Regulars know best at this Northside Italian alternative


8560 Holcomb Bridge Road, Alpharetta. $$$-$$$$

[2 of 5 stars] A worthy addition to the neighborhood, and the food is consistent.

Chef Darin Hiebel, who took over di Paolo six years ago, runs a from-scratch kitchen that makes its own breads, pastas, sauces and gelato.

The core group of regulars has learned just what to order to get a meal worth repeating next week. They’ll go for dishes like wood-fired pizzas, select entrees like gorgonzola-spinach-stuffed chicken, and they have rooted out the pastas worth devouring. Those in the know have learned how to make di Paolo their weekly haunt.

I would also point out the caul fat-wrapped branzino that the regulars order for good reason. You’ll be thankful for that beautifully browned and crispy casing for the whole butterflied fish. It adds richness and protects the lemony moisture of the fennel-stuffed branzino.

At a well-established spot like di Paolo, where neighborhood followers keep the tables full, it’s helpful to take cues from those who know and love it best.