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Amuse-Bouche:

February 15, 2012

First Bite:  Cucina Asellina

STK’s rustic, Italian cousin next-door opens Monday Feb. 20

By Nancy Staab

  • Photos courtesy of Caren West PR

Italian pizze, pasta, flat breads and cocktails with a decidedly Sardinian slant move into Midtown

Wild mushroom stacchino with cheese and spring onions Wild mushroom stacchino with cheese and spring onions

The ONE Group barely had time to rest on the laurels of its recent STK opening, before opening Cucina Asellina right next door at 12th and Midtown. Originally, they had slated the space for a carryout STK Out, but thinking better of cannibalizing their instantly successful STK with a cheaper version next door, or perhaps sensing the burger trend was played out, they wisely decided to go with a fail-proof Italian concept instead. But this is no ordinary Italian joint. Whereas, most Italian restos reference Northern Italian fare or the current rage for Napoletano pizzas, Cucina Asellina takes the wild, rustic, Mediterranean beauty and natural produce of the island of Sardinia as the starting inspiration. Executive Chef Marco Porceddu, who happens to be a native Sardinian, created the original concept for Ristorante Asellina at Gansevoort Park Hotel in NYC. (Prior to that he cut his teeth at Francesco’s a Wynn Hotel restaurant in Las Vegas inspired by Frank Sinatra and his own Bella Luna restaurant in Vegas.). Cucina Asellina represents a more casual, simplified version of Ristorante Asellina with organic, seasonal, rustic Italian fare at the forefront. Think: wood fired pizze and flatbreads, homemade meatballs, crispy calamari, housemade pastas, and meat and cheese boards.

Amori D'Asellina Cocktail Amori D'Asellina Cocktail

No word yet on the local Atlanta chef but we do know that noted NYC firm iCrave Design Studio is responsible for the décor, just as they decked out sister restaurant STK. This time, the setting is slightly more causal, but still sleek, with rustic-meets-industrial accents—warm woods like white oak blended with hard metals, a polished concrete floor, terra-cotta walls and Edison copper filament lightbulbs.  The lunch menu is pretty simplistic  (Ceasar salads; artichoke, pepper, olive goat cheese pizzas; paninis and pastas like homemade spaghetti), which means that each ingredient in the dish will need to be exceptionally fresh and a standout. No doubt the restaurant will attract an easy crowd of Midtown worker bees and a 20-person outdoor patio will beckon in warmer months for lunch, dinner and late night. The dinner menu is more interesting with signature dishes such as stuffed cerignola olives with roasted veal truffle, eggplant and ricotta tortino (akin to a frittata), wild mushroom flatbread; saffron-infused strozzapreti (translation: strangled priests pasta) with shrimp and zucchini in a brandy sauce; and board specials like homemade lasagna, chicken Milanese, fish of the day, and pork belly with cannellini beans and carasau bread. There's no dessert menu posted yet but we can tell you that Ristorante Asellina serves a citrus panna cotta, a tiramisu, cannoli, and a martini dry cream horn with mixed berries and Italian pastry cream as “dolci.”  Or better yet, skip dessert and sip a sweet cocktail instead like the “Delicata” with Bombay Lillet Blanc, St. Germain and Italian Sangria or the “La Bianca” with Absolut Pear, lime, white cranberry juice, lemon and Moscato D’asti.  This Italian with a Sardnian slant has definitely piqued our interest—particularly with its dinner menu! Stay tuned for more updates once the place has opened, Monday, Feb. 20.

Cucina Asellina open daily at 12th and Midtown, 1075 Peachtree St, 404.793.0141, www.togrp.com.  Lunch ranges from $8-$15 and dinner $12-$30. Lunch is self-park, dinner offers complimentary valet. 

Saffron Strozzapreti with shrimp, zucchini, brandy sauce Saffron Strozzapreti with shrimp, zucchini, brandy sauce

The decor of Cucina Asellina by iCrave The decor of Cucina Asellina by iCrave