Pastificio Cameli's 

In my own view the best restaurant in East Atlanta, by a mile, is Pastificio Cameli (1263 Glenwood Ave., 404-622-9926). I eat there at least once a week, sometimes twice. I have practically nothing negative to say about the place.

Mainly, it's the food and relatively low prices that keep me going back. The young owner and chef, George Cameli, first impressed us with his Cameli's Gourmet Pizza Joint (699 Ponce de Leon Ave., 404-249-9020). When Pastificio opened, it also featured a few pizzas, but, as the chef hit his stride, he eliminated these from the new restaurant's menu to feature more of his creative pastas and secondi piatti.

The menu changes seasonally and there are daily soup and fish specials. Normally, I start with the bruschetta, a plate of toasted bread with four different toppings ($3.75). I prefer the simple diced tomatoes above the others, though the parsley pesto is a nice break from the usual basil. The only one I don't care much for is the black olive pâté, which needs to be made with a better quality olive.

My favorite pasta here -- one of my favorite pastas in the city, actually -- is the tagliatelle verdi with sautéed radicchio, fontina cheese and black truffle oil ($11.95). It's a really marvelous blend of flavors: bitterness, a slight muskiness and slightly sharp cheese.

The tagliatelle, made on the premises, is also served with calamari sautéed in a tomato sauce spiked with white wine or with a creamy sauce full of porcini and cremini mushrooms ($11.25). Cameli makes a flawless ragu sauce that he pours over wide buckwheat noodles ($9.75). I am less fond of his ravioli, though the gorgonzola sauce used with one occasionally makes me compromise my preferences.

I feel that Cameli is giving the city some especially wonderful wintertime dishes. There's a classic chicken cacciatore -- a huge serving of chicken long simmered on the bone with vegetables and white wine ($14.95).

There's also pork stewed with porcini mushrooms and juniper berries ($14.95). Polenta makes a perfect sop for the dish's sauce (which could use more juniper berries, actually). Finally, there are grilled lamb chops with a tarragon and red-wine vinegar sauce ($15.95), and the daily fish, which is usually simply grilled.

If it's been a while since you visited, it's time to go back.


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