First Look: Novo Cucina, Dunwoody

With Novo Cucina, chef/restaurateur Riccardo Ullio transports favorite starters, pastas and pizzas from his two beloved Inman Park Italian restaurants, Fritti and Sotto Sotto, to create a new hybrid concept in Dunwoody.

There’s table service, if you want it. But Novo’s card system allows diners to swipe and sample wines from a self-serve Enomatic dispenser, place their food order before sitting down, and choose dessert from some 18 house-made flavors at the gelato bar.

The look: Originally a Pizza Hut location, the spacious, free-standing building at the edge of a shopping center on Chamblee Dunwoody Road has been home to a succession of restaurants. The new design is modern and airy, with views of the open kitchen and pizza oven, and seating at the pasta bar or on a roomy patio surrounded by French doors.

The scene: One recent afternoon, the weather was balmy and breezy, the French doors were flung open, and the patio was clearly the place to be, as office refugees and large parties of women gathered for lunch.

The food: Those who have dined at Fritti and Sotto Sotto over the years will recognize much of the menu from Ullio and longtime chef-collaborator Richard Silvey. To start, there’s the likes of Sicilian-style risotto and sausage croquettes ($8), and a chef’s salad with field lettuces, smoked mozzarella, cotto ham, spicy salame, egg, artichoke and cherry tomatoes ($9). Maialona pizza is layered with spicy salame, cotto ham, pepperoni, pancetta and black olives ($12). Pastas, such as tagliatelle with wild mushrooms and cream ($9/$13), come in first course or entree sizes.

The drinks: There’s a full cocktail bar, and more than a dozen American and European beers in the bottle ($4.50-$8). But wine is main attraction, with Italian and California wines by the glass or bottle available for table service ($8.50-$78). The Enomatic wine system dispenses one-ounce tastes and four-ounce or six-ounce glasses.

The extras: Former AJC dining critic Meridith Ford is creating and spinning gelato and sorbetto daily, with fresh ingredients such as local fruit, imported nuts and her own ganache. Recent flavors include strawberry, hazelnut and milk chocolate gelato and dark chocolate sorbetto.

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