cameli's pizza - it's in the sauce
I leave for Canada tomorrow night for a 4.5 day work trip and I’m already feeling a little homesick.Wait. Don’t say it. I know what you’re thinking.What? The urban bohemian that loves to stay on the go, and longs to see the world is reluctant to leave home?
It’s kind of funny, but my starting this blog also marked the start of a new relationship with this city, so my imminent departure feels sort of like the first extended absence from a new beau. To ease the pain of parting, I decided to spend the last bit of my weekend in town at one of my more recent favorite finds – Cameli’s Pizza.
My good friend Enoch, aka DJ Nochturnal E-mission, hipped me to this spot just a few months ago. On the last Saturday of each month, he hosts ‘It’s in the Sauce’ – where he and a few other friends get on the 1s and 2s and take turns adding their own special blend of aural herbs and spices to the ambiance of this intown pizza joint. Tonight, Enoch promised to serve up a heaping helping of Brazilian sounds – the perfect mood enhancer for my bon voyage blues.
Located in the same plaza as the infamous ‘murder Kroger’ on Ponce, Cameli’s attracts a hip, but very down to earth crowd. When I arrive around 11pm, I spy a gaggle of skinny-jean, wallet chain wearing cuties bellied up to the bar; over in the corner a brother is intently hunched over his laptop (read: free wireless); and some college kids on their way to or from a nearby club are dancing enthusiastically near the DJ stand – everyone mingles with each other , sharing smiles and easy bits of conversation.
The layout of the restaurant promotes the casual vibe. On one side of the space are a couple of rows of dining booths, in the center on a raised platform is the fully stocked bar surrounded by a smattering of high-top pub tables, and over to the right are 2 additional seating areas. After stopping at the bar to place my order, I make a beeline for the smaller of the 2 – an inviting nook outfitted with vintage 70s furniture and a few kitschy wall hangings. From the comfy orange vinyl chairs, I have a commanding view of the rest of the place, plus I feel like I’m sitting in my own living room. Except…my living room is definitely lacking a framed photo of a lighthouse with the following caption scrawled around the border: “Lighthouses rule. If you don’t like lighthouses, YOU SUCK.” Ahh… so true, so true.
My kitchen is also lacking the magical little creatures that are in the back making the pies at Cameli’s. I can only assume that’s who’s making them, ‘cause they taste like they’ve been sprinkled with elven goodness. One of my favorite specialty pizzas here (okay, I’ll ‘fess up, it’s the only one I’ve tried) is the McCleod Nine – a heavenly combination of chicken, spinach, roasted red peppers and garlic sauce instead of the traditional tomato. Tonight, however, I opt to keep it simple, selecting a slice with cheese and mushrooms. The slices here are monsta-sized (those little elves must work out), with a chewy, crispy crust, just the right amount of sauce, and the freshest ingredients. Mine comes out piping hot – a delightful slice of ooey-gooey goodness that first gets the knife-and-fork treatment, until I work it down to a more manageable, foldable size.
My meal finished, I settle back into the chair and enjoy the rest of my beer, as Enoch mixes in some classic Brazilian favorites like Berimbau and Mas que Nada with several newer sounds. I suppress the impish urge to yell out “Konnichi Waaaa!” in response to the heavily sauced fellow who keeps shouting “Ohiooooo!” every few minutes. Apparently, that’s where he’s from, and he’s obviously elated to have found a fellow Midwesterner in this foreign land. Guess I’m not the only one who’s suffering from homesickness.
As I contemplate my pending travel, a certain irony strikes me. Here I am, less than 10 minutes from my house enjoying Italian food, German beer, and Brazilian sounds…. Who says you need to leave home to experience the world?
Cameli’s Gourmet Pizza Joint 699 Ponce de Leon Ave. Atlanta, GA 30308 www.camelispizza.com
It’s In the Sauce Saturday July 26, 2008 and the last Saturday of every month This month’s feature: Reggae: Dub, Ska, Lovers Rock, Roots, Funk