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Saba: Simplicity sauced up 

Blues and Bolognese: It's a cold night in January, and the post-holiday doldrums are as tangible as the biting wind. The decorations are down, everyone is shopped-out, and family visits were not the stuff of Norman Rockwell paintings.

Now that the turkey's long gone, there is the one great universal food fit for a holiday of your own making – pasta.

And pasta is the main draw at Saba, located around the corner from Emory Commons. The restaurant, once a wing joint, is now dressed in understated elegance for the everyman. Rich greens, reds, black-and-white photos and a barrier separating the dining area from the busy counter lend appropriate intimacy.

The noodle queue: Emory students in sweats join suit-and-tie profs and retired locals in a line that snakes to Saba's counter. The staff is helpful at providing guidance aimed at individual desires. There is either simple spaghetti and meatballs kicked up with see-through shavings of pecorino cheese, or the more promiscuous pumpkin ravioli with spices and ricotta in a nutty brown butter sauce. It tastes of home cooking your grandma might make if she was young and chic and loved you more.

The Italian classics are supplemented with international dishes such as Thai chicken with coconut curry sauce, basil and fennel pollen ($8.95), and vegan spaghetti with tofu and an Indian vindaloo ($7.95). Choices are abundant. Buckwheat noodles can be substituted in most dishes. There are gluten-free selections. Soups change regularly, and a wide assortment of appetizers and salads allows for myriad mixing and matching.

The most impressive dish sampled was a succulent zuppa di pesce, a spicy tomato broth with salmon, shrimp, scallops, calamari and clams. One of the pricier items at $13.95, it was well worth it with tender baby calamari, delicately cooked shellfish and an intricate broth layered with saffron, just enough fire and bright, briny broth. The four-cheese ravioli with tomato sauce, kalamata olives and pureed herbs in pesto form ($8.95) is a consistent pleasure.

Motor musack? For the most part, all of Saba's portions are generous without inducing post-linguine lethargy. Speaking of which, the linguine with clams in white wine and garlic sauce ($9.95) was a hit one visit and a disappointment at another close to closing time, when the majority of clams were clearly canned and the sauce a bit broken and greasy. It seems best to hit before the end of the evening, when we witnessed the one big faux pas (an admitted pet peeve) -- employees running the vacuum while the restaurant was still open.

Other than that, Saba was, and remains, a great local, affordable eatery with an epicurean edge and a comfortable cushion – a hard dichotomy to do well. And there is something for most everyone – even pulled-pork sandwiches, homemade blue-cheese chips, various salads and a kids' menu. The weekend brunch is different but discernable. Where else can you get a meatball omelet (it works!) or a Benedict with poached eggs on pancetta, arugula and ciabatta bread?

You could even invite the family you just visited over the holidays. Spread the joy. Or keep it to yourself and peruse holiday bills over pasta and remember it's a new year. It all begins again ...

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