Ribalta, Atlanta GA

This is Marie, contributing an article about a visit to Ribalta, which invited me and some of our blogging friends, Atlanta Restaurant Blog and Iron Stef, to visit their new store in midtown. They just opened in Atlanta,expanding from their original New York location, with a process for pizza dough that they say results in a lighter, lower gluten crust. Chef Pasquale Cozzolino regenerates his dough every day from a yeast starter that has been used for the past 80 years. It’s a symptom of the times that when I heard the starter had been brought over from Italy, the first thought I had was “Yeah, right, they’d never let THAT through Customs!” But Customs wasn’t quite so strict in the past.

For those of you who don’t bake bread, the yeast makes a difference. Commercial yeast in little packets makes bread that pretty much all tastes the same. Which is a good thing for stuff like marketing, really. People buy bagged bread for convenience, and reliability is an essential trait for convenience. If you’ve had some bread that tasted just absolutely fantastic and like nothing you’ve had before, odds are the baker has some yeast starter that doesn’t come in those packets. And gluten-intolerant or celiacs please note that there are several gluten free options on the menu.

The pizza comes in two varieties. There is the Neapolitan (They call it Napolitana) pie, my personal favorite, which is soft on the inside of the crust, and just crisp enough to offer resistance to your teeth on the outside; most of my companions seemed to prefer the Pala, which is twice-baked and crisp with wide air bubbles in the crust and a crisp slightly burnt exterior. The crust under the toppings is nearly as thin as a piece of heavy construction paper, and nevertheless is stiff enough that you don’t actually have to fold the pizza slice in half to eat it – except possibly the point. So there, Jon Stewart. I am a Yankee and I eat pizza with a fork. At least the point.

Alexa Lampasona of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was at a media event the previous evening and took to Twitter that night to declare this the best pizza in the city. The opinion hasn’t taken hold anywhere yet, but it’s still early.

However, you’d be doing yourself a wrong if you just think of the place as a pizza joint and neglect the other options. That is one of the most wonderful thing about tasting menus; having just a few bites of a variety of dishes is really ideal. The seafood salad was one of my favorite items on the tasting menu; the light lemony oil was delicious. I wasn’t taken too much by the seafood in red sauce, though mainly because I prefer not to have so many olives. If you’re an olive fan, though, it’s something to check out. Another item that I really enjoyed, although I generally don’t eat veal, was the Paccheri Alla Genevese. The flavors are just so good together, and the pasta is delightful. There is a fresh pasta every day, and though that wasn’t one of them it was still really good.

We have had quite a few good pizzas in this town lately and this one is quite a respectable addition to their numbers. I will need to come visit with Grant some time again so he can tell me whether I am right about which kind I thought he would like better.

(As noted, this was a media event and our meal was complimentary. It’s our policy to always note when we’ve received our meal without charge. If you would like to invite us to your restaurant’s media events or your product launches, please drop Grant a line at gmslegion@gmail.com .)

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