Opening a fine dining restaurant during the worst of economic times doesn’t sound like a smart business move, but somehow Pacci has survived and thrived. Perhaps it’s chef Keira Moritz who has gained notoriety and respect among her mostly male peers. Maybe its location in one of several new, trendy midtown hotels brings it the automatic business that hotel restaurants rely on, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner to guests.
Or, it could be that it simply kicks ass. It is fairly common knowledge that I rarely eat Italian food. But I acquiesed on this assignment for AFD because I liked that a successful female chef was running the show.
ST and I valeted the HotDishmobile last Friday and walked in to Pacci. There was Geno! How fabulous, I hadn’t seen him since his days at Spice Market. We sat newlywed style on a banquette with a view of the expansive and dark dining room, lit by sets of enormous globes that hung from the high ceiling, shaded by long black fringe. The burgundy velvet and wood tones of the decor are puncuated by light blue and cream jacquard armchairs, one per table. Elegant.
Geno started us out with a couple of specialty bellinis, one with vanilla liqueur and the other with passion fruit. Then he brought out an amuse bouche of butter lettuce with seafood salad, light and fun.
After some discussion, Geno recommended a wine flight for me….a trio of 2007 pinot noirs from Sequana Vineyard, each with a distinct character. I ended up ordering another glass or two of the spicy Dutton Ranch.
The kobe beef carpacio was our first course, dressed with capers, tapenade, and baby arugula. Their bread service was an assortment of crispy wafers, focaccia, and cracker-like bread sticks. Problem with that is, I love authentic Italian bread and would prefer to have that at an Italian restaurant, with sweet butter please.
For our second course ST chose the lobster and butternut squash bisque with creme fraiche. Smooth and creamy, I don’t recall any chunks of lobster but the flavor was rich, reminiscent of she crab soup.
Naturally, I ordered the duck confit. A perfect example of this cooking method, the meat was succulent, falling of the bones, while the skin was super crispy. Served over soft polenta with bits of gorgonzola and blackberry marmalade, it sounds like a foolproof combination. But somehow, the four main components were not integrated. I found the gorgonzola unnecessary and while I do love a sweet accompaniment to duck, perhaps the dish would have been even better with mascerated blackberries. Nevertheless, it was damn awesome.
Eating our way down the menu, next came pastas. ST tried the shrimp fettucini with creamy pancetta sauce, Spring peas, and a soft fried egg on top, a.k.a carbonara. Rich, rich, and delicious. I ordered the sweet potato ravioli (how predictable!). Four raviolis came topped with gorgonzola and speck with brown butter. Rich, rich, and delicious.
More? Yes. The pork chop with fennel, roasted yam, and pomegranate-basil pesto had my name written all over it. One of the best chops I have had in recent memory, very tender. Pesto provided a little Italian flavor, but it was the roasted yams, sliced into thin disks with crispy caramelized edges that were amazing!
ST got the dry aged New York strip, medium, with a side of cannellini beans. Big steak. Good steak. Guess what we had for breakfast….steak and eggs.
Desserts include the quintessential Italian tiramisu and panna cotta, but we opted for the straightforward sweets, chocolate strata and rum bread pudding. I cannot say no to bread pudding! Pastry chef Elizabeth Matheson’s version is baked in its own small casserole dish topped with caramel and a little dollop of vanilla gelato. Personally, I would drizzle the caramel on the hot pudding so it would remain gooey rather than on the cold ice cream, but no matter, it was fabulous. ST’s chocolate strata was a huge slice of chocolate cake layered with chocolate mousse, served with vanilla gelato. Pretty presentation, pretty chocolately.
We were stuffed! Despite a couple of minor complaints, Pacci made a great impression on both of us.
866 West Peachtree Street NW 678-412-2402