When chef and pasta maker Mike Patrick and his Rome-born business partner Pietro Gianni opened Storico Alimentari e Ristorante in Buckhead in 2016, it quickly became a crowd-pleasing dining and shopping destination. Serving lunch and dinner, with a full bar, grocery, and meals to-go, Storico was billed as “a one-stop shop for everything traditional Italian.”
But Forza Storico, the new concept from Patrick, Gianni and a third partner, Stephen Peterson, is much more focused. The bar-centric, Roman-inspired restaurant soft-opened late last week on Howell Mill Road in the Westside Provisions District.
The 3,800-square-foot daylight basement space (once part of the Bacchanalia restaurant complex) is equally divided between a large rectangular bar area and a cozy dining room with an open kitchen. With 180 seats total, there’s also a covered patio, and a row of small tables that look out on the adjacent train tracks.
Conceived by Peterson with the help of ASD | SKY, the rustic design features exposed brick and concrete, elemental wood furnishings, and floor-to-ceiling windows. Both inside and outside, the work of graffiti artist Tori Alexas satirically celebrates historical figures from Augustus Caesar to the “Superpope.”
Patrick’s menu showcases classic Roman dishes, including a section of antipasta with the likes of fried beer-battered cod, charred octopus with roasted fingerling potatoes, and a generous platter for two with cured meats, cheese, a seasonal frittata, and a radicchio salad. But you’ll also find entrees like rotisserie chicken, pan-seared whole fish, and sautéed veal.
Not surprisingly, fresh housemade and imported Italian extruded pastas are highlighted. Look for Amatriciana Rigatoni with guanciale, sugo di pomodoro and pecorino; Carbonara with calamaretti pasta, house-cured guanciale, egg yolk and pecorino; and mint and ricotta-filled ravioli with sugo di pomodoro and grana.
Led by bar manager Jose Pereiro, the all-Italian beverage menu offers some 35 Italian craft beers, a long list of wines from Central and Southern Italy, cocktails made with Italian spirits, and selections of aperitivos and digestivos. Last week before dinner service, Patrick, Peterson and Pereiro perched at the bar and talked about the making of Forza Storico.
“I was born in Venezuela and raised in Italy, and I grew up in hospitality,” Peterson said. “I used to design restaurants at ASD. This kind of layout and bar-centric Italian dining experience was something I always dreamed about doing. Ultimately, we connected the bar to the kitchen. I don’t think there’s a boring corner in the restaurant. Everything is meant to be engaging.”
“Conceptually, we sat down and sort of spit out this thing that was like a Roman beer bar or a Roman wine bar,” Patrick said. “All these pictures that you see on the wall are memories of us hanging out in Rome, and the things we’ve seen all over Rome, like the graffiti and the pope. We wanted to capture that feel and that fun energy.”
Like the design, Patrick explained that the menu is a direct reflection of the partners’ experiences eating and drinking in Rome.
“You can see all the classics here,” he said. “Everything from Trippa alla Romana, which is tomato stewed tripe, to Coda alla Vacinara, which is braised oxtail. And all of our pastas, which we’re obviously specializing in, are classics, like Cacio e Pepe. The foundations of Roman cooking come down to a few different things. There’s a lot of pecorino, and there’s a lot of pig cheeks. Roman food is a lot of simple ingredients, but you really have to execute it, because you may only have three or four ingredients.”
Speaking to the bar program, Pereiro said he wanted to showcase Italian culture and connect the food to the drinks.
“Pretty much, I have the classics like the Negroni and the Americano,” he said. “And I have the signature Forza Spritz, which is made with Cynar and Antico amaro. So you’ll get stirred cocktails, you’ll get spritzers, and other, more tropical cocktails as well.”
Perhaps most singular, the extensive Italian beer list is a labor of love that took time and patience to assemble.
“It goes back to the original dream of having this Roman beer bar,” Patrick said. “We had to go through a lot of beers and a lot of headaches to put it tougher. Savannah Distributing came on line for us, and we had a brokerage out of Massachusetts that agreed to try to help us. We’re already the No. 1 purchaser of Baladin beers in the state.
“But this is just Italian vibes over and over. This is a fun place, with a little twist. It’s like our go-to on everything — 90% facts and 10% twists.”
1198 Howell Mill Road, NW, Atlanta. 404-464-8096, forzastorico.com.
Scroll down for more images from a First Look at Forza Storico on Atlanta’s Westside
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