Today we’d like to introduce you to Luca Varuni.
Hi Luca, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
As an Italian native from Naples, Italy, I was born with Neapolitan food and culture in my blood and developed a passion for cooking through the years. I grew up in a family of talented Italian chefs, and I was taught the importance of upholding the tradition of Neapolitan cuisine at a young age. At 14 years old, I began my life in the kitchen and later took an assistant position to train with the renowned maestro pizzaioulo Enzo Coccia of La Notizia, which was the first pizzeria to be recommended by the influential Michelin Guide. Following that, I studied traditional Mediterranean and Neapolitan cooking techniques at the famous Alexia House in Sorrento, Italy.
My story in the States started almost 20 years ago when I moved from Naples, Italy, at 19, to follow my American dream. Working in the kitchen 12 to 14 hours a day is not every young man’s dream, but somehow, I enjoyed it. It was growing on me every day, and it opened a new world of creativity for me. I landed coveted positions at Amici 2 in New York City, Gran Sasso and Trattoria Gran Sasso in Philadelphia, Pa, which helped push me to the next level.
My ultimate dream was always to open my own pizzeria, and Atlanta was calling my name. At the time, there weren’t many Neapolitan pizzerias in the city, so there was an opportunity to introduce what I know and love to the people of Atlanta. My choice was further solidified when I met my wife around 12 years ago, and we planted roots here together. It’s crazy to think, but it’s been almost 9 years since then!
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
It’s never a smooth road – it’s normal to struggle. If everything is always smooth sailing, there’s no feeling of reward or accomplishment at the end of the finish line. When you own a restaurant, there are many things that can go wrong or are simply outside of your control.
What’s important is to believe in what you are doing and create an environment where your team shares the same vision and believes in the same dream.
We’ve been impressed with Varuni Napoli, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
In 2014, I opened Varuni Napoli in Midtown with my brother, Benedetto, by my side. Following the success of the Midtown restaurant, I opened a second Varuni Napoli location in 2017 at the highly acclaimed Krog Street Market. Over the years, our restaurant has become an award-winning Neapolitan pizza brand featured nationally by outlets including CNN, Food Network, Forbes, HGTV, Newsweek, Pizza Today, PMQ Pizza Magazine, and more. People know us for pizza, authenticity, and a good time! I consider myself a pizza missionary. My goal was to share with the people of Atlanta not only my pizza, but also my culture. A decade ago, Neapolitan pizza was not very popular and almost nonexistent in Atlanta. I’m happy and honored that I was able to introduce something new to the city, something that has had such a rich culture and history for over a century back home in Naples.
It brings me so much joy to see people fall in love with Neapolitan pizza and my restaurant. Coming to Varuni Napoli for pizza is an experience in and of itself. We are the only pizzeria in the States that imports directly from Naples the best San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, 00 flour, and more. My Margherita pizza is a work of art and is made with the highest quality and freshest ingredients around. Our open kitchen was designed to make our customers part of what we do. The ovens are set in the middle of the restaurant for everyone to enjoy the pizza show that my team puts on every night. Prior to the pandemic, our guests had the option to dine alongside our expansive pizza bar directly in front of the “Pizzaiuoli” line, where if in luck, guests would have the opportunity to try our delicious ingredients.
Hopefully, in time, that will happen again.
In terms of your work and the industry, what are some of the changes you are expecting to see over the next five to ten years?
The restaurant industry is ever-changing, but COVID-19 forever changed the future of the industry. When the pandemic first hit, we were all trying to adapt as best we could and as fast as we could simply to stay alive and competitive in the market. Much of the population transitioned to working from home, and a lot of consumers began to place their orders through 3rd party delivery platforms. For restaurants and pizzerias that were new to this game, they had to adjust their operation in order to maintain business and stay afloat.
There are still plenty of struggles the industry is facing – the labor shortage, the cost of goods going up, the shortage of supplies. Changes sometimes happen for the best, and I believe that when we are challenged, the best versions of ourselves rise to the occasion. Challenges push operators and entrepreneurs to be better leaders, pay their employees a livable wage, and fully understand their operation in order to be or stay successful.
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: www.varuni.us
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/varuninapoliatl
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/VaruniNapoliATL
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/VaruniNapoliATL
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/varuni-napoli-atlanta; https://www.yelp.com/biz/varuni-napoli-krog-atlanta
Andrew Thomas Lee Photography