Toco Hills’ newest addition brings an Italian eatery to the neighborhood.
By Hope S. Philbrick
First, a coincidence: Just days ago I persuaded friends to lunch at The Big Ketch in Buckhead. After we were seated and satisfied with a few bites of our starter, they admitted that they’d driven by the place many times. They had never stopped, assuming it was a fried seafood dive they wouldn’t like. They were pleasantly surprised to be wrong; the lunch experience exceeded their expectations.
Last night, I visited the new Osteria Cibo Rustico in Toco Hills, which is owned and operated by the same folks as The Big Ketch. It will face many of the same first impression challenges: It’s in a cluster of strip malls that includes two grocery stores, two Jewish delis, a Supercuts, Ace Hardware and other family-friendly conveniences.
But the credentials of its chef exceed what you might expect to find in such a location.
Executive Chef Stefano Franciosi attended culinary school in the Piedmont region of Italy for five years. After graduating, he worked in both casual and fine dining at Miami-area restaurants Café Milano, Quattro Gastronomia Italiana and Cecconi’s Miami Beach before moving to Atlanta where he recently served as the executive sous chef at Pricci.
The friendly, soft-spoken chef says that he considers his Nonna (grandmother) Dina’s tortellini alla Bolognese one of the best meals of his life.
So of course I had to order his rigatoni Bolognese. It’s less meaty than other styles of Bolognese that I’ve tried and has some similarities to vodka sauce. It was not what I’d expected, but definitely a delicious dish I’d happily order again. Servings are generous: Leftovers provided a fantastic lunch.
Franciosi’s public relations team says that he “loves to put his own touch on traditional Italian cuisine dishes he grew up with, creating a fusion of nouvelle and classic Italian.” Foods are prepared using fresh ingredients, without butter and little salt.
The server recommended starting with some fresh mozzarella, which is available in four preparations including mixed with pleasantly hot Calabrian chili peppers, basil and extra virgin olive oil. He also recommended a side of sautéed mushrooms which are made with garlic, fresh herbs and sherry—and, yes, don’t miss them. Proteins like veal (chicken, meatballs or fish) can be topped with any one of five sauces including Scampi alla Romana (a light tomato-wine pan sauce) and arrive atop mashed potatoes or polenta.
Osteria Cibo Rustico is billed as “a casual gathering place where friends and family can enjoy home-style, rustic cuisine with an Italian flair and a thoughtful wine list at an affordable price.” Given its goal to become a neighborhood restaurant and the neighborhood it’s in, note that the Odds of Encountering Children are high. @21plusTravel Tip: Arrive after 7:30 p.m. if you hope to avoid crying babies.
Last night the manager stopped by our table to admit that the restaurant, which very recently opened, has a few kinks to work out—as is to be reasonably expected of all new restaurants.
Osteria Cibo Rustico isn’t the first Italian restaurant in its physical space: It was preceded by one that fell into the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it category. We look forward to seeing how this one fares.
Osteria Cibo Rustico
2945 N. Druid Hills Road
Atlanta, GA 30329
— Food Photos © HSP Media LLC; chef photo courtesy Melissa Libby PR for Osteria Cibo Rustico