Sunday, May 24, 2009

La Pietra Cucina reopens

Posted By on Sun, May 24, 2009 at 2:59 AM

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La Pietra Cucina has reopened after three weeks of remodeling the main dining room. It's hard to communicate what a startling difference there is in this rather formal-feeling space and the original, which was esconced in the private dining room of the original tenant, Midcity Cuisine.

The new dining room is absolutely huge and rather darkly lit, with walls painted a reddish-brown that looks purple in darker areas. As soon as we took our seats in rather throne-like wingback chairs, my friend Frank Miller remarked that he felt like we should be swirling brandy snifters and puffing on cigars.

The wait staff has more than doubled and Chef Bruce Logue has added a former associate to the kitchen staff. The food is as good as ever -- at least at lunchtime Friday when the Memorial Day weekend kept the crowd sparse.

The menu is about the same for now but Logue will be adding more dishes as the staff hits its stride. I ordered this slice of Tiella Gaetana (top), which is two layers of unleavened pizza dough stuffed with escarole, capers, olives and ricotta cheese. The crust is deliciously crispy and the filling slightly acidic and a bit sweet too.  I'd never had the dish before and was expecting something more like traditional pizza (because I only half-listened to the server's description).

When I asked Logue why he wasn't doing pizza, he replied, "I wouldn't even  attempt to compete with Varasano's. There should be no other pizza on Peachtree Street." In other words, he loves Varasano's -- especially the dough -- and called it the closest thing in Atlanta to the pizzas he ate in Italy. That's quite an endorsement.

I also ordered this salad (above right) of porchetta with pickled fennel, baby arugula and aged piave. It was a huge portion, especially with the tiella, and Frank helped me finish it. His own entree was classic trenette al pesto, which included potatoes and wild nettles as well as pesto Genovese.

(Photos by Cliff Bostock)

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