Put it in your mouth: Tasty cuisine off the radar

This week, we’re going to a pizzeria and a churrascaria. You’ll like them both, for their food and their price.

The latest pizzeria to open in Midtown is Atwoods Pizza Café (817 W. Peachtree St., 404-748-9577, atwoodspizza.com). It’s located in a corner of the gargantuan Biltmore Hotel, constructed in 1924. The building, recently acquired by Georgia Tech, is now mainly office space for techies.

Considering its location across from student-swarming Technology Square, it’s not surprising that the café is inexpensive. Granted, the pizza quality is not the best in town, but Executive Chef Rob Phillip’s pies certainly rank way above chain operations. You pay about a $1 an inch—typically $8 for an 8-inch pie at lunch and $12 for 12 inches at dinnertime (white pies run a bit higher than the red ones).

What makes the pies special? Chef Phillips is inspired by the thin Neapolitan style that has become so popular in Atlanta. But he gives us firmer, almost crispy pies instead of the classic gooey Neapolitans.

You can build your own or order one of the 11 composed pies. I’ve tried seven of them. My favorite of the reds was the Festival, slightly spicy and a bit sweet, combining peppadew peppers, sweet fennel sausage, fior di latte mozzarella, caramelized onions, and garlic confit. Of the white pizzas, my favorite was the Zucca with roasted butternut squash, kale, caramelized onion, pancetta, and fior di latte. I don’t usually like pizzas with meat, but Phillips doesn’t overload the pies so that the meats dominate all other flavors. Even the “Sho Me Your Roni”—the only pizza with two meats (fennel sausage and pepperoni)—demonstrates restraint. Now, of course, you are free to create your own meaty garbage heaps.

I was disappointed that the meatless margherita, the usual test of any pizzeria, was bizarrely rococo with four cheeses that confused my mouth – a shame since among them is luscious burrata. Still, my only serious dislike was the white Tartufo, piled with tasteless cremini mushrooms, flavored with white truffle oil, a substance that should be forced into mandatory extinction.

Atwoods also offers salads, soup and six sandwiches ($8.50-$10). Warning: seating is limited to a few community tables and a small patio.

If you want an affordable version of a Brazilian churrascaria, head to Rio de Janeiro (1260 Powers Ferry. Rd, Marietta, 770-952-9556). It’s just off I-75, so it’s actually a brief drive from the Big City. For about $15 at dinner – less at lunch –you get all-you-can-eat meats grilled behindthe counter. There’s everything from steak to chicken hearts (which I love). The price includes unlimited access to a buffet of salads and a few oddities like a kind of Brazilian lasagna. What wasn’t there was fejoada, the traditional Brazilian stew I love. It is only available weekends.

Be warned: If you are looking for pretty, you won’t find it here. It’s a homey café with no décor and limited service. During my visit with four friends, there were only two employees on the premises and we didn’t hear any clear descriptions of the food in English. But that doesn’t matter. You get to eat all you want, so it’s a great adventure.

Cliff Bostock, PhD, is a longtime Atlanta food critic and former psychotherapist who now practices life coaching for creative types; 404-518-4415.