Unique experiences for al fresco dining in the metro area

Diners want more than just a patio where they can enjoy their meal outdoors these days. To accommodate, several metro area chefs are looking to enhance the al fresco dining experience.

Sometimes, it’s a matter of necessity, like at Bar Amalfi. As owner Giovanni di Palma explained: “When the contractors knocked the roof off, that screwed up the wall. I couldn’t put a roof on even if I wanted, so I said let’s turn lemons into limoncello.”

Bar Amalfi offers nothing but al fresco dining, though trees and VIP cabanas provide a modicum of privacy. Patrons seat themselves at bar tables or on white, cushioned wicker chairs and, immediately, a waiter brings a drink menu. There is no formal dinner menu; waiters simply recite the daily specials.

Something special happens on the patio, amid the oversize blue and white umbrellas, Italian music and an adjacent parking lot made with finely crushed white marble to mimic beaches in Italy: Patrons seem to actually enjoy one another’s company. Tables are fairly close together, but it somehow feels unobtrusive.

Bar Amalfi’s patrons also can order pizza at its sister restaurant, Antico, across the street. Whether you opt for pizza or menu items such as grilled giant prawns, steak, salsiccia with broccoli rabe and an in-the-works market-price Sunday lobster brunch, Bar Amalfi is a place where you can enjoy gathering as a group or simply sip a cocktail solo.

Bar Amalfi. 5:30 p.m. until closing Tuesdays-Sundays. 1077 Hemphill Ave. N.W., Atlanta. 404-873-3799 (for reservations only), littleitalia.com.

Over in Decatur, people just want to hang out on the patio and enjoy Korean food. At least that’s the belief of George Yu, executive chef of Makan.

“Outside is more relaxing. There’s no pressure, so you can take your time eating, enjoy your drink and just chat,” Yu said.

Located in the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in downtown Decatur, Makan offers al fresco dining daily, ,with a special Korean-style barbecue on the patio Wednesday nights, weather permitting. From roasted vegetables to Korean kibbe, or short ribs, everything is grilled outside. There’s also a selection of kimchi, stews and fried rice, plus half-price drinks such as soju and makgeolli.

Yu has merged modern and classic Asian fare, creating favorites such pork belly buns and wontons. “The wontons are actually a rip of my mom’s recipe and one of the first things I learned to cook when I was 8 years old,” he said.

To celebrate Makan’s first anniversary, an outdoor Hawaiian summer luau party featuring a massive pig roast, chicken long rice, salmon lomi lomi and more will be served starting at 3 p.m. July 26. Tiki snow cones, Makan’s signature icy cocktail, plus specials from Wild Heaven Craft Beers and Three Taverns Brewery will be available. There’ll also be live music and a few surprises. Tickets range from $8 to $45, plus fees, and may be purchased at freshtix.com/events/makanturns1.

Makan. 5-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 5-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 5-9 p.m. Sundays. 130 Clairmont Ave., Decatur. 404-996-6504, www.makanatl.com.

More restaurants serving outdoors:

Double Zero Napoletana: In addition to al fresco dining, this restaurant has become a destination for games and gatherings with friends thanks to two full-sized bocce ball courts and corn hole on the patio. The menu features southern Italian cuisine, such as handmade pasta, cured meats and cheeses plus an assortment of made-to-order pizzas.

11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 5-9 p.m. Sundays-Mondays, 5-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 5-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays. 5825 Roswell Road, Atlanta. 404-991-3666, doublezeroatl.com.

Sugo: This restaurant offers Italian-Greek dishes served on the patio. During warm weather, Sugo is known for its special events, such as movie nights.

5-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 5-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays. 10305 Medlock Bridge Road, Johns Creek. 770-817-8000, sugorestaurant.com.

Chama Gaucha: There’s a special menu for the bar and patio only, which features a slew of grilled items, including shrimp, lamb chops, Argentine sausage and baby back pork ribs, plus several salads and sides. Patrons can opt to sit at tables, on couches or, for those who like it hot, near the churrasco — the fire pits.

11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 5-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 5-11 p.m. Fridays, 4-11 p.m. Saturdays, 1-9 p.m. Sundays. 3365 Piedmont Road N.E., Atlanta. 404-842-0011, chamagaucha.com.

Foundation Social Eatery: While the menu is the same both indoors and on the patio, this Roswell restaurant’s rooftop offers charming touches such as string lights, candles and potted plants. Seasonal dishes like grilled local shrimp with guajillo chili butter and roasted beet salad with herbed goat cheese are perfect for al fresco dining.

11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 5-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 5-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 12-9 p.m. Sundays. 1570 Holcomb Bridge Road, Roswell. 770-641-8877, foundationatl.com.

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