pregnancy, and even more today. This past week has been lousy with allergies and pollen and it’s hit me worse than any spring of the past six years and I’ve been an absolute nightmare to sleep with, since I can barely breathe. A couple of nights previously, I banished myself to the couch for fear of waking her with nose-clogged snoring. I proceeded to wake everybody in the house, even the boy who sleeps in the basement. I mention this because the plan was for me to pick up the children and drive down to Smyrna and meet Marie at the restaurant, and instead we nearly collided at the foot of the driveway. She came home, completely exhausted and spent and full of stress and frustration and asked me to deliver apologies, but she needed to sleep. And did she ever. It was fitful and interrupted, but she got to lay down for about twelve hours, and she deserved every second of it.

Like a complete lout, the pizza slices that I brought home were covered in bacon, which she doesn’t like. Well, that’s another one in the failure column for me!

Well, the children and I stopped in to visit my mother for a few minutes, and got to the restaurant just before seven. It’s a family-friendly sports bar, with a big sign in the airlock advertising franchise opportunities. At various points during the week they have trivia and games, and on the weekends, they have loud music and DJs who evidently can’t spell their own names. Or maybe she’s called Sue Spence. Who knows? It was, unusually, a time to discuss spelling and pronounciation. Like many middle schoolers, my daughter is incapable of speaking for more than four minutes without announcing that something has been “pwned.” This is evidently pronounced “powned” in twelve year-old-ese. Our friend Todd was able to join us, and he saw the reunited British band OMD earlier in the week at The Loft. In twelve year-old-ese, that’s pronounced “owmed.”

I started with a bowl of minestrone to sooth my allergy-ravaged throat, and it was excellent. I might have saved a penny or two by ordering just a small pizza and a second bowl of that wonderful soup. The pizza that the kids and I got was my son’s choice. He wanted to try the Buffalo pizza, which skips tomato sauce in favor of blue cheese and ranch, topped with chicken, bacon and tomatoes with wing sauce and blue cheese crumbles. It was very good and there was a heck of a lot of it. A large pie here will easily feed three.

The birthday boy ordered Zucca’s Victory pie, which, they boast, earned them the 2008 prize in an International Expo of some renown. It’s a ramped up Margherita – mozzerella, basil, olive oil and parmesan – adding sausage and mushrooms. Neal substituted onions for the mushrooms. Todd also ordered a large pie – more than enough to take several slices back home to Samantha, who also could not join us – with sausage and peppers. I had a slice of this and thought it was pretty good, but certainly elevated by the quality of the sausage, which was just excellent. Sometimes, better ingredients make an enormous, palpable difference.

David was also able to meet us after bowing out of work a little early. Pizza’s not really part of his diet, but he did enjoy a bowl of the terrific minestrone, and a large Greek salad. Well, to the naked eye it was a Greek salad; according to the menu it was a Tuscany salad. I’m really not certain what the difference would be!

Overall, it was a good meal. They do good work here, and the service was fantastic. The pies are probably not as good as Antico, but the service was leagues better than what you find there, so I’d put the two on about equal footing as far as the overall experience. Just like Antico wasn’t qute able to knock its way into my personal top five, nor was this place. Not at all bad, but not quite transcendent, either.

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