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Originally planned to debut earlier this year, Grana, the new Piedmont Heights Italian restaurant from chef Pasquale “Pat” Pascarella, opened on March 19 for pickup and curbside service only, due to the shutdown of bars and dine-in restaurants in the city of Atlanta.
In early April 2018, Pascarella opened his first metro Atlanta restaurant, the White Bull, next door to Brick Store Pub in Decatur, serving a “farm-forward” seasonal menu. Prior to that, he was the executive chef at the Optimist. And before moving to Atlanta, Pascarella was the executive chef and owner of Bar Sugo, a well-regarded Italian restaurant in Norwalk, Connecticut.
At Grana, the idea was to specialize in wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas, house-made pastas, and other authentic Italian dishes. But while the current menu is not the opening menu he originally imagined, Pascarella has a surprising number of takeout options on offer, including appetizers, sandwiches, pasta, seven different pizzas, and a few entrees.
Among recent highlights, look for a Black Truffle pizza with burrata, robiolina and fresh basil; cappelletti pasta with butternut squash, brown butter and vincotto; and Chicken Cutlets with Grana Padano and lemon. House-made desserts include cannoli with chocolate chips, and a chocolate tart with hazelnut and sea salt.
Grana is situated on a rapidly developing section of Piedmont Avenue, near Grindhouse Killer Burgers and Little Rey. The build-out includes a large bar area and dining room with a mezzanine, an open kitchen, and a rooftop with additional seating — though none of those spaces are currently open to the public.
While picking up an order in the foyer, guests can look through a glass window to view the pasta-making process, and catch a glimpse of the two wood-fired Marra Forni brick pizza ovens, named “Sophia” and “Monte.” In addition, make your own pasta kits for four are available for purchase and come with recipe cards, or you can opt for 1-pound bags of fresh pasta to take home.
Last week, Pascarella talked about the approach he’s taking to running a restaurant with restrictions, and offering food to fit what people want and need.
“This was the worst thing that could ever happen when you’re trying to open a new restaurant,” he said. “This was supposed to be a place to pay respect to the women who molded me into who I am cooking-wise. So my grandmother and my mom, and even my wife and my daughter. None of this was from any restaurant I ever worked at.
“This is my parents’ and grandparents’ and my great-grandparents’ recipes — stuff that I grew up eating my entire life. And still to this day, every time I go to visit my family in Connecticut, I need chicken cutlets made, I need porchetta made. So it’s true authentic Southern Italian food.
“Right now, we have chicken Parmesan on the menu, but we have to. It’s what people want to eat right now. When we open, you won’t see that on the menu.”
Explaining the current takeout menu, Pascarella said it was a mix of the original and the possible.
“We’re doing things like our margherita pizza, and a few of our meatballs, and fried pizza dough as an app, but then we’re doing an arugula salad that won’t be on the menu,” he said. “We’re going to run wings, because that’s an item that will be on our rooftop menu. They’ll be deep-fried and tossed with Calabrian chiles, so it’s spicy and sweet.
“When we designed this takeout menu, it was like, what do you want to eat when you’re home, and you’re not doing anything? We’re selling so many sandwiches, it’s actually mind-blowing to me. And we can’t keep enough cannoli in the house.”
As far as the empty building he’s working in, Pascarella said he’s looking forward to getting it open for full service one day.
“It’s just a really cool, fun space, and there will be so much cool stuff on the menu that you could eat at the restaurant more than once a week. That was the goal. We’re in an area that’s definitely booming. We’re backed up to Morningside and Ansley and Lower Buckhead.
“You have all these brand-new buildings going up around Cheshire Bridge and on Piedmont. I don’t think we’d be able to do half the business we’re doing now in takeout if wasn’t for all these apartment buildings around here. That’s definitely been helping. You have to be smart during these times. Keep your head up and keep pushing. Until everybody shuts it all down, we’re going to keep doing what we do.”
1835 Piedmont Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-231-9000, granaatl.com.
Sroll down for more images from a First Look at Grana in Piedmont Heights
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