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Feb 19, 2009 09:11 AM

Calling all Chowhounders that have eaten at Atlas Pizza in Calgary

Atlas Pizza is probably my favorite pizza of all time, and I've been lucky enough to have eaten some darn good pizza in my time.

I would love to try and create it at home. I was wondering if anyone here with excellent taste buds could give me some pointers on the following...

- What 'style' of pizza would you classify Atlas Pizza as?

I once heard it described as 'greek bar style pizza'. Using this as my guide, I tracked down a thread on regarding this style of pizza, which can be seen here:

I also found a website that describes the variety of regional pizza making that is out there:

- What blend of cheese do you think Atlas Pizza uses ?

- Any ideas regarding the sauce? To me, the sauce tastes somewhat sweet. I love it!

If anyone Atlas Pizza lovers out there have any tips or ideas regarding how I can try making a similar style at home, I would definitely appreciate it!

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  1. i've never had atlas, but i've heard it's one of the best examples of Calgarian greek steakhouse pie (it was popular in the 70s and early-80s, and most of the older pubs and bars in cgy make this style).

    I can tell you that is the resource you'll find on the web. i would begin by following Pete-zza's greek recipe, and then trying to figure out how atlas varies from that and how you can do that. note that for the crust, it seems to me that most calgarian greek seems to have more of a lip than those pics - not sure about atlas. for the sauce, again follow Pete-zza's suggestoins, but be sure to use 6-in-1 or a san marzano canned tomato. taste it and add sugar if you want to sweeten it.

    as for specific ingredients that Atlas uses, you could just swing in there and order a pie sometime, and say something like "hey, i really like this cheese, can you tell me the blend and manufacturer."

    and BTW - was I talking with you about this on beyond?

    3 Replies
    1. re: nonlinear

      greek style pizza is the best - that's what i miss most about Regina....maybe the only thing... where is Atlas?

      1. re: nonlinear

        Thanks nonlinear! Yep, that was me on Beyond, and I believe you were the one who pointed me to I will give Pete-zza's recipe a try and see how it compares.

        I'm definitely going to use the 6-in-1 tomatoes, I found them at Lina's Italian Market here in Calgary, they seemed reasonably priced too.

        I guess it can't hurt to ask about the cheese blend, for some reason I thought this might be a secret and they wouldn't appreciate me asking.

        Pants: Atlas Pizza is at 6060 Memorial Drive NE Give it a try, you won't be disappointed.

        1. re: mapsnrop

          it's worth a try. i'm always asking about pizza ingredients, techniques, etc. when i'm at a pizza shop. it's easier if you have direct access to the kitchen staff (like at tom's or pizza bobs, etc.). if you show interest, and are talking with a passionate pizza cook, oftentimes they will share some info with you.

          so i would ask them about the cheese. a lot of pizza makers use grande block cheese (not sure if you can find it here i haven't looked). i usually just use a mozza ball from the supermnarket, sometimes with some provolone added in ... it's a personal thing i guess, but yea just try asking them.

          another technique that some people use to get info is to go digging through the trash and looking at the boxes and bags, etc.... not sure if that's your thing, though. guess it depends on just how bad you want to know! ahah

      2. here is a short paragraph on greek pie, from wikipedia:

        1. As somebody who once worked at Atlas i can tell you all about it...well everything but the sauce. The pizza sauce is a family secret so nobody but the owners know how to make it.

          As to the cheese...the majority of the pizzas use mozzerella cheese that comes in blocks from Alberta Cheese. It is grated in the restaurant. The feta cheese is Franco's Feta Cheese and the Cheddar Cheese is from Alberta Cheese as well.

          Hope this helps a little bit...just ask any more questions if you're curious and i'll try my best to answer!

          6 Replies
          1. re: pizzapro

            PizzaPro - you might be my new hero! Here are some specific questions that I can think of...

            1. Are the pizzas topped with 100% mozzarella? I always thought it might be 20% provolone, just because it seemed 'stringy', which provolone seems to add.

            I notice that the Alberta Cheese website lists 3 types of mozzarella cheese:

            Mozzarella - Franco’s
            Mozzarella Part Skim 18%
            Mozzarella Part Skim 20%

            I don't suppose you'd happen to know which one it is?

            2. Any idea what the pizzas are greased with? Corn oil perhaps?

            3. So no hints at all about what the sauce might contain? (Maybe just based on your personal experience)

            4. Anything you can tell me about the cooking method? Is it on a pizza stone? Holes in the bottom?

            5. Any other tips you can think of that might help would definitely be appreciated!

            Thanks for any help that you can provide. Incidentally, today we tried making another Atlas type pizza, and it was our closest version yet. Still not quite there, but getting there.


            1. re: mapsnrop

              for all of us pizza nerds, you should post up some pics of said pie. do you have an account at any pics there?

              1. re: mapsnrop

                1. First off yes it's 100% mozzerella cheese. The only reason that it may be stringy is the cheese is fairly hard to grate and sometimes when not enough pressure is applied you get that stringy feel.

                2. As far as i remember the pans were greased with plain ole canola oil

                3. For the sauce, Franco's Crushed Tomatoes canned are used. As for spices i really honestly dont's a well kept secret.

                4. Cooking is really easy...a regular commercial oven is used with regular pizza pans. The dough is made up of baking powder, sugar, salt, yeast, oil, flour, and club soda.

                Good luck trying to make the Atlas version of pizza! Let me know if this hepls at all

                1. re: pizzapro

                  you don't remember the dough recipe, do you?

                  1. re: pizzapro

                    Perfect, thanks for all the help, I can wait to try it out.

                    "The dough is made up of baking powder, sugar, salt, yeast, oil, flour, and club soda."

                    You don't happen to remember any of the approximate measurements of each?

                    I'm trying to find a similar recipe on the web, but haven't had much luck.

                    1. re: pizzapro

                      Pizzapro: I know it's been a long time since I last posted in this thread, but I've been trying to replicate the 'golden crispiness' of the mozzarella cheese that Atlas Pizza seems to have.

                      I asked for help on the PizzaMaking forum, and someone suggested that perhaps some type of melted butter was drizzled on top of the pizza before baking.

                      Just wondering if you had any info on Atlas pizza doing that with their pizza?


                  1. I have eaten there. I am convinced there is cinnamon in the pizza sauce. Sounds like it's a secret - but I would bet..

                    21 Replies
                    1. re: TSAW

                      Interesting, I've never thought of that!

                      Would love to hear from anyone else who's eaten at Atlas and can pick up on anything!

                      1. re: TSAW

                        Cincinnatti chili (not like traditional chili, but a chili-basic spaghetti hybrid) has cinnamon in it. Check out a Cincinnatti chili recipe to see if you can identify other flavours. There might be some similarities. Also, make some, it's a keeper.

                        1. re: Scary Bill

                          So the girlfriend and I made yet another attempt to recreate the Atlas pizza. Here's what we used:

                          Bought the Franco's brand of mozzarella cheese at Lina's here in Calgary. This is the brand from the Alberta Cheese Company that Atlas uses.

                          It definitely made a difference, and gave me that 'stringy' cheese that Atlas has.

                          We use 6-in-1 tomatoes (from Lina's as well). Added some spices, oregano, etc. Also added some cinnamon as per TSAW's suggestion, and I think he's bang on, it seems to give it that Atlas taste.

                          Once again, from Lina's. I think her freshly made dough is likely to be better than anything we could make at home.

                          We were actually camping, and used the tiny oven in our trailer. A regular pizza pan was covered with canola oil (also used by Atlas).

                          The oven was turned up as high as it could go (dial says 450ish). We cooked it until the cheese looked sufficiently browned/crispy like it does at Atlas.

                          The pizza was damn good for homemade pizza, but was it Atlas? The first few bites suggested that it wasn't. I noticed as you got closer to the crust, it started to taste more Atlas-like.

                          I think this was because the cheese was more sufficiently browned/crispy as you got closer to the crust.

                          I think perhaps the one variable I can't really control, the cooking process, might be preventing me from getting that true Atlas taste. I imagine their commercial ovens can get a lot hotter than our regular oven at home (or trailer) and that probably makes a difference with the cheese.

                          If anyone has any other ideas or suggestions, they're greatly appreciated, as I continue our quest.

                          1. re: mapsnrop

                            I've never eaten at Atlas, but note that it is more or less impossible to make really good pizza at home. A proper pizza oven operates at about 1,000 degrees F, whereas your oven probably tops out at 500. A decent gas grill is likely to work better than your oven.

                            In one of Jeffrey Steingarten's books he discusses his attempt to jerryrig his oven so that he could cook pizza in it during its self-clean cycle. Warn the fire department first if you follow his lead.

                            1. re: ChrisA

                              On "In Search of Perfection", Heston Blumenthal tried turning the broiler to high, and putting the pizza on the bottom of a hot cast iron pan on the top rack of the oven. The broiler, and a pan heated on stovetop, will get hotter than 500 and cook a small pizza perfectly in about 2 minutes:
                              This is a Neapolitan style pizza like you would find at Pulcinella.

                              1. re: ChrisA

                                I've been looking into this as well. I found this interesting 36 page thread on regarding turning a grill into a pizza oven with temperatures in the 750F range.


                                Another good page


                                1. re: mapsnrop

                                  yes we often cook pies on our grill. works great!

                                  1. re: nonlinear

                                    Just an update, we made another pie using the 'upside down cast iron grill' method and it turned out amazing.

                                    I'd say it's 95% of the way to being an Atlas clone. The cinnamon in the sauce was a huge key to the puzzle.

                                    1. re: mapsnrop

                                      would really like to see your sauce recipe, and a list of other ingredients, so i can give it a try sometime :) either posted here or PM on beyond.

                                      1. re: nonlinear

                                        Certainly, I plan to write up a proper recipe, along with info about the cooking method.

                                        The first batch of sauce we made, we just kind of winged it. Next time I'll use proper measurements, and I'd be happy to have someone else try it and see if they can offer any improvements.

                                        1. re: mapsnrop

                                          mapsnrop - you are amazing. I don't have the patience to experiment and experiment and experiment! You have given me inspiration to give it a try. My brother, who lives out of town, goes to Atlas pizza EVERY time he's here. I think I will experiment on him!

                                          I am glad that you concur that cinnamon is the key. My brother thinks I'm crazy suggesting that. He doesn't taste it at all.

                                          1. re: TSAW

                                            No problem TSAW. In my opinion the keys are...

                                            - cinnamon in the sauce

                                            - using a LOT of Franco's mozzarella cheese (available at some CO-OPs and at Lina's Italian market). Atlas has a ton of cheese on their pizza.

                                            - using the upside down Cast Iron grill pan method. You also want to make sure your oven is turned up as high as it can go and the broiler is on.

                                            We heated our cast iron pan for a good 20 minutes (highest setting) on the stove top.

                                            Then you turn it upside down and transfer your dough (with sauce and toppings). This can be kind of tricky, you'll want 2 people for sure, unless you have one of those pizza oven shovels. UPDATE: Just read a tip on Chowhound about using wax paper or parchment paper to make the transfer, will try this next time.

                                            So with the pizza now on your upside down cast iron pan you put it into your oven, which has been heated as high as it can go.

                                            We experimented with various placement of the pizza relative to the broiler.
                                            We found that with our oven it wasn't always best to have it really close to the broiler. I would start at least 2 placements down from the broiler.

                                            Everyone's oven will be different, and capable of different temperatures. We tried this method in a really good oven (newer) and cooked a pizza in less than 2 minutes.

                                            With our oven at home (kind of old), and with lower placement of the pizza relative to the broiler it took about 5-6 minutes.

                                            I should point out that you want to get the cheese really crispy/browned just like Atlas, but without burning obviously. You will want to keep an eye on it in the oven and see if one section is getting more browned than the other, and possibly move it around.

                                            We also opened our oven door a few times during the process, to allow the broiler to come back on.

                                            Also, we had one failed experiment where we put some oil on the cast iron pan and the dough burned literally as soon as it touched the hot cast iron. Not sure if we just used too much oil or what, but for the next few pizzas we didn't use any oil.

                                            If you give this method a shot, be sure to post and let us know how it goes, maybe we can fine tune the Atlas sauce recipe!

                                            1. re: mapsnrop

                                              still looking forward to a your recipe write-up!

                                              1. re: mapsnrop

                                                Not waxed paper, use parchment only. Waxed paper is well, waxed, and wax will melt and may ignite if you touch a burner by mistake.

                                                1. re: Scary Bill

                                                  Alright guys, here it is! If anyone else gives this a shot, I would definitely appreciate your feedback, especially if you can make it taste even more Atlas-like. To me it's pretty damn close, haven't tried a blind taste test yet though :)

                                                  Yields: one 9" pizza (size of the bottom of a 12" cast iron pan)

                                                  * 1 Lodge Logic 12-Inch pre-seasoned cast iron skillet
                                                  Can be purchased at the Bass Pro Shop at the new Cross Iron Mills mall in Calgary for $20
                                                  Everyone should have one! Amazing quality, will last a lifetime.

                                                  * Parchment paper (for transferring pizza


                                                  * 1 12 oz can of 6-in-1 tomatoes. Can be found at Lina's Italian Market

                                                  * 1.5 tbsp of oregano
                                                  * 1 tsp of basil
                                                  * 3 tsp of white sugar
                                                  * 0.75 tsp of cinnamon
                                                  * 0.5 tsp of hot/red pepper flakes
                                                  * 1.5 tsp of granulated garlic

                                                  Note that this makes enough sauce for about 5 pizzas, so if you want to make just enough sauce for one, you'll need to do some math.

                                                  * 1 454g package of Franco's Mozzarella (you'll be using about 75% of it for this size of pizza). You can buy it at Lina's (mentioned above), Co-Op, or at the Alberta Cheese Company.


                                                  I found Lina's to be the most expensive, and Alberta Cheese to be the cheapest ($5 for the 454g, or $2.50 cheaper than Lina's).

                                                  * 1 ball of freshly made dough from Lina's. (you'll be using about half the package of dough for this size pizza).

                                                  1. Heat up the tomatoes on your stove, and then add the oregano, basil, white sugar, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, and granulated garlic. Allow to simmer.

                                                  2. Put your cast iron pan on your stove top. How high should you turn your heat? This is where some experimenting is required. Here is what happened for us:

                                                  - 20 minutes of heating @ maximum stove top temperature resulted in immediate burning of the dough. Not pretty.

                                                  - 18 minutes at level 8 of 9 (ie 90% of your stovetop maximum) resulted in a perfectly baked crust.

                                                  See what a fine line there is between best pizza ever and a terrible cremated mess? My suggestion would be to try your first pizza at 70% of your stove-top maximum for 18 minutes. If it looks like you can go higher, bump it up for the next pizza.

                                                  At the same time, turn on your oven to as high a temperature as it can possibly go, with the broiler on. Move your oven rack so it's in the slot just below the broiler.

                                                  3. Now, while that cast iron pan is heating up, start getting your pizza ingredients together. Grate about 75% of that 454g block of mozzarella. This pizza will be really cheese heavy.

                                                  4. Take about half of the dough that you bought from Lina's and spread it out on something with flour on it. The size of your pizza pie should be about the size of the bottom of your cast iron pan.

                                                  You may also wish to try putting the dough on parchment paper. This is apparently a great way to transfer the dough from the pizza to the cast iron pan. I haven't tried this yet myself, but it sounds like a good idea, especially if you don't have someone to help you with the pizza transfer.

                                                  5. Spread the sauce on to your dough. Use a liberal amount of sauce. I don't like to see any bare spots. Add your toppings. Add your cheese (use a lot of cheese, my pizza ends up being a good inch thick from the bottom of the crust to the top of the cheese).

                                                  6. Ok, by now your cast iron pan will be extremely hot, having heated for 18 minutes. Using some oven mitts, take the cast iron pan and turn it upside down on top of your stove.

                                                  Now comes the fun part, transferring your pizza to the bottom of the cast iron pan. It's definitely a lot easier with 2 people. We use 3 spatulas and that makes it fairly easy. You may also want to try the parchment paper method mentioned in step 4. I'm assuming you can just slide the pizza off on to the cast iron pan.

                                                  7. Still using the oven mitts, place the pizza in to your oven, and place it just underneath the broiler. Close your oven door and turn on the light. You'll want to keep an eye on your pizza, it's going to cook faster than you've ever cooked a pizza before.

                                                  What you're trying to achieve is a real browning of the cheese, making it nice and crispy. You may need to experiment, for our stove, we like to open the door a few times which seems to activate the broiler (make it glow red hot).

                                                  Ideally, you'll be able to get a nice even coverage of cheese browning.

                                                  Once it's done, take it out of the oven and sit it on top of your stove (we keep ours on the cast iron pan). We like to let it cool for a bit, but that's up to you I guess.


                                                  1. re: mapsnrop

                                                    Should also note that the girlfriend felt the sauce might have had a bit too much oregano. Might try less next time.

                                                    1. re: mapsnrop


                                                      Can't help you with making the pizza, but I can suggest that you try Scarpones near Deerfoot & 49th for ingredients. Best place for Italian products in the city imho, and they do have 6 in 1. Well cheaper than Lina's.

                                                    2. re: mapsnrop

                                                      Well I tried this, with slightly less success than Mapsnrop. I think my technique needs a little refining. I don't think my pan was quite hot enough. I used a 16 inch cast iron for 12 inch pizza. I kept it on the burner heating at 80% for 21 minutes (I have a Jenn air ceramic top). I continued on with the broiling for 3-4 minutes. It did make a nice browned "Atlas" top but the bottom was still a white color. I turned the broiler off, moved the rack down one notch and left the pizza in the oven for another 5 minutes with the door closed. The top continued to bubble so I think it was still getting a nice heat off of the pan. The bottom of the pizza was still a little white, but when we cut into it, it was cooked.

                                                      About the dough... I used 1/2 a bag of Lina's, for a 12 inch pie, which weighed out to 275gr. and it was in no way as thick as Atlas. Next time I would use more. I did use the parchment paper to help with the transfer but it still took 2 of use to move it onto the cast iron with 2 flippers.

                                                      About the sauce... I added a generous ounce of red wine. All other sauce additions/measures noted by Mapsnrop seemed bang on to me. The amount of oregano seemed fine.

                                                      About the cheese....The 3/4lb of Franco's was perfect. I will never buy Kraft Mozza again!

                                                      Overall very good. I will keep experimenting with the technique. This cast iron method is actually very good. It really is waaaaay better than using a pizza stone.

                                                      I got my camera out and was going to take step by step photos but I was so worried about burning it, that I forgot!! Next time for sure.

                                                      Thanks again Mapsnrop!

                                                      1. re: TSAW

                                                        Thanks for the excellent report TSAW! Believe me, it sounds like you were a *lot* more successful than our first attempt, which basically resulted in a cremated frisbee.

                                                        By the 2nd or 3rd attempt we were making some really, really good pizza. I love the cast iron method, don't think I could ever go back.

                                                        If you ever try it again, would love to hear about it. Maybe together we could make some improvements. I'll have to try the ounce of red wine.

                                                        Your cast iron pan is a lot larger than ours (12 inch) so more dough would definitely be required.

                                                        I should note that the bottom of our pizza does not really get browned/golden either, but the crust does taste delicious. Maybe it's the lack of oil ? To us, we almost find this to be an improvement over the slightly greasy Atlas pizza, but I wouldn't mind trying to recreate it just for fun.

                                                2. re: TSAW

                                                  I tried the cast iron method again. This time with disasterous results! The pizza was pretty much burned black on half the bottom (top was nice and bubbly) and had weird metallic taste. I didn't measure properly so the dough was hanging over the sides and slide down into the oven! The worst part... I was so cocky, I invited a guest to dinner! Ugh. We ate the cake I had for dessert for dinner!

                                                  I dunno... I might give up and buy medicocre takeout!

                                                  1. re: TSAW

                                                    Ugh, sorry to hear TSAW. We make our pizza all the time using cast-iron now, and fortunately they've all been great since our first attempt.

                                                    I've found that you almost need to take a scientific approach to heating up your cast-iron pan. Note the temperature that you heated at, and for how long.

                                                    Heating up the cast iron too much can definitely result in what you described, it sounds like our first pizza.