PERFECT vs. PERFECT
In 1983, brothers Amir and Ali Arab along with friend and partner Raouf Mattin opened a small pizza parlor named Pizza Perfect in the town-square-style “stripmall” across from David Lipscomb University on Granny White Pike. I grew up just down the street and I have fond memories of the establishment – it was an especially special treat on snow days when we would trudge through the slush and ice to enjoy the delicious, hot and steamy pies (and doughnuts – they originally sold both pizza and doughnuts). The owners were always there, always happy to talk to customers, always hand-rolling dough in the small, peek-in kitchen. This place holds some of my earliest memories of fresh, homemade pizza. With its previous neighbors, Perfect Burger and Perfect Laundry, the original décor included the Ten Commandments, handwritten (in formal cursive) on the outside face of the building.
Over the years, alongside a revolving door of neighbors, a lot more than the décor has changed at Pizza Perfect. The secret was out about the fabulous and fresh “perfect” pizza by the late 80s, and the brothers decided that it was time to expand. In 1990, Amir and Ali opened a new Pizza Perfect on 21st Avenue between Vanderbilt and Hillsboro Village – splitting from Raouf. Now the brothers own both the Vanderbilt location and the Bellevue location (opened in 1997) of Pizza Perfect, while Raouf separately owns and runs what is now called Pizza Perfect Kebob in the original Granny White location.
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Pizza Perfect Kebobs
When Pizza Perfect added the Kebobs and began sporting a jazzy new black awning with their name professionally printed on it, I knew something was up. I hadn’t visited the location in quite a while and I was very nervous as I walked in when I saw – gasp – one of those glass counter-top warming cases. You know, like the ones that they have inside gas stations that specialize in producing soggy, rubbery pizza. This did not look promising for those ordering by the slice – but thankfully, we were ordering a whole pie.
One expects a reasonable wait at a local pizza restaurant as the pies are made to order, but when the restaurant is barely keeping patrons in half of their seats, 45 minutes is a little much. After checking with us (and with others) to confirm our order, our piping hot pizza emerged from the kitchen. The fact that it was hot was unfortunately its best feature. The crust was completely bland and a little tough, the sauce was screaming “I came from a can!” and the pepperoni was chewy with little to no spice. The cheese was acceptable, a basic mozzarella with a medium pull-away, but not dazzling enough to save the ship. I saw dough being rolled as I walked by the kitchen, so I suppose they can claim that something is handmade. But after the first slice of this pizza, I had to wonder what could have taken 45 minutes – maybe the pepperoni had to thaw before it could be sliced? Maybe the can opener was jammed? Maybe they were working on their really great website?
the dining experience:
As I mentioned, barely half of the tables were seated on the Friday night when we dined in. The décor definitely leans more towards the Kebob theme than the pizza theme with standard booth and small table seating. You order at the front counter and then your dinner is brought to your table. It was oddly quiet with very low music that made me feel like I had to whisper.
The restaurant does have a few pluses: free refills from the soda fountain and a video game arcade (a nod to Mr. Gatti’s, perhaps). All in all, the pizza wasn’t absolutely horrible, just not too good. Roughly on par with Pizza Hut. I wanted so badly to like it...maybe we should have tried the kebobs?
Pizza Perfect Kebob
4001 Granny White Pike, Nashville, TN 37204 (map)
Open Daily 9:30am - 11:30pm
Dine-In and Carry Out
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Now this is more like it. Pizza Perfect slices their modified New York-style pies in medium-large triangles, serving the traditional pepperoni pizza with a base of sauce, then cheese, then pepperoni…then more cheese. The medium pull-away cheese is pretty good, definitely better than your average mozzarella while the pepperoni slices are fat and flavorful. The sauce is intensely tomatoey - very thick and full with a bold, fresh tomato taste. It was applied a little heavier than I expected, especially around the inner rim. Now I like a lot of sauce on a Chicago-style pie, but here, I had to do the wipe-away towards the end of each slice.
But oh, the crust. This is some of the best crust I’ve found on a pizza. They claim that its made and hand-tossed daily and I believe them. It’s a thin-style crust that isn’t too thin or too hard, just warm and soft with a little crunch around the edges. A big downside to hand-tossed crust is the often overwhelming presence of cornmeal or flour on the bottom of the pie - the bottom of the pizza hits the top of your tongue (where all the tastebuds are), and suddenly you feel like you’ve bitten into a pile of sawdust. Pizza Perfect’s pie, however, had no cornmeal or flour playing spoiler on the bottom, just a heavenly, slightly buttery taste.
the dining experience:
The reigning champ of the Nashville Scene Readers’ Poll was lively and energized on the Friday night when we visited, busting at the seams with patrons. It was a very cold night, but the outdoor heating system was outstanding and we could barely believe that we were sitting on the front porch with nothing but plastic sheets between us and the freezing air. This is also an order-and-sit restaurant, but with a quicker turnaround than I expected (especially for a Friday night). I haven't uncovered any hidden gems (yet), but all in all, this was a great evening of great pizza.
In addition to the pies, Pizza Perfect offers calzones, subs, pastas and salads, including the highly recommended fresh antipasto salad with chicken, salami, ham and cheese:
locations in West End (Vanderbilt) and Bellevue
West End: Mon – Sat 10:30am – 12:30am; Sun 12:00pm – 11:00pm
Bellevue: Mon – Sat 4:00pm – 10:00am; Sun 11:00am – 10:00pm
Dine-In and Carry Out
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Friday Night Slice, Part 1: MAFIAoZA's and Joey's House of Pizza
Got any suggestions for places that I should cover? Let me know!