Last Sunday I took a mini trip to Athens, Georgia to interview Brian Colantuno, friend and owner of local pizza joint, Transmetropolitan. Having worked at Transmet during my time in Athens, I was excited to get a little dose of nostalgia, Transmet’s killer pizza, as well as new facts about old friends. Here’s what I dug up:
Brian smiled as he told me that he has worked in pizza for over twenty years. He got his start at the end of ‘92 as a dishwasher at Fellini’s here in Atlanta. Things were just starting to emerge in Atlanta and Fellini’s was a place of community, punk rock, and good pizza. In ‘99 he and Wes Russo decided to make a pizza joint of their own. When he told me that their original idea was a pizza and burrito place I couldn’t help but giggle. He believed that there was not enough good pizza or burrito joints around and they were confident that people would flock. But as ideas move and change so did he and Russo.
They moved into a boarded up building on East Clayton Street in Athens, Georgia where they lived for 2 1/2 years. But these years didn’t just consist of late nights and rock shows but of gutting the entire building and rebuilding it from the ground up. I took a sip of my beer and became more and more intrigued. On September 1st, Transmetropolitan Downtown opened it’s doors and was very successful. They had scratched out burritos and added sandwiches to their menu. They kept the community feel that they had grown to love at Fellini’s with counter service and added a full bar upstairs. There were even photos of Shane Macgowan tucked around the bar that would get you a free drink if you spot one. It was then in our conversation that I remembered Transmet’s name was inspired by The Pogues. Going transmetropolitan, yip-ay-aye indeed.
And after trials, errors, and awesome success, the duo opened Transmetropilitan Westside - a more proper version of the Transmet locals had grown to know and love. The Westside came complete with table service, an open kitchen, and a quiet patio. The Westside was actually were I worked and it’s when I started to really get to know the food. Brian is confident in what Transmet serves as well he should be. They make dough from scratch, cut the veggies, and make everything fresh to order. The options are impressive and dishes range from a good ol’ slice of traditional pizza to Sicilian pie to pasta plates and sammies. One amazing thing about the food there is no matter how many shifts I worked I was pleased and excited to sit down to some Transmet food. And I was thrilled to have Brian order a slice as we talked.
And while he smirked at the end of our conversation that he’d never do it again, I’m sure glad he did. But Brian adores what he does and it shows. It was then his daughter Sophia (one of my favorite humans) walked over. I got a few words in with her as well:
Me - So Soph, how cool is your dad?
Soph - Good.
Me - I think it’s so neat that your face is on the pizza box?
Soph - I wish it was me and dad.
Me - What’s your favorite thing to eat here?
Soph - Pizza and bread.
Brian - We sneak some spinach and garlic on her slices to get in her veggies.
And as Soph kissed us both on the cheek and continued her shenanigans around the restaurant the surge of nostalgia I mentioned earlier came. Transmet’s just an all around good place.
And to bring this Athens installment to a close I asked Brian about a few of his favorite restaurants in the ATL to which he responded Harry and Sons, Soul Vegetarian, El Myr, and Ria’s two restaurants, Bluebird and Sauced (Ria and his brother used to run the town).
So endless thanks to Brian and I highly suggest you make a trip to Athens soon. See you next week.