Any Atlanta area foodie worth her weight in pizza dough is unquestionably familiar with O4W Pizza. The bell cow of Bite Flight — Atlanta intown restaurant heavyweights heading for the northern suburbs — the former Old Fourth Ward namesake is truly the big cheese of the metropolitan pizza world.
In each of my first two sprees upon their transplanting to Duluth, I wolfed the famed Grandma Pie. The origins of this style are debated, but it’s generally believed to have started on Long Island. However, O4W owner Anthony Spina, a New Jersey native, proudly promotes O4W as New Jersey style. This Garden State product won’t argue.
Described by the Huffington Post, Grandma style is, “square or rectangular pizza that has been cooked in an olive oil-coated pan. It’s covered in a thin layer of mozzarella cheese, and in uncooked canned or fresh tomatoes, and when it comes out of the oven, the thick crust is a little crispy.”
Mind you, it wasn’t pure love at first bite for this persnickety hedonist. Their signature pizza persuaded me beyond reasonable doubt they were among the elite Atlanta area pizza outlets, but had not completely induced me into asserting they were peerless among an impressive group of contenders.
Spina’s move to Duluth meant more dining space and an expanded menu. Pardon me for inflicting a healthy cynicism conjecturing aloud if even a verified star like Spina can pull off mastering a multitude of provincial pizza incarnations. I’ve sampled a local barbecue restaurant that boasts numerous ‘cue subcultures on their menu. The unnamed restaurant appears to have realized commercial success, but gastronomic greatness… well, no.
The verdict to my Spina skepticism: open mouth and insert… more pizza. Like Sicilian, Jersey round, New Haven, and Detroit styles with sundry regional variants of pizza to choose from, I fooled around and fell in love.
The Franky Pep, named after world famous Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, isn’t the white clam that I’ve had from both the New Haven original and Fairfield locations. Instead it’s topped with prosciutto. The same execution, just different toppings from what I’ve delighted in at the Connecticut namesakes. It’s indubitably the same caliber as anything in the Constitution State.
I’m married to a white pizza aficionado. She’s escorted me several times to Tacconelli’s Pizza, the Philly/South Jersey goldmine, widely considered among the greatest masters in the country of said pie. We’ve sampled versions at other highly touted places during my Phillyburbs pilgrimages. Hence, the better half has plenty of benchmarks to compare. Bride gives O4W’s version supreme props.
To the latest and possibly greatest: Detroit style. It’s a square pizza that’s a hybrid of Chicago deep dish, New York Sicilian, and Grandma’s. Only Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell have had me this madly in love with anything from Motown. There ain’t no mountain high enough. Ain’t no valley low enough. Ain’t no river wide enough to keep me from getting this pizza again and again and again. Sorry Ashford and Simpson, I’ve added my own lyrics, but you would too if you’d eaten what I’ve eaten. If Marvin is eating pizza in heaven right now, I’m certain it’s no better than O4W’s Detroit pizza.
Spina is a sharp businessman as well. He’s ensconced in what is likely the next walkable food and beverage powerhouse. O4W is located across from the Red Clay Music Foundry, a music venue from Eddie Owens of Eddie’s Attic fame. Owens, Spina, dessert dynamo Crave Pie Studio, and neighbors are adjacent to the Parsons Alley project, a future arts and entertainment district that has Owens’ fellow Decatur major player Brick Store Pub signed up to bring their nationally-recognized concept OTP.
The future’s so bright for downtown Duluth, I got to wear shades, but back to the current anchor O4W Pizza. My ITP epicurean informant Moonie was riding the O4W bandwagon at their original location before there was a bandwagon. A New York native and Big Apple devotee, Moonie swoons, “That guy (Spina) captures the taste of New Jersey/New York like no one outside of those two great states. I think he made a deal with the devil.”
The only reasonable debate is what is the best option on the menu. I’m getting greedy, but I cannot wait to find out what Spina’s next creation is.
The rare occasions he’s not eating, the author Joe Duffy has been known to give free sports picks. Because his wife allows him outside to play and eat, please visit her trendy bags, purses, and totes online store.