Patio Pick: Politan Row is stage for emerging faces in local food scene

Mario Ali is the chef-owner of Belli Pizzeria, one of 11 dining concepts at Politan Row food hall in Midtown. Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
Mario Ali is the chef-owner of Belli Pizzeria, one of 11 dining concepts at Politan Row food hall in Midtown. Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Neapolitan pizza, Caribbean cuisine among options at new food court in Midtown

Last week, I shared my excitement for the creativity that up-and-coming culinarians are exhibiting at Chattahoochee Food Works, the new food hall in Atlanta’s burgeoning upper Westside.

Similar entrepreneurial energy is on display at yet another intown food hall: Politan Row. This cavernous 20,000-square-foot space at a revamped Colony Square in Midtown is now home to 11 dining concepts anchored by a 40-seat bar in the center.

Open since late June, Politan Row is operated by the Politan Group, a New Orleans-based company that has gained aplomb for other spirited food halls (St. Roch Market in NOLA is worth the visit). The Atlanta project marks the seventh food hall for the group, and their largest to date.

Here, you’ll find a balanced mix of cuisines, all chef-driven, affordably priced and speedy with delivery. Concepts hail from seasoned names in the local dining scene, including Shaun Doty (Bantam + Biddy) with his Federal Burger, Archna Becker (Bhojanic) with Tandoori Pizza & Wing Co., Jack Bai of hibachi bowl concept Gekko, and Michaela Merrick with Creole-Mexican street taco concept Pretty Little Tacos.

There are also chef-owners like Mario Ali and Taylur Davis who hold plenty of kitchen experience but not the name recognition — yet.

ExploreIntown Atlanta dining news

Combined ShapeCaption
210623 Atlanta, Ga: Overall view of the soon-to-open Politan Row food hall. The food hall features a central full bar with surrounding unique food offerings and non-traditional 'food court' soft seating. Media tour of the new Politan Row (food hall) at Colony Square, 1197 Peachtree Road, Atlanta Ga. Photos taken Wednesday June 23, 2021. (Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Chris Hunt

210623 Atlanta, Ga: Overall view of the soon-to-open Politan Row food hall. The food hall features a central full bar with surrounding unique food offerings and non-traditional 'food court' soft seating. Media tour of the new Politan Row (food hall) at Colony Square, 1197 Peachtree Road, Atlanta Ga. Photos taken Wednesday June 23, 2021. (Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Combined ShapeCaption
210623 Atlanta, Ga: Overall view of the soon-to-open Politan Row food hall. The food hall features a central full bar with surrounding unique food offerings and non-traditional 'food court' soft seating. Media tour of the new Politan Row (food hall) at Colony Square, 1197 Peachtree Road, Atlanta Ga. Photos taken Wednesday June 23, 2021. (Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Ali was born in New York, spent his wonder years in Detroit, and subsequently moved to Atlanta a decade ago to get away from “the wrong crowd.” With a father and uncles as restaurant owners, feeding people is in his blood. His kitchen resume of late includes many a pizzeria, experience he applies at his food stall, Belli Pizzeria, where he tosses 72-hour fermented dough and transforms it into 12-inch Neapolitan-style pies.

Davis is an Atlanta native who, after having worked in Los Angeles as a private chef for the Hollywood crowd, came back to launch a Caribbean concept, Locale Cafe, at Politan Row.

Theirs were the stalls that I was especially intrigued to patronize.

My favorite part about Ali’s pizzas is the chewy thin crust with its swollen, blistered rim. His Margherita needs work (with few components, each one matters that much more), but he’s got something going with that Bacon Gouda pie, which, in addition to the meat and cheese, includes a drizzle of honey and a scattering of fresh chives. It was a flavor bomb.

ExploreAtlanta Patio Pick: Best End Brewing is where the Beltline meets Bosnia
Combined ShapeCaption
The Bacon Gouda pizza from Belli Pizzeria is a flavor bomb. (Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com)

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

The Bacon Gouda pizza from Belli Pizzeria is a flavor bomb. (Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com)

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Combined ShapeCaption
The Bacon Gouda pizza from Belli Pizzeria is a flavor bomb. (Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com)

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Ali later explained that the impetus for that topping combination was his favorite snack: cheesy caramel popcorn.

“I was trying to implement that in a pizza in the fanciest way possible,” he said. “I think I nailed it.”

He did. There were no leftovers.

Among the dining partners I brought to Politan Row was AJC politics reporter and picky eater extraordinaire Greg Bluestein. I have never seen him so smitten by food than when he gnawed on wings from Locale Cafe.

Davis was quick to credit her sous chef and best friend, Jamaican native Keith Alexander, with the recipe and execution of those juicy jerk wings that leave a wonderfully well-rounded, warm spice in your mouth.

Combined ShapeCaption
Taylur Davis is the founder of Locale Cafe at Politan Row at Colony Square. / Courtesy of the Wilbert Group

Taylur Davis is the founder of Locale Cafe at Politan Row at Colony Square. / Courtesy of the Wilbert Group

Combined ShapeCaption
Taylur Davis is the founder of Locale Cafe at Politan Row at Colony Square. / Courtesy of the Wilbert Group

But Davis deserves her own kudos. She knows the results she’s looking for.

On wings: “We went from lollipop to drumsticks to whole. It kind of separates us from other vendors.”

On unctuous braised oxtail: “It’s not one that one couldn’t do at home, but it’s the love, keeping authenticity, and paying attention.”

On loaded street corn showered with shredded coconut: “It gives it that balance of sweet and salty.”

ExplorePatio Pick: Seed’s new chef wants to nurture loyal east Cobb community
Combined ShapeCaption
Street corn from Caribbean concept Locale Cafe is showered with shaved coconut. (Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Street corn from Caribbean concept Locale Cafe is showered with shaved coconut. (Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Combined ShapeCaption
Street corn from Caribbean concept Locale Cafe is showered with shaved coconut. (Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Like Davis, Ali hopes to add to the diverse offerings at Politan Row, and “take note on what people ask for and adjust the menu based on that.” A seasonal pizza will debut soon (look for a pie topped with butternut squash, kale, dried cranberries and ricotta), along with daily specials in the form of sandwiches, soups and salads, each filled, tossed or stirred with Italian flavors.

Besides serving as a stage for emerging faces like Ali and Davis, Politan Row brings a dynamic dining setting to Midtown. Should you wish to eat inside, you’ll find food court-style tables and chairs, plus a smattering of soft seating arrangements canopied under a two-story ceiling and expansive glass wall that lend an airy feel to the industrial design and subdued lighting.

For me, though, the attraction is outside: be it sitting under a covered breezeway or on a colorful plaza, both of which offer comfortable, spacious dining for groups of all sizes — and eaters as picky as Greg Bluestein.

POLITAN ROW

Menu: 11 dining concepts that feature global options

Alcohol: Full bar

What I ordered: From Caribbean concept Locale Cafe: jerk wings, loaded grilled corn, grilled jerk chicken plate, braised oxtail bowl, spicy beef mini patties; From Belli Pizzeria: Margherita pizza, Bacon Gouda pizza, arugula and pear salad

Service options: Dine-in and takeout; order online at politanrow.com; no delivery

Mask policy: Required for staff, strongly encouraged for customers

Address, phone: 1197 Peachtree St., Atlanta, 404-228-7941

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily

Website: atlanta.politanrow.com

Read more stories like this by liking Atlanta Restaurant Scene on Facebook, following @ATLDiningNews on Twitter and @ajcdining on Instagram.