Taverna Fiorentina

3324 Cobb Parkway, S.E., Atlanta

Chef-owner Paolo Tondo of Taverna Fiorentina seems to have led a circuitous life’s route — from a technical degree growing up in Florence, to importing and distributing Italian specialty equipment for the restaurant industry in San Francisco, to co-owning, with Jasmin Reyes, his own restaurant on Cobb Parkway.

The two have etched out a cozy space from the doldrums of a strip mall, though the remnants remain: take away the hand-made tables and arched cutaway that reveals the kitchen; take away the cutting block of a bread table and the warm yellow walls and what’s left is a storefront space that could have been anything from a specialty pet shop to a hair salon.

Reyes serves as sommelier of a dainty list that, much like the restaurant, is easy to get to know. She’s also always present in the dining room, and exudes a presence and charm that builds a loyal clientele.

Tondo is joined — or replaced many nights — in the kitchen with the restaurant’s chef de cuisine, William Tracy; their menu is a hodgepodge of Italian specialties, from recognizable dishes of lasagna alla Bolognese to tiramisu. It, too, reads like an old friend — warm and reliable, with a few welcome surprises.

One surprise is pappardelle al cinghiale, a deeply layered ragu studded with tender chunks of wild boar (that here taste far more like pork shoulder) and served over ribbons of pasta. I tried this dish twice, and each time found the stew warmly satisfying while the pasta was wilted, lifeless and overcooked, under its heavy mantle. Tracy is young and energetic, but lacks the nuanced skill of a more seasoned chef.

These small details are where Taverna’s kitchen falters. It’s August in Georgia, and yet the kitchen has no fresh, local tomatoes for an insalata Caprese? No fresh basil?

Mussels are steamed with white beans, tomatoes and herbs, but the sauce lacks depth and pizzazz and when brought to the table, the dish was already too cold to enjoy. Sometimes the thick slices of focaccia scented with rosemary are soft and fresh; other times not so much.

And while it’s always interesting to find zingara (gypsy sauce) on any menu, this version lacks excitement. One of Italy’s rare, throw-together-in-five-minutes sauces, it’s said it should take no longer to make than the time it takes the pasta to boil. Widely interpreted, ingredients vary from kitchen to kitchen, from anchovies to garlic and peppers, but the sauce should have lots of pep.

Tondo and Tracy rely on green peppers for most of the flavor, tossed over penne with tomatoes and grated cheese. It’s tasty, but gave the impression of something anyone with a pot and two hands could make at home. Disappointing, too, is bucatini all’Amatriciana, offering just a shadow of this vibrant dish’s depth of flavor possibilities.

Calamari fritti is light and crisp, with lots of lemon for squeezing over rings and tendrils of tender squid, and there’s nothing to complain about with offerings of prosciutto and cheeses with olive oil and focaccia.

And in spite of the kitchen’s lack of attention to detail, the overall experience is one of warmth and comfort — the staff is poised and ready, and Reyes’ charm casts an enchanting spell.

By the time a spongy, coffee-soaked tiramisu makes it to the table, limp noodles and lackluster sauces may not be forgotten, but are more easily forgiven, especially with a sip of limoncello to close the meal.

Taverna Fiorentina

3324 Cobb Parkway, S.E., Atlanta, 770-272-9825, www.tavernafiorentina.com

Overall rating:

Food: Italian trattoria

Service: Extremely courteous and professional, always on hand and at the ready

Price range: $$

Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express

Hours of operation: Open for lunch Monday – Friday from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.; open for dinner nightly from 5:30 to 11:30 p.m.

Best dishes: "wild boar" ragu, antipasti, calamari fritti

Vegetarian selections: Salads, pastas

Parking: Adjacent lot

Children: Yes, during early evening hours and lunch

Reservations: Yes

Wheelchair access: Yes

Smoking: Patio only

Noise level: Low

Patio: Yes

Takeout: Yes

Pricing code: $$$$$ means more than $75; $$$$ means $75 and less; $$$ means $50 and less; $$ means $25 and less; $ means $15 and less. The price code represents a typical full-course meal for one excluding drinks.

Key to AJC ratings


Sets the standard for fine dining in the region.


One of the best in the Atlanta area.

Very good

Merits a drive if you're looking for this kind of dining.


A worthy addition to its neighborhood, but food may be hit and miss.


Food is more miss than hit.

Restaurants that do not meet these criteria may be rated Poor.

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