Blending Brazilian and Italian flavors and ingredients together, Brasiliana Pizza in Atlanta’s Berkeley Park neighborhood is shining the spotlight on Brazil’s unique take on pizza and a traditional family meal meant to be enjoyed around the kitchen table.
To fold, or not to fold? When it comes to eating pizza in Brazil, there’s no question. Brazilian pizza is consumed using a knife and fork, something proudly displayed on the takeout boxes from Brasiliana Pizza. This is “Knife & Fork Pizza,” the slogan on the box reads. It’s not just about being polite or precious, Brazilian pizzas come loaded with lots of cheese and an abundance of toppings, weighing down the thin crust and making utensils absolutely necessary for eating.
This is how Brazilians improved upon pizza after Italian immigrants brought the iconic flatbread to the South American country, says Brasiliana Pizza co-owner Thiago Finardi Machado.
“I really believe the Brazilian pizza is something to explore more [of] here in the U.S.,” says Machado, who hails from São Paulo, Brazil, once a city with the second largest number of pizza eaters in the world, behind New York. “Pizza for us is really important. We’re born and raised eating pizzas.”
Machado and co-owner Nicollie Conovalow opened Brasiliana Pizza in September 2021 at the Forrest Eatery ghost kitchen in Berkeley Park, a neighborhood just north of Westside Provisions District on Howell Mill Road.
For Machado and Conovalow, pizza is part of their personal histories — and the history of Brazil. Both have Italian ancestors from Rovigo, a city in northeastern Italy. Machado’s great-grandfather moved from Italy to Brazil in the early 20th century, when the country saw an influx of Italian immigrants.
Today, Brazil is home to one of the world’s largest Italian populations, outside of Italy, with São Paulo serving as a hub for residents with Italian ancestry. The Portuguese word “Brasiliana” translates to “Brazilian” in Italian.
Despite his family eating pizza nearly every weekend back home in Brazil, Machado says it wasn’t until he moved to the U.S. in 2016 that he learned to make the pies he grew up loving. While working at Brazilian pizzeria Pie-Fection in Orlando, Machado met Conovalow, who had moved to Florida from São Paulo in 2018. Machado says it was at Pie-Fection where the partners realized people were discovering Brazilian pizza for the first time, and falling in love with it.
When the owners of the Orlando pizzeria decided not to move forward with opening an Atlanta location of Pie-Fection, Machado and Conovalow chose to open their own Brazilian pizzeria here. “I saw this as a good opportunity to share with more cultures,” says Machado.
The menu at Brasiliana Pizza centers on the most popular pies found in Brazil, which come topped with ingredients like boiled eggs, shredded chicken, slices of calabresa (Brazilian sausage), and requeijão (creamy Brazilian cheese known commonly as Catupiry.) Pizzas are then sprinkled with oregano to finish.
Brasiliana Pizza also dedicates a section of its menu to pizzas doces (sweet pizzas) commonly found in Brazil, like the Brigadeiro – a dessert pie with a gooey layer of thick fudge topped with chocolate sprinkles, based on the Brazilian truffle – and churros in pizza form.
Dough for the pizzas is fermented for 72 hours and sauces for the pies are made fresh daily in the kitchen. In true Brazilian fashion, the pizzas at Brasiliana come light on sauce but with twice, sometimes three times, the amount of cheese and toppings as a standard American pizza. Hence the need for a knife and fork.
The mission behind Brasiliana Pizza, Machado says, is to offer pizzas that Brazilians, Italians, and Americans will all enjoy. This includes serving original creations, too, such as the Favorita topped with Alfredo sauce, mozzarella and gorgonzola cheeses, caramelized onions, and arugula, as well as more familiar styles typically found in America.
Operating out of Forrest Eatery allowed Machado and Conovalow to open quickly when they arrived in Atlanta. They immediately started to build a loyal customer base, something Machado says has grown substantially since opening last fall, especially among the Brazilian community.
As for the future, Machado and Conovalow plan to continue experimenting with pizzas for another few months at Forrest Eatery to determine what is and isn’t working on the menu. The goal is to eventually move out of the ghost kitchen and open Brasiliana Pizza in its own space, joining other successful Brazilian restaurants helping to anchor people in Atlanta to their home country of Brazil.
“When they eat our pizza, they say it feels like home,” Conovalow says. “We remind them of the moments that they used to have with their families in Brazil.”
800 Forrest Street, Atlanta. brasiliana.us. Open for takeout and delivery only.
Monday - Thursday, 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 2 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Kris Martins is a Brazilian-American journalist exploring the intersection of the restaurant industry and food culture. Her work has appeared in Eater Atlanta, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta magazine, and MyRecipes. When she’s not writing, she’s visiting a farmers market, sharing a fun bottle of wine, or cooking a new recipe at home.