Aug 24, 2013

Tactical (Restaurant) Review: Caffe Gio

Giovanni Di Palma, the visionary behind the reigning pizza authority in Atlanta, Antico, and his brick-n-mortar interpretation of poultry, Chicken Amalfitano, has successfully carved himself out a little part of Mid-town and turned it into his version of Little Italy. But what is Italy without some espresso and gelato? His answer is Caffé Gio.

Having been to his pizzeria more times then I can count, I know that the location is great, but so do many others which presents the issue. This place is never NOT crowded, which means parking is an issue. It helps that Amalfitano doesn’t open till 5 on the weekdays, which allows for more stripped asphalt for foodies to slip their vehicles into the tiny slots. All that being said, the little plaza gets very busy with both of his feature restaurants lined out the door. So buyer beware, get there early, or plan on catching up on your Twitter feed for a while as you stand with the other zombies. If this is the issue, run behind Antico to the Caffé, you'll thank me later.

The Caffé itself is a conglomeration of what the average American believes an Italian shop would be like; a covered outside seating area complete with potted plants, fruit trees, and parked Vespas, a small space stacked with colorful gelato filled bins, fresh bread lined shelves, marble covered kitchen with salted meat filled sandwiches, etc. I loved the Pandora/Spotify selected radio station featuring Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Michael Bublé, etc., was right in my wheelhouse.  The continued minimalist theme runs rampant as it does with his other stops (the communal brown paper towels sit atop every table, oil stained finger prints included), which is hit-n-miss with some (note that I am a fan).

The outdoor seating area.
The small deli counter.
The front of the house.
The menu itself was Italian simplicity personified; lemon, cheese, bread, salted meats, need I say more? The sandwich we ordered, known as the Calabrse, with its salad, were a perfect representation of this time-honed cuisine. The acidic collection of greens laced with shaved Parmesan was well seasoned and a great relief from the meat and bread. The sandwich, though perhaps dry for some, was just so, hitting all the right spots for an appeasing lunch offering.

The Calabrese: sopressata, calabrian chili, shaved podano.
Though the day was hot, a typical Atlanta summer day mind you, the chicken soup (Zuppa Di Pollo) was so appetizing to look at as it lay sitting on the counter as I ordered that I couldn’t resist it myself. It was the best thing of the meal. Clean but full bodied, it celebrated roast chicken with the healthy portions of poultry and a well-executed broth. Dots of pearl pasta, melted mozzarella cheese (a revelation for my wife), and balanced herbs, this was like taking a trip to the Italian countryside replete with grandmother’s soup. Well done.

Zuppa Di Pollo.
Plenty of chicken to dig into.
Lastly, we wanted a dessert to cool down the heat, so gelato was in order (note that they had other desserts and many a caffeinated drink but the heat won out). I had my doubts with the knowledge that Gio insisted on sourcing his gelato from Italy like his other ingredients. Why not make it in house, or at the very least, from a reputable local purveyor of authentic gelato? Only he can answer that. But what lay before us was an Italian rainbow of glistening creations all wanting to be tasted. We settled on the Strawberry (above average with frozen fruit) and Salted Caramel (fantastic). Just a hair below the Atlanta standard Paolo’s, it was a refreshing oasis of potent, cool cream that capped a wonderful meal.

Gelato (Mezzo/Mezzo).

Overall, Caffé Gio was a seamless continuation of one man’s dream to bring a small piece of his European homeland stateside. This is Italian lunch making it’s home in Atlanta and a real testament to it’s casually natured cuisine. So when Antico or Amalfitano’s dinning area has runneth over with impatient patrons or you’re in the Midtown area seeking an authentic Italian snack, Caffé Gio fits the bill. Buen Appetito!

Review Date: August 2013

3.5 Alarms

Caffé Gio on Urbanspoon

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