The dining room at Il Giallo Osteria and Bar is a particularly pleasant one. The ceiling is high and the room is filled with light from a curious collection of fixtures — some round, some cylindrical, none too bright or too dim.
There is an oddly misshapen illustration of Italy on one wall, but, rather than distract, the askew map gives the room a homespun touch.
The times I’ve visited, the room has never felt empty or full. There are always people there, but there’s always a place to sit. There’s a bit of canned music and some chatter, but you never have to raise your voice to speak.
When you sit down, you’ll be given a few pieces of airy, rosemary-flecked focaccia wrapped in a napkin and a plate of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. You’ll do best with a simple salad of beets and greens, a plate of pasta and a glass of wine. If Il Giallo is starting to sound like a nice neighborhood Italian joint, you’ve got the right idea.
After the long-running Veni Vidi Vici closed in Midtown last year, chef Jamie Adams and manager Leonardo Moura quickly decamped to Sandy Springs and opened Il Giallo in November.
The centerpiece of Il Giallo, both in concept and practice, is the pasta. Much of the restaurant has a good view of the kitchen pass, where long stretches of dough are rolled and cut into fresh pasta throughout service.
The agnolotti is nice and filling. It’s plump, full of roasted duck and served in a simple brown butter sage sauce studded with chopped pecans. I was expecting the duck to deliver a punch of flavor, but the effect is mild, a simple, savory, buttery pocket of al dente pasta.
At lunch, the menu offers pappardelle with Georgia shrimp and mushrooms. The dish is served with a generous pile of thick pappardelle and a scarcity of shrimp. Black trumpet mushrooms and chanterelles make up, at least in part, for the lack of shrimp.
The pickled beet salad is a balancing act. The dandelion greens served with it are tough and bitter, but the hunks of beet are sweet and soft. A few paper-thin flakes of ricotta salata are served on top, but add little to that bittersweet flavor.
A good splurge might be the whole roasted fish. The night I ordered it, the swimmer was a snapper, dressed in a light sauce of capers, olive oil and lemon, roasted to simple, moist perfection. Priced at $29 a pound, this can be a rather expensive dish, though it easily should feed two.
While the service is genuinely warm, missteps were common. One night, two dishes ordered by our table were forgotten entirely. One never showed up, and the other, when the server was reminded of it, came out in rush-job shambles.
Attempts at finer touches can disappoint, too. A $14 cheese plate was delivered refrigerator-cold by a runner who seemed never to have been trained as to what he was serving. When I asked which cheese was which, he thought for a minute and said, “Well, I know that one is blue.” When a bill can run as high as at Il Giallo, a well-trained, sophisticated staff does not seem too much to ask.
Despite that, don’t skip dessert. Order the bomboloni and you will be glad you did. A plate will arrive with a half-dozen dark golden brown doughnuts, as airy as any beignet you’ve ever tasted, but stuffed with creamy ricotta that seems to be as light as the dough. The plate comes with honey-striped whipped cream for you to dunk each bite in. This is one dish at Il Giallo you would not want to miss.
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