When I pulled back the lid from the aluminum tray, the aroma of slow-roasted meat made my stomach growl. The presentation made my eyes well up.
Thick, even slices of tender beef had been purposefully arranged to form a square perimeter around chunks of bright orange carrots, each one deliberately cut on the bias.
A fresh garden salad offered a similar picture of care. Thin disks of pickled radishes, slivers of pickled onions and halves of cherry tomatoes added color to the green bed of romaine leaves. Plastic ramekins of a tangy, Parmesan-laden vinaigrette were tucked into each corner.
A half-hour earlier, I’d picked up my order at Osteria Mattone in Roswell, one of three restaurants in Ryan Pernice’s RO Hospitality group. We’d talked about the difficulties of shifting to a takeout scenario: “Fine dining was easier. To-go is a different beast entirely,” he said.
Credit: Alyssa Pointer
Credit: Alyssa Pointer
I fought back tears when I opened my dinner order, because it was evident that Pernice’s team was pouring its heart and culinary acumen into not just into feeding patrons, but also making them feel genuinely cared for, even though the dining room is closed.
When I met Pernice at the restaurant’s side entrance, a valet-like setup for curbside pickup, he invited me to see the takeout operation. (Patrons do not enter the building now; Osteria Mattone is doing no-contact pickup and delivery.) I donned my mask and, from a safe distance, followed the masked, gloved owner through each room of the historic cottage that has been Osteria Mattone’s home since 2013.
One dining room was piled with boxes of paper products, the other with takeout supplies. Another room held merchandise — shirts, tank tops, tumblers. “We are trying to sell anything we can to turn inventory into cash,” Pernice said. At the bar, Jennifer Hamilton and Mark Faul were taking customer phone orders and credit card payments.
Emily James was typing in orders that got sent to cooks in the kitchen. Tickets were lined up in rows as they waited to be filled. “It looks somewhat chaotic, but I have a system,” said James, who, during normal times, would be managing the bar at sister restaurant Coalition Food and Beverage in Alpharetta.
In the kitchen, about a half-dozen folks were spread out at various stations, all gloved and masked. Coalition Executive Chef Dean Hill was filling orders for family-style Taco Tuesday. In one corner sat a full-size chafing dish filled with chili mac — a family meal for the staff.
The restaurant group specializes in comfort food right now. A takeout menu, posted on the websites and Facebook pages of all its restaurants (Osteria Mattone, Table and Main, Coalition Food and Beverage), includes what Pernice called the “greatest hits” from each spot, including Osteria’s short rib agnolotti (tweaked now as ravioli) and pizzas, and Table and Main’s fried chicken.
Pernice considers that fried chicken RO Hospitality’s “saving grace” as the company struggles, with revenue down 70% and the staff pared from 120 to 30. The 12-piece fried chicken bucket (with three sides and dessert) has made up 40% of sales since the group transitioned to takeout-only.
But, there’s a trick to accomplishing this: Osteria Mattone doesn’t have fryer space, so the chicken is fried down the street at Table and Main, and then run over to Osteria using a donated golf cart (in compliance with health codes).
Now that his group has streamlined its systems, Pernice expects to reopen Coalition in a couple weeks for takeout service. Meanwhile, he’s also feeding people who can’t afford to order any food at all. Tuesdays through Saturdays, from noon to 4 p.m., Table and Main gives away free hot meals to anyone. Launched March 24, the initiative, called Table and Aid, had given away 2,743 meals by April 14. “A lot of people work from paycheck to paycheck,” Pernice said. “It started with food-service workers, but we’ve gotten a lot of kids. And people bring (the meals) to the homebound.”
When I got back to my car, I said goodbye to Zac Reed, on curbside pickup duty. Normally a server at Coalition, Reed also works one day a week for the Table and Aid effort. “My four days here are great,” he said, “but the day that is most rewarding is the day I am at Table and Main. It’s good for the soul.”
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Menu: weekly changing menu featuring "greatest hits" from Osteria Mattone, Table and Main, and Coalition Food and Beverage. The comfort food-centric menu includes starters, pastas, pizzas and family-style meals for six that typically include an entree, sides and a dessert of brownies or cookies.
Alcohol: canned beer (single cans or six-pack) and wine ($30 per bottle) listed simply by varietal (cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, etc.). Call for details on reserve wine list offerings.
What I ordered: homestyle beef pot roast family meal (pot roast, braised carrots, caramelized onion, mashed potatoes, horseradish cream, spring salad, dessert of three brownies and three chocolate chip cookies); short rib ravioli; grilled salmon on warm orzo salad; bottle of pinot noir (2018 Angeline Vineyards reserve). The pot roast was comfort food at its finest, with tender meat, and not overly cooked carrots, horseradish cream and enough jus to spoon over everything. Leftovers made a fantastic sandwich. The ravioli doesn't travel as well as the pot roast; when reheated, it got high marks. The salmon was fresh and flaky; resting on an orzo salad with feta, squash and sun-dried tomato, the dish was filling beyond the average salad. If I was on a diet, I'd be proud of this pick.
Service options: delivery via DoorDash, or order curbside pickup via phone
Safety protocols: kitchen and staff adhering to COVID-19 health and safety precautions; no-contact curbside pickup; all payments taken prior to pickup
Address, phone: 1095 Canton St., Roswell, 678-878-3378
Hours: orders taken noon-8 p.m.; pickup 5-8 p.m. daily
Read the AJC Fall Dining Guide: The Noodle Edition
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