Ecco Buckhead faces a challenge seen by all new locations of an already successful restaurant: balancing newness with familiarity, without overshadowing the original. The Buckhead location includes a few classics; if it had opened without fried goat cheese on the menu, there might have been riots on Peachtree. But, it also has a menu item with the potential to become a new classic: crispy fried Cerignola olives.
Ecco draws much of its menu from Spain, where olives are a common salty bar snack, served with beer, cider or cava. These fried olives turn the savoriness up to 11. Stuffed with house-made chicken and pork sausage before they’re fried, they’re served with a sprinkling of pecorino and thyme. It’s like the traditional bowl of bar olives has been given salty superpowers.
The Cerignola olives might be the new kid on the block, but there’s little threat of them deposing Ecco’s famous fried goat cheese. The two dishes play together extremely well, with the softness and sweetness of the honeyed goat cheese offsetting the crunchy-fried salinity of the olives. Pair them with a crisp, effervescent beverage, and it’s hard to think of a better place for drinks and appetizers — including Ecco’s original Midtown location, which doesn’t offer the exact same menu. That’s what makes the new Ecco succeed — it hits the high notes from the original, but still brings plenty of new tricks to the table.