A restaurant idea that chef Pat Pascarella came up with more than five years ago has debuted in Midtown.
Alici opened last month in the Midtown Promenade at 931 Monroe Drive. The restaurant took over the space left vacant when FROGS Cantina closed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pascarella said he’s been wanting to open a seafood and pasta restaurant with Amalfi Coast influences since visiting the region in 2015 with his wife.
“I grew up fishing my entire life,” he said, recounting his childhood in Connecticut. “My biggest two passions in life other than my family are seafood and Italian food, so I wanted a way to combine them together.”
After stints at restaurants in New York and Connecticut, Pascarella moved to Atlanta, where he worked at the Ford Fry seafood eatery The Optimist. In 2018, he started work on his own restaurant group, opening White Bull in Decatur, followed by Grana in Piedmont Heights and Bastone in West Midtown.
With Alici, Pascarella was finally able to debut the menu he’s been dreaming of for years.
“I’ve always been thinking about the simplicity of their food,” he said. “Things like octopus, lemon and olive oil. You don’t need anything else. And that’s our approach — just really simple Italian food, but done in a really good way. We’re not trying to overcomplicate it.”
To that end, Alici’s whole fish section simply offers a choice of fish (right now, options include branzino, mahi-mahi and halibut) and housemade sauce (choices include salsa verde and romesco).
“Some fanciness” comes through in the pasta section, with dishes like risotto al pomodoro with shrimp tartare folded in tableside.
Pascarella is especially excited to showcase socca, a gluten-free chickpea pancake topped with various ingredients including octopus and mushrooms, as well as offering oysters from both coasts.
Dessert options include blood orange upside-down cake and almond ricotta torta.
Lunch service will begin at the end of February, with a separate menu.
Anthony Panzica, the beverage director of Pascarella’s Porchetta Restaurant Group, came up with a coastally-inspired cocktail list, with a variety of coastal wines and local beers on offer. Pascarella worked with Orpheus Brewing, which created the Piccola pilsner for Grana, to create the Perla oyster stout for Alici’s menu.
Ingredients are sourced locally as much as possible from growers including Snapfinger Farms and Tucker Farms, and plan to work with Shiny Dimes Oyster Farm, owned by the team behind Decatur restaurant Kimball house.
“People’s misconception about Italian food is that the ingredients have to be Italian,” Pascarella said. “But the thing about Italian food is that they just do local food really well. So the idea is using what you have here, and making it Italian, keeping it really simple and rustic.”
The space, designed by local firm Z-Space Design, features a woodfire oven visible from the front door, open oyster bar, large front windows, a front patio with seating for 40 and a side patio with seating for another 30 guests.
Up next for Pascarella: A second location of Grana set to open in April in Dunwoody, along with plans to extrude more gluten-free pastas for all of his restaurants.
931 Monroe Drive NE, Atlanta. 404-876-1000, alicioysterbar.com.
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