Lately I’ve found myself eating lots of Italian food, ironically not among my favorite cuisines. Meals at Davio’s and LPC, however, are slowly changing my Americanized-spaghetti-and-meatballs view of what Italian cooking is….or should be.
STG Trattoria is Brian Lewis’ newish spot, named with the initials of his three sons. Hidden away right in the middle of Buckhead, it’s miles from his other restaurant, Bocado on the Westside. Having only tried brunch there, an evening visit was in order.
The vaulted entryway lined with bottles of wine is just as impressive at night, the soft lighting adding romance to the modern industrial space. Our group of five arrived for our reservation, eager for libations and an appetizer or two. Heather seated us at the communal table by the open kitchen where I could watch chef Josh Hopkins, transplanted from Abattoir, ready each plate for service.
We were given a tablet containing the wine list with click-on descriptions of each….ingenious if you have hours to contemplate your choice, but we found navigating the computerized list between five of us to be frustrating. Their Italian-style Amaro apertifs have made a splash in Atlanta’s evolving cocktail scene, but the guys went with classic martinis while us chicks chose wines by the glass.
We started with the roasted shrimp and calamari served over soft polenta and dressed with squid ink vinaigrette. The dish wouldn’t win a beauty contest, but might win a blind taste test. A starter of roasted quail that I was intent on ordering unfortunately changed its accompaniment from figs to cannellini beans, quickly removing it from my “to eat” list.
An order of bruschetta was an unusual combination of Fall’s quintessential squash, the butternut, crispy prosciutto, fontina, and arugula on three large pieces of toast. Everyone loved it. Realizing that the portions were normal rather than super-sized, we chose a third starter, the roasted duck breast. Served in the mini cast-iron skillet in which it was roasted, the duck was finished with preserved chanterelles and celery leaf….a comforting, earthy dish.
We decided to share two pizzas, one topped with speck, smoked grana, cacio di roma, castelvetrano (now that’s a mouthful) olives, tomato sugo, and arugula, the other with roasted king trumpet, beech, and oyster mushrooms, pancetta, fontina, and rosemary. Both were on wafer thin crusts, nicely charred in the oven, and scantily clad with the aforementioned toppings. There is no “extra cheese” or “quadrupel meat” in Italy. My only concern was the toppings separated quite easily from the crust, leaving bare spots.
One in our group was Italian, so it was interesting to get his impressions of the meal’s authenticity. He ordered a pasta dish, the braised lamb ragu with ricotta and oregano over tagliatelle, for everyone to try. Personally, pasta with marinara has no appeal whatsoever, but he said the flavor was good, although he would have preferred bigger pieces of meat. Everyone agreed the texture of the pasta was perfectly al dente’.
Most of us were on round two of drinks when the pizzas were polished off. But we still had room for something sweet! Of the three desserts offered, we chose two: a panna cotta trio and a chocolate budino.
Having eaten a luscious budino at LPC the week before, I described it to my dining companions as a cross between cake and pudding, gooey and warm in the center. Chef Hopkins’ version is more dense, much like a traditional English pudding. It was served chilled and topped with strawberries.
The panne cotta were in three flavors, honey with preserved lemon, vanilla with blueberry compote, and cappuccino. Naturally I assumed my favorite would be the latter, but surprisingly I fell for the honey in spite of the lemon. In fact, it was the chewy, sugar-coated texture of the lemon peels that won me over.
Leave your expectations of garlic bread and mounds of fettucine alfredo at home. Lewis’ vision of an authentic trattoria is realized at STG. Simple and surprisingly light.
102 West Paces Ferry Road 404-844-2879