Hot on the heels of Double Zero, Cibo e Beve has landed in Sandy Springs. Yet another take on Italian food, Cibo and D0 give Sandy Springs not one, but two Italian restaurants attempting to appeal to the more food conscious and palate sensitive diner.
The restaurant is headed by executive chef Linda Harrell and comes branded by the Benton’s bacon of design studios, one Ai3. For Harrell’s part, things seem a little rough around the edges at the start. But with promises of grandeur and a few other factors going for it, Cibo seems worthy of at least a mention. As most of what’s out there on this place is regurgitated “wannabe media” dinner PR information attached to pictures of food, we may as well talk about what’s what.
In the “good to know” but ultimately irrelevant background department, Cibo is a 101 Concepts production. Linda Harrell, who you might have heard of from her time at Antica Posta, also serves as part of the ownership group in addition to her duties as Queen of the Kitchen.
Cibo e Beve (Italian for ‘eat and drink’) is stationed in fancy looking Belle Isle Square, a Roswell Road strip center in Atlanta’s downtown-less northern neighbor. Like so many of Atlanta’s newest restaurants, things at CeB taste and look a lot better if you simply just glance.
It’s All In The Name
The problems start with the name. Many a folk I know have butchered it up,down, and several times over. Like Ron Burgundy’s need to address San Diego’s residents accordingly, we should all strive for proper pronunciation knowledge. Conceptually the name works, but if you don’t know how to pronounce cibo and beve – don’t feel bad. It’s Cibo’s fault and not yours.
The décor extends upon this “slightly less than ideal” precedent. With an exposed kitchen, a white marble antipasti bar, a chef’s table, and some subtle colors, Cibo settles in nicely, albeit with a series of extremely overused concepts. Attention to detail in the décor seems to have been most problematic with the ultra-comfy leather two-seaters that line the walls of Cibo’s cozy space. In fact, cozy is exactly the problem with those chairs. I might as well have been sitting in my father’s lap, and trust me – neither of us have been built for that since I was like five.
But the minor shortcomings in the design and the problems inherent to the name ultimately fall by the wayside. None of those points are likely to infuriate a patron and most would get overlooked in the name of "favor.” Bottom line, there is plenty of warmth in the 70-some-odd seat eatery.
The listed food offerings have been sequestered into a series of small groups. Thus, a fairly deep menu doesn’t overwhelm. Though I hear it is likely to evolve and change as time passes on, sections of small bites, salads, pizzas, pastas, and entrées fit together like a nice puzzle. Everything snaps together but you can still see the lines between the pieces.
But there are frustrations. I find some of the supplemental salesmanship in poor taste, especially in these early days. After checking with the PR folks from Cibo, I was told the following:
We do not make any of the pasta, salumi or cheese in house at the moment, nor the bread. But everything else is made in house [sic]. We will be doing those things in house [sic] at a later date.
They pretty much just wiped the table of “things made in-house,” so I’m not really sure how to read that, but the point remains that the website and press material should reflect that reality until it actually changes. So while I’ll give them credit for their intentions, Cibo gets a ding in my book for misinformation.
Still, there is a good bit to appreciate in the menu. Deconstructed and artisanal pizzas, slightly modified classics and offerings from land and sea that are just playful enough all keep your attention.
The Food and Service
With our reservation on the books and nary a person in the restaurant, we were seated without a problem. Service hick-ups were just exactly that and I saw nothing in Danelle’s behavior, nor anything in the system, to lead me to believe that service will be a major issue. That’s all hyperbole at this juncture. What I can tell you is that the service was competent and did not suffer from a lack of earnest interest. Sure, I love truly awesome and incredibly amazing service and can’t tell you how much better it can make an experience; but, I’ll never complain when service becomes a small footprint in my dining experience.
To start, our table of four took in an order of hamachi crudo ($10) and the deconstructed pizza ($13). Both arrived quickly, but the crudo was predictably first to the table. The yellow tail was well plated and heavily treated with a salmoriglio sauce. The sauce is a Southern Italian oil and lemon juice dressing, but Harrell has tweaked it with the likes of tomatoes and capers. So in that point, I must disagree with Cliff’s opinion that it was “classically made” [WAIVE TO CLIFF EVERYONE]. Bostock seemed to like it a great deal. I am slightly more reserved due to an oversight. Overall, it was a nicely executed riff on a salmoriglio sauce but the dish was ultimately hampered by the quality of the yellowtail, which was a little tougher to the chew than it should be. Look to Hayakawa, Tomo, or the handful of other better than average sushi bars in town for guidance.
The apps continued with the improperly “quotated” deconstructed pizza. The housemade tomato jam reminded me more of a gourmet line of Newman’s Own tomato sauce than something lovingly assembled by a skilled craftsman. Moreover, it wasn’t a jam at all, it was just sauce. Worse though, was this idea that we were eating something deconstructed. The listing, while technically accurate, failed to grasp the true essence of food deconstruction. Individually plated bread, sauce and Burrata cheese do not constitute a deconstructed “pizza.”
With four people at the table and me ready to pull double duty dinner, I managed to sample one of Cibo’s pizzas and two entrées. It’s worth noting that Cibo employs pizzaiolos Team Stefano. One named Leardini, whose facebook page hints that this is his mug shot, and one named Rea, who is much more off the webosphere map, produce pies out of the wood-burning ovens.
For the pizza, my awesomely awesome cousin to my father (is that like what … 10th cousin or something to me) ordered the rustica ($14) with ricotta, Amish chicken, spinach, goat cheese, sun dried tomato. Like so many of the new pizza shops in town, this pie has some potential and is reasonably priced. But dried out toppings prevents me from really getting deep and dirty with it. Still … there was some nice char.
With a $29 price tag, the night hinged most heavily on the Veal Milanese. Milk-fed and topped with arugula, heirloom tomatoes, Parmigiano-Reggiano, olive oil, and a syrupy concoction similar to Balsamic called saba. Snagging a bit from the D-man was no hard task as my 10th cousin’s husband is a friendly chap. I got an ample cut of veal, but circumstances as they were, prevented me from getting a full sampling of the dish. For what it’s worth – the veal was nicely cooked and properly breaded. But a visceral reaction was nowhere to be found. I hope for that when taking a bite of a $30 piece of meat.
My time at Cibo e Beve concluded with a few bites of Papa B’s spaghetti. Though I should tell you he enjoyed it, I found it to be a substantial flop despite its very reasonable price tag. Included with the spaghetti was a tiny bit of lobster and a few greens and reds. First the good: the sauce was used with care. Few Italian restaurants keep with that tradition, so that’s worth noting. Now the bad: everything else. In the place of homemade pasta, Cibo is/was using a fairly flat flavored noodle. The lobster used in the dish wasn’t prime stuff (just some claw meat) and thus not terribly impressive. The sum of the parts was simply just there, devoid of any life and energy of a thought provoking execution. Perhaps the failure was in the execution itself, as the dish was cooked beyond what many traditionalists would say is sufficient.
In The End
Open just a few months, Cibo e Beve’s press page is littered with various clippings, most of which have absolutely nothing to do with the restaurant’s food or service. It’s a bit indicative of our first experience there: not nearly as much substance as one would like to see. As you head out the door, you may be in search of a Cibo staple. To date, we more discernable diners have yet to identify a true restaurant defining dish. I’m in no position to offer any enlightenment there.
And while I raced out the door just like I did after my first meal at Double Z, the fleeing at Cibo was on account of a scheduled second dinner date(s). After Double Z, I was off seeking out the edible version of a a revenge fuck. So with around $80 in food costs for what was really more like 3 people than four, I can’t say it was a true steal. But much of the cost was tied up in the veal, so maybe I can. Ultimately, the price was not a problem. I think Cibo has done that very very right.
We also were privy to a few mocktails from barman Justin Hadaway, but I’ll have to go back to see how he slings booze. Thankfully, CeB plans to be a late night destination.
Knowing that so much of the product is brought in assembled, while also knowing that this is scheduled to change, leaves me definitively in the “let’s wait and see category.” But as it stands, this place looks to me like it will be nothing more and nothing less than a “good place for the neighborhood.”
Atlanta Foodies on Cibo e Beve
- Creative Loafing on Cibo (08.12.11)