JEZE — August 2011
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The Italian Job

Chef Linda Harrell settles into sleek new digs, where she’s prepping Atlanta for Cibo e Beve—and seconds of her signature Old-World fare.

Facebook is great for snooping-i.e., following old flames, ex-colleagues and the high school prom queen. But for the Facebook friends of chef Linda Harrell, they regularly check in to inquire about her rigatoni gorgonzola dolce with pistachio cream. Copious wall posts suggest that local lovers of Italian cuisine long for the beloved dish that once graced the menu at Harrell's long-shuttered Brookhaven resto, Mangia.

Naturally, when whispers started about Harrell opening a casually hip Italian spot in Sandy Springs, her page "blew up" with said rigatoni lovers obsessing over the possible return of their favorite rich bowl of pasta. They shouldn't worry. Harrell-a true people, and palate, pleaser-wouldn't dare leave it off the line-up at her new trattoria, Cibo e Beve.

Rigatoni, as it turns out, only anchors the new menu at Cibo-one filled with authentic Catalan pasta and meat dishes that beg to be tasted. Hand-cut ribbon pappardelle with wild boar Bolognese and osso buco (where lamb shank is braised with orange and fennel) are so satisfying, you can pocket the cost of renewing your passport and spend it on a nearby trip to the South's answer to Tuscany.

Dishes here are bona fide Old Country. So much in fact that diners half expect to see a man (complete with mule cart) rumbling down Roswell Road dropping off fresh San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and spicy soppresata. Arugula salad accented with citrus extra virgin olive oil, plump shrimp and shaved reggiano exemplify the simple flavors of Cibo cuisine. It's small plates like this and the hamachi crudo salmoriglio that are best paired with heavier main-course fare like mezza lune ravioli-pillows stuffed with sheep's milk ricotta, spinach, sage butter and reggiano.

Thankfully, Cibo's spacious dining room isn't too literal (thinkKitschy cans of tomatoes on shelves, plastic cured meats hanging from wood posts and wall frescoes ala Maggiano's and Provino's). Here the interiors are sleek, with plenty of dark wood, steel and vintage touches in all the right places. Credit the collaboration between Harrell and the powerhouse architect team at ai3 (responsible for the aesthetics at 4th & Swift, Bocado, Flip and Holeman & Finch).

If there's a wait to get a table (which we fully anticipate), belly up to Justin Hada way's bar for a creative sip of Cibo's well-curated cocktail menu. A talented mixologist nabbed from The Iberian Pig in Decatur, Hadaway mixes an array of Boardwalk Empire-era toddies that will impress even the most finicky imbibers.

With food (cibo) and the beverages (beve) in check, one of Atlanta's most highly anticipated restaurant openings is primed to satisfy all cravings. 4969 Roswell Road, 404.250.8988, -Stephanie DaviS Smith