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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sapori di Napoli (Decatur)

Toddler Foodie Rating:  4.5 out of 5 Gummy Bears

:) = One of few restaurants in the heart of Downtown Decatur with free private parking spots (but there aren't many - so prepare to park in a pay lot or on the street if you visit during peak hours).  Crayons and paper available for little diners.  Extremely friendly and guest-focused staff who have perfected the process of quickly serving guests with children.  Wide variety of delicious, authentic Neapolitan pizza and other Italian goodies (starters, salads, pasta dishes, calzones, and desserts), including a gluten-free pizza option.  Generous servings.  Beer and wine available for mommies and daddies.  Clean bathrooms with changing tables. 

:( = High quality ingredients mean somewhat higher-than-average prices.  Diners order food at the counter, which could be challenging for one parent dining alone with small children.  Tables are a bit small and cluttered.  The dining area is not that big, and this restaurant appears to be very popular, so tables need to turn quickly in order to accommodate everyone during peak hours.  Don't come here at a busy time if you want to be able to dawdle.  The servers are super nice and will not hurry you out, but you may feel pressured to do so when you see the line forming at the door.

Note:  The pizzas are big - not the typical one-pizza-per-person size you would expect of a true Neapolitan pizza.  2 parents + 2 toddlers can share one pizza and still bring home a leftover slice or two.

The tomato sauce-less Sapori di Napoli pizza:  bufala mozzarella, Italian sausage, roasted sweet peppers.
Pizza is the perfect dinner option for parents who are feeling tapped out.  Meat, veggies, dairy, and carbs all on one gooey, fun-to-eat triangle?  'Nuff said.  There are lots of pizzerias in Atlanta, and the ATL foodie community hums with dissension over which is the best (compare Serious Eats' 2014 list with Thrillist's 2013 list with 10Best's 2014 list). 

We were in Decatur on this particular Saturday, so we decided to check out Sapori di Napoli, hailed as one of the 2015 Best Top 10 Pizza Restaurants in Atlanta by Gayot.  We arrived around 5 PM and were relieved to find that Sapori di Napoli has an adjacent free parking lot.  Granted, the lot isn't huge; but since we arrived fairly early, we were able to get a spot right next to the front entrance.

When you walk into Sapori di Napoli, it's immediately apparent that the owners welcome children with open arms.  At Sapori, you order your food at the front counter and are assigned a table from there.  Before you even arrive at the front counter, you encounter two kid-sized tables stocked with tiny pails of crayons and white paper.  Then, when you get to the front counter, you are greeted by an adorable display of crayon art on white paper drawn by Sapori's junior guests.

"Calling all muses! I need to draw something good so it will end up on the Sapori Wall of Fame!"
We put in an order for  arancini (fried Neapolitan classic rice balls), insalata di rucola with prosciutto (arugula, parmigiano reggiano, tomato, & sliced radishes), the Sapori di Napoli pizza bianca (which has no tomato sauce), and the tagliatelle al salmone (smoked salmon and caramelized onion tossed in a cream sauce with homemade tagliatelle pasta).  Mommy ordered pasta because she thought the pizza would only be big enough for one person, the way pizzas typically are served in Italy (Mommy spent some time living in Italy in one of her past lives, and she loves to reminisce about the pizza there).  We ended up having to box up the pasta to go because the pizza was a huge.  Sidenote:  We ate the pasta the next day for lunch, and it was fantastico.

The cashier directed us to our table.  We were pleasantly surprised to find it was already set with utensils, two adult waters, two kiddie waters, and a high chair.  The restaurant was heavily staffed, which meant we got everything we needed quickly and easily.  And the food came out really fast - we barely had time to finish our crayon masterpieces.   

Arancini with a side of homemade tomato sauce.

Insalata di rucola + prosciutto
All the food was delizioso!  The arancini were crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside - and not oily, like some arancini we've tried at other restaurants.  The arugula salad had the perfect ratio of cheese to greens to prosciutto.  And the prosciutto was crisp and fresh, as if it had been bought at an outdoor mercato italiano just moments before.  And then there was the pizza.  If you like pizza, but you've never tried authentic Neapolitan pizza (as in, pizza that is actually certified by a pizza-certifying body based in Italy), you are missing out.  The crust of a true Neapolitan pizza is incredible - crunchy at first bite, slightly chewy at subsequent bites, with an earthy, smoky flavor that permeates every slice thanks to the Neapolitan tradition of cooking pizza in a special wood-burning oven.  Combine that delicious crust with artisan ingredients... basta cosi!  Sensory overload (in a good way). 

"This prosciutto is fresher than fresh!"
"Whoever invented this fried ball of rice and meat is a genius!" 
Toward the end of our meal, the restaurant started to get really crowded, and a line formed at the front counter.  Not wanting to hold our table hostage, we rushed to finish our meal and head out.  The servers were gracious and never pressured to leave; but we wanted to be considerate and let others experience the delicious food we had just eaten.  We will definitely go back to Sapori the next time we're craving authentic Neapolitan pizza - not only because the food is awesome, but because the people who work there make us feel wanted. 

Until next time, friends, buon appetito!

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