Seems as though every media dinner is Italian lately. Invited by Vanessa with Bill Kaelin Marketing, LC joined me for a casual meal at Ribalta, which replaced another Italian spot called Piola in bustling Midtown.
Like its New York sibling, white walls and white-washed wood floors provide a fresh backdrop for distressed white cafe chairs and blond wood tables set with brown paper and a single candle. The chefs and owners grew up in Italy and are committed to delivering the best Neapolitan style pizza in Atlanta. We were excited to give it a whirl.
Before we began sampling dishes, our server brought out refreshing spritzers made with prosecco, aperol, and orange. The cocktail paired perfectly with our first dish, a citrus-y seafood salad of octopus, squid, and shrimp simply dressed with olive oil, herbs and lemon.
Two dishes with marinara followed; slow-cooked baby octopus and meatballs. The addition of kalamata olives and Sicilian capers in the San Marzano tomato sauce proved too salty for the octopus. Although the meatballs in a vibrant Neapolitan ragu sauce photographed beautifully, I skipped tasting them in favor of the Paccheri alla Genovese, large housemade pasta tubes with a ground veal and sweet onion ragu that left me craving a full plate. However, we hadn’t even begun to sample the pizzas…
Ribalta specializes in two kinds of pizza made with a natural yeast dough that originated 80 years ago in Italy. The traditional Neapolitan style is a thin crust pie with charred edges while the “Pala” boasts a thicker crust that is baked twice, resulting in a crisp outside with a tender, bread-like interior, much like a pan pizza.
Although many toppings are imported, like bufala mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes, the chefs at Ribalta believe pizza should be fun, incorporating unconventional ingredients such as hot dogs and fries on their Americana pizza.
LC and I enjoyed the crunch of the “Pala” pizza samples, one with sausage and another with cherry tomatoes, basil, and two kinds of mozzarella called Cilegino. We received a whole pizza Napoletana with traditional margherita toppings, although here it is called DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), a term usually reserved for vino. The crust was appropriately toothsome, but the tomato overwhelmed the cheese.
No matter how much we eat, LC always craves something sweet, so he ordered a frothy cappuccino and our server suggested we try the mascarpone with strawberries and tiramisu. Both desserts were cups of pudding, one mascarpone flavored with fresh strawberries, the other coffee flavored with lady fingers. They satisfied our sweet tooth but seemed to be an afterthought, especially considering the lovely layered tiramisu I tasted at another recent media dinner at Baraonda.
Ribalta’s pizza is impressive, but can it overshadow Antico, Varuni, and Ammazza as the city’s best? The jury’s still out, but they’ve ordered a Porcini e Pancetta Pizza in Pala for ongoing deliberations.
1080 Peachtree Street NE 404-249-7019