Review: Pop-up Gigi’s Italian Kitchen marries checkered-tablecloth nostalgia with modern technique


Gigi's Italian Kitchen
Gato’s dining place, remodeled into a house the place Stanley Tucci could feel at household.

Photograph by Martha Williams

Atlanta has Italian dining places of all stripes, but what it has lacked—until now—is a location combining the cheesy romance of an aged-school Italian American purple-sauce joint with modern day culinary methods and refined presentations. The strategy for Gigi’s Italian Kitchen came to Eric Brooks in 2019 although he was browsing North Beach—San Francisco’s bustling Minimal Italy neighborhood, the place well known cooks like April Bloomfield had injected new energy into beloved classic spots like Tosca Cafe. Why, he asked himself, really do not we have some thing like that in Atlanta?

Brooks and his mate Jacob Armando had been chatting about launching a pop-up in 2019, just after San Francisco, they commenced laying out the vision for what would be Gigi’s, and commenced performing gigs all over city. Their latest circumstance is a three-night time-a-week residency at Gato, Nicholas Stinson’s Candler Park cafe that, over the many years, has served as an incubator for a extensive array of gifted chefs and promising principles. (See sidebar at the end of this article.) Gigi’s menu modifications substantially from 7 days to week the consistent is the completely outstanding food stuff.

THE Workforce

Both of those partners are younger Southern dudes with knowledge in fantastic dining—they fulfilled in the kitchen at Bacchanalia, exactly where Brooks was a sous chef. Armando, who recently turned 28, grew up in Stone Mountain and Decatur, the place his loved ones ran a humble meat-and-a few. Brooks, 30, was born in East Place. His father has a tiny natural and organic farm in Fairburn and has marketed vegetables to areas like Bacchanalia and Kimball Property. Helping his dad out gave Brooks his entry into the restaurant environment, and gave him a nickname: “Green Dude,” shortened to “GG” and eventually the inspiration driving “Gigi’s.”

Gigi's Italian Kitchen
Gigi’s grilled brassicas

Photograph by Martha Williams

THE Food stuff

“Don’t give folks too numerous options,” Armando advised me. “They’ll make the erroneous a single.” I certainly appreciate the partners’ tightly curated menu. The ultrathin eye-of-spherical carpaccio—painted with a lick of arugula salsa verde and showered with youthful arugula leaves, torn rice crackers, and massive flakes of Manchego—is magical in its tender depth. The exquisite fried polenta cake with creme fraiche and caviars (both equally trout roe and sturgeon eggs) blew me absent the initially time I stopped by. The chefs also have a way with brassicas, as evidenced by a mixture of cauliflower, broccolini, cabbage, and broccolo fiolaro (from Bartram Trail, a farm in Winterville specializing in seasonal organic veggies for cooks) that they cook more than coals on a yakitori grill, period with Calabrian chilis, and provide with a briny white anchovy condiment.

Brooks and Armando use the very same yakitori contraption—which has been utilised at Gato for years—for a six-ounce primary New York strip, which they plate with bordelaise and collard greens (from Brooks’s dad’s farm) glazed in cacio e pepe sauce. There is commonly a one pasta, created in-dwelling: spaghetti alla chitarra in tomato sauce, or cavatelli with paper-slim hakurei turnips, fleshy maitake mushrooms, and a sauce of pureed turnips. Anything on the menu, from crab-stuffed arancini to hen Milanese, is as specifically well prepared as anything you’d uncover in a wonderful-dining institution. For dessert, the companions bought a recipe for cloudlike, classically created tiramisu from Lousy Hendrix’s Aaron Russell—a close friend, as effectively as one particular of the city’s ideal pastry chefs.

THE Drinks

The minimal beverage possibilities, curated by Brooks, Armando, and Stinson—a handful of cocktails, a small wine list—are intelligent and proper for so smaller a menu and so very small a crew. I was rather a fan of the Godfather—a easy, two-component cocktail of Scotch and amaretto—but most popular, in normal, to stick to wine, particularly the white Monferrato from the Piedmont.


Operating Sunday through Tuesday, Gigi’s transforms Gato’s slim, intimate dining area into a space that Stanley Tucci would surely appreciate—checkered tablecloths, candelabras dripping with wax. The latter are spouse and children heirlooms obtained many years in the past by Armando’s grandmother, an antiques dealer and restaurateur. Gato’s diner-design and style counter serves as a hangout for people who like to watch the cooking and, practically like in a sushi cafe, get their food right from the fingers of the chefs.

Gigi's Italian Kitchen
Gigi’s admirably concise menu involves a magical carpaccio with salsa verde and Manchego.

Photograph by Martha Williams


Gato retains locating fantastic roommates, and Gigi’s shares some of the like for fresh make and wonderful depth as the cafe whose space it occupies section-time. Seasonal, spontaneous in the best of strategies, the cooking can take complete edge of the setting. The cooks will definitely change to a area of their own. Capture these youthful abilities early, and guidance a vocation that retains numerous guarantees.

★ ★ ★
1660 McLendon Avenue, Candler Park

All Gato’s young children

Since getting it more than a ten years ago, Nicholas Stinson has turned his Candler Park spot into a launchpad for formidable food pop-ups—some of which have gone on to develop into total-fledged dining places.

Minor Bear
Ahead of settling into his Summerhill brick-and-mortar, Jarrett Stieber manufactured a name for himself with Try to eat Me Discuss Me, a pop-up sequence that served as a showcase for his individual artwork: large-notion food that does not acquire itself also critically.

Talat Market
Parnass Savang and Rod Lassiter’s endlessly interesting culinary project—Thai system fulfills Georgia produce—came to prominence by way of a residency that introduced here in 2017. Now, they have Summerhill digs of their own their several admirers, meanwhile, love far more consistent entry to Talat’s crispy rice salad.

Mighty Hans
No lasting area still, but here’s hoping. Given that final calendar year, Fu-Mao Sun has been drawing crowds on Saturdays with superb Taiwanese breakfast dishes, together with scallion pancakes with bacon, egg, and cheese, and fan tuan, a handheld snack of sticky rice wrapped all around assorted savory fillings, which includes pork floss and pickled radish.

This report seems in our March 2022 concern.


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