Automatic Pizza, Athens GA

We’ve written stories about Athens many, many times over the years, and all of the most recent ones include a bit where we suggest that our readers with kids take them by the World of Wonder playground at Southeast Clarke Park. So, let this be the last time. After we had some barbecue at Butt Hutt, we came here to let our son play for an hour and a half, and then pulled up our friend Hillary’s column in the weekly paper, Flagpole. It’s called Grub Notes and everybody interested in visiting Athens should read it for some good food ideas. I had a mind to try one of the newer pizza places in town. Marie and our son agreed, and so, after a stop at Tyche’s Games to look at Munchkin expansions and packs, we drove back over to Prince Avenue.

One thing that we keep seeing in this hobby of ours is the sad closure of locally-owned independent businesses, only to have their spaces taken by large chains. It’s almost like rubbing salt in a wound. While this keeps happening everywhere, it tends to annoy me the most when it happens in Athens, a place I have not lived for sixteen years. That’s what twelve years in a good place will do, I guess. I’m still sore about that Starbucks downtown taking the place of Yudy’s, because I’m that sensible. I think that Starbucks has been there since before this year’s freshman class were born. Captain Rational, me.

ANYWAY, the point is this: Automatic is a New York-style pizza place that has taken over the space that had been used by the local Pizza Hut delivery people for many, many years. It’s a very old gas station in the Normaltown neighborhood, and I was really, really pleased to see this trend reverse itself in the Classic City just this once, especially since the last time we visited, freaking Zaxby’s opened a store on Clayton and the local daily paper rolled over and gave them front page publicity. Let’s hear it for local businesses, okay?

Now, I’ve said before that Athens may be many things, and it is deeply underrated as a great barbecue destination, but one thing that it is not and never has been is a great pizza town. The pizza in Athens is, at its best, good, but even I’m hard-pressed to say anything too crazy about Transmetropolitan and Little Italy/Peppino’s. They’re good, perfectly serviceable pizza places with lots of fun nostalgia to keep our interest, but I honestly don’t believe that Athens has had a destination pie since Rocky’s closed years ago. (It was on Clayton, a few doors down from that Zaxby’s.)

Automatic? It’s better than most. It’s a really nice space with a good, friendly staff and a nice beer selection, including Abita root beer on draft, but the quality of the slices is the thing. It’s a really good, tasty crust with a lip-smacking sauce. We each had a slice and they gave our son a dinosaur to play with while they baked. They really reminded me of the slices at Fellini’s in Atlanta, which I love. The crust and sauce were very similar.

I dunno, I find pizza exceptionally difficult to write about, which is why I’m yammering on about sandwich shops that closed before my kids were born. Pizza either is or it isn’t. This is. If you want a New York-style slice in Athens, I think it’s worth stopping by to see what you think.

As for us, well, I can’t guess when the road will take us back to Athens, but I hope some more chains have been chased out of town before we return. Go Dawgs, y’all!

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