Skip to main content

Is Atlanta an Italian-free zone?

This is the first in a series of blogs on one of the dark secrets of the Atlanta food scene---the entire Atlanta metro area has been declared an Italian-free zone.  I'm not sure how it's done---dragnets at the state border, perhaps---but passable Italian food is as scarce in this town as ice cubes on the sidewalk in August.  The truly horrific situation is in the pizza domain.  Atlantans seem to think that pizza is bread with cheese and meat piled on, sort of like a red sandwich.  But other varieties of Italian food are equally hard to find.

I should explain that I'm primarily talking about Italian-American food, which is a distinct species from the food one eats in Italy.  Italian-American food is heavier and heartier, rich in both meat and carbs.  Red sauce is known as gravy.  Pizza comes in several styles, but in America it's a meal, while in Italy it is a snack.

There are a few bright spots and I'll devote the remainder of this entry to one of them.  Bambinelli's is near Northlake Mall.  It is run by a family that moved here from Connecticut.  The restaurant has most of the requisite badges of Italian-Americanism: photos of family abound; very friendly wait staff.  All they are missing is the Sinatra soundtrack.

The defining quality of Italian-American restaurants is the red sauce.  Bambinelli's is slightly sweet for my taste but it has a good balance of flavors.  I usually get something with red sauce. But tonight I wanted something a little different, so I had the shrimp scampi, which hit the spot. The rolls that come out at the start of the meal are excellent. They are based on pizza dough but buttered and I think with a hint of cheese. We also had calamari, which was my taste of red sauce for the evening. No dessert tonight, but they have the usual complement of desserts, including cannoli.  A good cannoli is hard to find in this town, so grab one when you can.

Here is a 2013 update. This is my vegetarian lasagna. The cheese makes the dish satisfyingly rich but the lack of meat means it isn't too heavy, which lasagna can sometimes be. The pasta in the lasagna was just right. The sauce tasted great.

Bambinelli's Italian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Olympic Flame

Olympic Flame is in the industrial section of Marietta Bouevard. This is a quiet part of town, without the traffic and people of midtown. Olympic Flame has been here for almost fifty years. Unlike the Silver Skillet and White House, which cater to the white collar crowd, Olympic Flame is a workingman's place. You can see this as soon as you walk in to find counter service. You can also see it in the menu, which favors portable breakfast a.k.a. breakfast sandwiches. They do have a seating area with classic Greek diner decorations. (Did some salesman sweep through town and sell every Greek diner the same posters? Or is there a greekdinersupplies.com from which everyone orders their Greek Diner Wall Hangings Kit?) I decided to eat inside, so I ordered and took a table. As I waited, guys stepped up to the counter, ordered, and sat to wait for their to-go breakfasts. This is two orders, an omelet plus biscuits and gravy. The gravy was the star, made with a rich dose of chi…

Decatur: Golden Buddha

category: interesting Chinese/Korean restaurant
summary: ask for the special menu---ordering the right thing is important

Hyesoon and I went to Golden Buddha on Clairmont for dinner. I've driven by there dozens of times and never been in. Even if I had, I probably wouldn't have ordered the right things. It turns out that this restaurant has a big reputation among Georgia Tech students as a good place for Chinese/Korean food that is good and reasonable. The restaurant is totally nondescript and, like many Asian restaurants, have a special menu that they generally give to Asians but not Causasians. I suspect that some of their dishes are ho-hum, but I definitely enjoyed our meal from the special menu.
My favorite dish was the seafood soup (which, by the way, is on the regular menu).  This large bowl is a half-serving.  It is chock full of seafood, a healthy dose of noodles, and a little greenery.  The broth was delicious. It was spicy but just enough to tickle your tongue. The tas…

Seattle: Blueacre

Blueacre is a chef-owned on 7th Street in downtown Seattle. The space is very large and casually elegant. I went there for a seafood fix and wasn't disappointed. The bread was outstanding and the butter that went with it was excellent. Here is my salmon. It was cooked just right, finished but still juicy and flaky. The cherries were a nice adornment but the hazelnut shavings were the star add-on. The Pacific Northwest grows a lot of hazelnuts so the pairing is a natural one. The rich, almost caramel-y taste was a perfect accent to the salmon.