“You know the neighborhood was so great to us,” Harrell said. “I mean they kept us alive. They really took care of us during the pandemic. We’ve been there 10 years, and we’ve really made friends with most of our guests. They were all here the other night for our friends and family.”
Asked to compare and contrast the Cibo menu and the larger Toscano menu, Harrell said Cibo favorites such as the signature chopped salad and the meatballs with San Marzano tomato sauce and ricotta cheese traveled to Midtown with her, but there are several new things, too.
“We think that the menu here is very similar, with the addition of some things that are maybe a little more mainstream, and that we think people would expect or would ask for,” she said. “We have things on the menu here like fettuccine Alfredo and lasagna. Cibo is smaller. The kitchen is smaller and the dining room is smaller, so the menu is smaller, as well.”
Another difference at Toscano is that it will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, with weekend brunch coming soon.
“There’s no foot traffic at Cibo for lunch, so lunch is a big difference here,” Harrell said. “But a lot of the menu is the same; there’s just more on the menu here. The meatballs are something we’re really known for, so we had to have those. But it’s funny, they’re called Toscano meatballs here, and Cibo meatballs there, but they’re the same meatballs.”
Harrell’s younger brother, John Hults, moved from New York to Atlanta in March to work at Cibo and become the executive chef at Toscano. “Trust me, we have some arguments, but he knows how to do everything in the way that it needs to be done,” Harrell said, laughing. “It mirrors Cibo. It really does, and luckily we still love each other.”
Another Cibo alum, Toscano general manager Irvin Torres, is in charge of the beverage program, which includes an expanding selection of Italian wines, six draft beers, and several cocktails that have been bestsellers on the Cibo menu. Hunny Pot, with Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka, St. Germain, mint, fresh blood orange juice, and a Torresella Prosecco floater, is currently the most popular, Torres said.
Summing up a sprawling menu that ranges from salads, soups, sandwiches and pizza, to antipasti, pasta, entrees and dessert, Harrell stresses simplicity and value.
“When you’re coming up as a chef, it’s ‘this looks cool and that looks cool,’ and you want to experiment,” she said. “I had my time when I liked playing with things. Honestly, when it comes down to it, the best food is just simply putting good flavors together.
“Molecular gastronomy was fun. But the tomato sauce that grandma made is always going to be the best. And that’s what I like about our food. We’re not trying to be froufrou about it. We’re just trying to put out good food that everyone will enjoy. And I don’t ever want people to leave feeling hungry. I want people to feel like they got value when they come to our restaurants.”
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays-Saturdays for lunch and dinner. Brunch coming soon.
232 19th St. NW, Suite 7165, Atlanta. 404-500-5394, toscanoatlanta.com.
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