LaBella’s Pizzeria, Marietta GA

I don’t mean any disrespect – here, I’m in the very first sentence and I’m already channeling Jon Stewart from that pizza business in June – but, I’ll tell you good readers truly, when Marie suggested that we try to find a real New York City pizza in Marietta and came up with Baby Tommy’s Taste of New York, I had to ask, “Are you kidding me?” Don’t get me wrong; she made a great choice, and it’s a very good pizza place, one that I happily recommend that anybody in the area visit, but I just could not believe that she needed to look around for a New York pizza. You know what’s the only restaurant – seriously, the only restaurant – to have a menu on our fridge? It’s LaBella’s Pizzeria, which is over on Sandy Plains within walking distance of Sprayberry High School. It’s remarkable. It’s one of my five favorite pizza places in Atlanta. (Presently, the other four are Vingenzo’s, Varasano’s, Fritti and Fellini’s.)

Of course, such is the nature of our hobby and always trying new things that it had been a year and a half since we had a pie from LaBella’s. And I’m sure Marie had a perfectly reasonable motive in looking around for someplace new. We already know that LaBella’s is wonderful, so why not try somebody different and see what they can do? That’s fine by me, it’s just a strange equation. Looking for the best New York pizza in the region is simple. Look for the guy who used to own a pizza place on Long Island. He should know what he’s doing.

We first visited LaBella’s about three years ago with our friend Mandy, whom we don’t see enough, and I was just knocked down. The crust is just perfectly thin, the cheese isn’t too stringy, and the sauce is really tangy. It’s a tiny little place with maybe five oddly random tables and chairs all shoved together to give people just a little room to eat.

You know what makes this feel like a proper New York pizza in my fantasizing mind? They’re not afraid of anchovies. Seriously, around these parts, if they’re on the menu at all, they are hidden. Here, if you order a house special, you’re getting anchovies, as you should. Marie and my daughter both hate anchovies. Of course they do. My ideal slice of New York-styled pizza simply has anchovies and pepperoni. Even though we got out of the habit of visiting when we started the blog, there have been many times over the last year and a half when I was oddly peckish for anchovies and wondered whether we could get a pie from here.

The three of us stopped by one Friday evening at the beginning of the month – yes, the delay between a meal and a blog chapter is getting mighty long – for a nice, hot pie. The huge pizza oven takes up most of the room in the restaurant’s small space. It’s not very comfortable in the summer, but on cold nights, this is a fine place to be. We arrived just as Rick Sorrentino, who co-owns the business with his son, Stephen, was leaving, and only had a couple of words before he left. They’re terrific people here. Most of their business is take-out – come to think of it, most of the pies that I’ve had here, I’ve carried home – and it’s such fun, watching regulars come and go, greeting the staff like old friends.

There have been a couple more Sundays when I’ve phoned on my way home from work to ask whether they’ve still got any zeppoles. The answer’s usually no. They only do these little doughnuts on Sundays and they go fast. But a couple of times, I’ve brought home a paper bag full of greasy, fried deliciousness and, whatever Marie’s cooked for dinner, these make a great dessert. I need to call about zeps more often. We’re missing out.

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